Thursday, November 1, 2018
Why THE EVIL DEAD is Actually Scary
The dead are evil... and actually scary.
By Daniel Epler
I have a long history with Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead. While I didn't catch up with the vast majority of '80s horror until I was an adult, this film was one of the few my Dad showed me when I was a kid. Today I can't believe my child self sat through this insanely violent film, but back then I mostly just found it funny. No doubt this was mainly due to the cheapness of it and the performances from less-than-experienced actors. I revisited the film this Halloween night and saw a different film. The Evil Dead isn't funny at all and is damn terrifying.
There's an an old idea that what makes a movie scary is what the film doesn't show you. That it's our own imaginations left to run wild that can craft the most frightening things. Of course this idea is valid for some people as fear is subjective, but for me it's far scarier when I see a movie is willing to do and show you anything. The Evil Dead is like that for me. Sam Raimi and his crew seem to have absolutely no limits in terms of the violence and the scares.
Speaking of the violence, this is one of the most violent films I have ever seen. I think the reason that didn't bother me as much when I was a kid is I was not used to simple practical effects so it just looked fake to me. I'm at a point in my life now where I have seen so many older films that now practical effects is my norm. CGI stands out as fake to me now, much more than what is done in The Evil Dead. To me, the violence in this film is insanely disturbing and goes so much further than almost any other horror film is willing to do. It's also difficult to watch because of what it means. When Scotty is hacking up a monster with an axe, it's not just a monster, it's his girlfriend.
The performances really sell that this movie is scary. While you can tell the actors have limited experience, they are all incredibly sincere and do everything they can to sell their emotions. This is the most true of Bruce Campbell. I like the comedic Ash in Army of Darkness, but that film pushed Bruce Campbell to start treating everything he does as a joke. Which is fine, he's earned the right to do whatever he wants. He's BRUCE CAMPBELL. But this is my personal favorite version of Ash. He's just the most good and decent person in the room, and Bruce Campbell really nails playing him as a sweet guy you want to root for. When he cries out, "Why are you torturing me??", one can laugh as Campbell's delivery is not the most believable. Again, he was not very experienced at this point in his career. But I love it because Bruce Campbell means it, and he means it sincerely. You feel his pain when his girlfriend Linda is turned into a raging demon he has to fight.
One reason I love horror films is I love seeing a director carefully put together an effective scare. Even if it doesn't scare me personally, I like seeing a director crafting a good fright! Raimi constructs amazing scares in this film. The two most frightening moments of the film for me are possessed Linda singing to Ash and Cheryl hiding under the trapdoor, unseen, begging Ash to let her out in her normal voice. Both of those moments are absolutely chilling. I've gone on record as actually liking jump scares, and this film has some good ones. My favorite is possessed Scotty dramatically appearing in frame by sitting up. It got me!
Far too often The Evil Dead is overshadowed by it's comedic sequel, and it gets forgotton that this film is not comedic at all. The Evil Dead is a crazy intense horror film and I love it so much for all it's sick insanity! I like the comedic Evil Dead 2, but for me, it just doesn't get better than the original.