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Legacy of the Evil Dead

Updated on April 19, 2015

I remember I was a little boy when my parents had a habit of renting movies on VHS tapes every evening to watch with a family. There were lots of movies, some were not worth watching at all, others were good and many were awesome. I know it is hard to judge a movie before entering a film school (which I eventually did in my twenties), but somehow I knew how to differentiate movies between good and bad. Maybe it was my personal way of judging, not understandable by anybody else except myself, but somehow I managed to gather a collection of movies in my memory that I would still consider awesome and watch them every now and then.

Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead and its sequels are such movies. Film industry has gone far from the point when the first part of the famous Evil Dead trilogy was filmed and there is undoubtedly a vast amount of horror films that are technically more perfect, but for me, just like for my generation of die hard fans, Sam Raimi's horror masterpieces will stay cult classics where gore and humor are so skilfully intertwined that it is at times difficult to spot the difference between the two.

Evil Dead II logo
Evil Dead II logo | Source

The Evil Dead (1981)

A group of five youngsters in their twenties arrive to a lonely house in the woods in order to spend a weekend there. In the cellar Ash (the main hero) finds a book covered in human skin and a tape recorder. The book is "Necronomicon" or "Book of the Dead." By playing back a spell recorded on the tape, they awaken the evil that has been sleeping in the woods. Only Ash stays alive.

This was Sam Raimi's first attempt to direct a full feature, so it should not be judged too strictly for its flaws. For its time, which is year 1981, it is a solid work, despite zombies looking funny rather than scary. The girl sitting in the doorway and singing "we're gonna get you" is definitely a great directing achievement that probably became iconic by now. Furthermore, the evil that was awakened in the forest is never shown by camera, it is always shown through POV (point of view) shots, which are one of the most remembered shots in the film.

Director
Sam Raimi
Screen Play
Sam Raimi
Produced by
Bruce Campbell, Gary Holt, Sam Raimi
Music
Joseph LoDuca

"We're gonna get you"

Evil Dead II (1987)

The second film of the Evil Dead trilogy, filmed six years later, is a different version of the first film, not a sequel, although Bruce Campbell was chosen for the protagonist's role again. It is considered by many as one of the best horror movies ever made, which is undoubtedly a fair statement.

In Evil Dead II, Ash arrives to the lonely cabin in the forest with his girlfriend. He finds the tape player and the book on the table and, being unaware of possible consequences, plays back the spell. The anonymous evil wakes up in the woods again and comes to take his girlfriend and turn her into a walking dead. Trying to save himself, he cuts what once was his woman with a chainsaw and buries the remains. Then comes the most famous part of the movie when Ash cuts off and hunts down his own hand that is being haunted by evil spirits. However, with this his sufferings do not end: his friends visit Ash only to bring him even more troubles; by the time everything is over, a spell written in the book, opens a time portal that sucks Ash in and throws him out somewhere in Medieval Europe.

As I watch Evil Dead II over and over through the eyes of a filmmaker, I see more clearly that it is not perfect either, with its own flaws and continuity mistakes, but somehow it is all shadowed by the masterfully filmed scene with the zombie hand; this scene alone combines horror and comedy so well that it "outplays" everything else, especially at the culmination of the scene when the hand is shot dead and gallons of blood spring through the walls of the room. And then comes the laughing furniture...

Director
Sam Raimi
Screen Play
Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Produced by
Bruce Campbell, Alex de Benedetti, Irvin Shapiro, Robert G. Tapert
Music
Joseph LoDuca

Evil Dead II official trailer

Army of Darkness (Screwhead Edition) [Blu-ray]
Army of Darkness (Screwhead Edition) [Blu-ray]

The name of the edition comes from one of Bruce Campbell's one liners in the film.

 

Army of Darkness (1992)

"A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home." (1)

As can be seen from the short IMDB synopsis, Army of Darkness is the continuation of the Evil Dead II story which takes place in Medieval times, where Ash is captured and taken as a slave. However, his craftsmanship when dealing with the chainsaw and a "boomstick" instantly gains him reputation and respect among the inhabitants of the castle. Now there is only one thing he has to do before he gets back home: find the Necronomicon and fight the army of darkness.

This last film in Sam Raimi's trilogy is undoubtedly the most commercial achievement (as can be seen by many action movie cliches, hero's one liners and over the top humor that kills the horror at times), there is nevertheless something unique about it. Maybe because it was shot almost entirely in the studio, including graveyard shots, but with so much honesty and such spirit that the authors simply disarm the audience leaving it nothing else to do except marveling at the visuals. Just like the previous Evil Dead films, this one is a timeless masterpiece.

Director
Sam Raimi
Screen Play
Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Produced by
Bruce Campbell, Dino De Laurentiis, Robert G. Tapert
Music
Joseph LoDuca

Army of Darkness trailer

Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013) is an achievement of a young director Fede Alvarez. It is the latest remix of two first films by Sam Raimi, but unlike the latter, this one is made with the most contemporary film equipment and make-up techniques. Unfortunately, despite all the effort that was put into the production, it is a much weaker film than the earlier versions directed by Sam Raimi and starring the mighty Bruce Campbell. After all, there is some magic in those old time tricks that used to make films look brilliant.

Which of the Evil Dead films do you like the most?

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