Ash Williams is something of an icon among movie fans. Not only is Bruce Campbell’s most famous role an amazing example of absolute male machismo actually solving problems, but it also serves as proof to the success of the Evil Dead series in establishing its presence in the horror genre. But before all that, Evil Dead was a completely new thing –something that Raimi and Bruce had worked on in order to bring to audiences all over the world. This is the story of Ash before he started using the boomstick or had a chainsaw for a hand, this is the very first Evil Dead.
What is the Evil Dead?
The Evil Dead is a horror film created by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The story focuses on the story of four teenagers (two couples) who go out to an isolated cabin in the woods. There they discover that the cabin has a basement and in it, there is an ancient book of demons and a voice recorder which they play. What they do not realize is that the recording is actually that of a chant from the book which summons a demonic entity which then proceeds to terrorize the teenagers by killing them one after another.
The entire film is a massive tale of gore escalation which includes body parts getting amputated, a rape scene with a tree doing the act on one of the female leads, and of course, creepy depictions of demonic possession. By the very end of the movie, Ash is the last man standing and is attacked by the demonic entity when the screen fades to black.
Raimi and Campbell stated in interviews that prior to getting a studio to back the film, they had to prove that they could do good horror. Thus they went and self-produced the much smaller “Within the Woods” movie which showcased a very similar story to Evil Dead but with a lesser story scope and a significantly small budget. The effort paid off as it helped pave the way to getting remade as a proper movie in the form of The Evil Dead.
Don’t Touch Strange Things
By this day and age, movies has already taught and educated a lot of people from making silly mistakes when put into a movie-like situation –never explore alone, never touch strange magical/demonic looking objects, and yes, never go into an isolated cabin in the woods. But considering that The Evil Dead is among the chief primary films that laid down the groundwork, it makes perfect sense to forgive Ash and his friends from committing many of the unspeakably routine mistakes in the movie. Prior to this movie, spending spring break in some lakeside cabin has always been a staple of carefree fun times instead of murder by psychos or demons.
Ramping It Up
The film stays true to the horror concept from the moment first blood is drawn. Raimi’s a firm believer in the concept of keeping the gore coming and he escalates from each major scene that happens. Even the direct danger from the book of the dead is ignored for most of the early half of the film where it is observed that the demonic entity is outside of the cabin’s walls. But it is not until the ending act that the viewers are reminded that the true source of the evil entity is just sitting in the basement.
There are a lot of key elements in the movie such as the first few decapitations, the shotgun, and even the book itself –that would later become important elements of filming for Raimi and the Evil Dead series itself. The book would become the centerpiece for all the chaos that is happening, cutting limbs off becomes a recurring theme for characters (including Ash who famously loses his hand and replaces it with a chainsaw), and of course, the over-the-top, hammy yet iconic style of writing that brings out the kind of dialogue where Boomstick is an acceptable thing to call a shotgun (and it is, and many folks playfully refer to shotguns as such).
The movie manages to be such a great horror film that many of the cinematic elements that Raimi uses is also used by other horror filmmakers. This is an amazing feat considering that the film itself was pretty low budget and was shot under very difficult conditions –which is a testament to the professionalism of the cast and crew involved in the movie.