The Evil Dead (1981) review

The Evil Dead is a low budget horror film, which is set in the classic horror setting of a bunch of friends going on a vacation to a cabin in the woods. The main characters, a group of 5 friends, who are just looking for a place to relax and have a good time, come across a book, the Naturom Demonto, roughly translated as “The book of the dead”. After finding this and listening to a tape recording about the book, they unknowingly unleash an ancient horror on themselves.

The film is paced slowly, building up the atmosphere and letting everything sink in, the isolation of the setting, the unease of an unfamiliar place, and an unknown force which we the viewer have hints about, but our characters do not; from the very first scene of the film we see that there is “something” lurking within the woods.

It allows us to feel the suspense of when something will come for them, the characters try to make it through the night, and it feels like a battle of endurance for survival. This is one of the many things I like about the film, is that it starts to feel like a long, hard battle for survival, rather than the characters trying to find a cure, or a way to break a curse, it’s just pure, unadulterated, make it through the night, survival.

The smallest things are made out to be strange and creepy; the smallest sounds of creaks and drips; a friend not replying; the simple action of someone leaving the room to be alone for what might seem like 10 seconds just to get something, but it’s enough time for them to be taken over. With everyone being fair game it’s just a question of when someone will be taken over, not if.

The film mixes the genuinely creepy, unnerving moments with a touch of humour. The humour feels welcome and intentional, you don’t get the feeling of “It’s so bad and taking itself so seriously it’s hilarious”, but you get the feeling that it’s intentional, getting a laugh at the expense of horror films and even itself, and it starts easing the stress of certain scenes; where in one moment you’re feeling unnerved and the next you’re chuckling at the very thing you found unnerving. Sometimes, when you’re stuck in the middle of a horrible situation, and all your options are running low, all you can do is laugh.


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