For your safety, when frequenting rundown cabins in the middle of nowhere, avoid the audible recitation of ancient texts (specifically Sumerian), especially if said passages are scripted in blood and recorded in books bound in human flesh. Should such incantations slip out, causing your friends and/or loved ones to subsequently transform into demonic, grotesque abominations of their former selves, be sure to keep sharp objects handy, but out of reach of that pesky devil-spawn. And make sure to fully stock your linen closet with a healthy supply of bath towels as things may get messy. The sheet-sized ones, like in fancy hotels. Handi-wipes, too. Or maybe a power washer. And if you are about to watch The Evil Dead, remember that its director, Sam Raimi, is also responsible for other charming fare such as For Love of the Game. So you’ll have that going for you the next time you play Six Degrees of Separation. You are welcome. This concludes our public service message.
And if you’re about to read Jason Norton’s review of The Evil Dead, enjoy!
Long before director/producer Sam Raimi was turning Toby Maguire into Spider-Man, he was turning Bruce Campbell into human hamburger in The Evil Dead. And making him into a cult superhero all his own.
Lifelong friends, Raimi and Campbell (who co-produced) begged and borrowed enough cash to make the film, shooting the entire picture in the backwoods of Tennessee in the fall of 1980. The conditions were harsh; the numerous injuries to the cast were genuine—but thankfully not as gory as the ones they endured onscreen. There wasn’t enough money to finance professional rigging equipment, and most of the “innovative” cinematography that would go on to be a staple of Raimi’s films was produced by taping cameras to sticks and running around the woods. Despite its crudeness, it won a legion of fans, including Stephen King, who helped get it produced by New Line Cinema. After a tame showing in the U.S., it struck gold when it was released worldwide. It would be followed by three sequels, numerous comic book series, multiple toy lines, video game adaptations and…a Broadway musical. Thirty-five years later, it is still one of the biggest franchises in horror history. Not bad for a couple of guys who credited the Three Stooges as one of their biggest cinematic influences.
Campbell stars as everyman and unlikely demon-fighter Ash Williams. Somehow he convinces a group of his fellow Michigan State friends to travel to a remote mountain cabin for spring break. Ash brags about getting the cabin for a song, and it isn’t long before he understands why.
After they arrive, Ash’s sister, Cheryl, gets weirded out when a pendulum-style clock she is sketching stops on its own. Unable to control herself, she begins scrawling a square with what appears to be a face smack-dab in its center, but refrains from telling the others about it, chalking it up to her overactive imagination.
When the group settles down for dinner, the cellar door flies open, apparently on its own.
Ash and alpha male Scotty investigate, discovering a book with a leathery cover (which we find out in later films is bound in something much more sinister than leather—and why does no one seem to notice the cover looks like a face?) filled with grotesque drawings and handwritten passages in languages neither understands.
A massive skeletal dagger and a reel-to-reel tape recorder are shoved into the same box as the book. Ash carries the tape recorder upstairs and the group gives the spool a listen. It recounts the testimony of an archaeologist who discovered the mysterious tome which he identifies as a copy of the ancient Sumerian Book of the Dead. He and his wife loosed evil spirits, he claims, when they recited passages from the accursed pages. Cheryl stops the recorder, disturbed by what she’s hearing. Scotty punches fast forward and fires it up again, right to the point where the archeaologist is reciting the tongue-twisting incantations from the forbidden text.
And then it’s game on for the forces of evil. The leaf-strewn hills belch forth wispy, demonic spirits that swirl around the cabin, unbeknownst to the soon-to-be crazy kids. Cheryl leaves the cabin to investigate voices outside—and gets violated by trees animated by the gathering evil. She manages to escape, returns to the cabin and demands that Ash drive her into town so she can catch a bus back to campus. But once they get a mile up the road, they find the bridge that serves as their lone passageway back to civilization crumpled like a trailer park after a tornado. After they return to cabin, Cheryl becomes possessed and begins to attack the others. Scotty locks her in the cellar, but as cinema (especially horror cinema) has taught us, you can’t bury your problems. When they come back, they come back with a vengeance.
The Evil Dead still stands as one of the true gems of modern horror. Its crazy camera work, more necessity than vision, gives a chaotic feel that perfectly complements the frenzied pace and intensity of the story. The make-up effects are cheap but gut-twisting, and fans of the gross-out will be well-pleased. Campbell plays a much more reserved Ash than we come to know in the sequels, and only hints at the comedy that he embraces in the conclusion of the original trilogy, Army of Darkness. But he doesn’t have much time to crack jokes with his former friends trying to rip him limb from limb.
At its blood-soggy core, The Evil Dead is a film about isolation. It starts with a group of friends in a cabin that promises separation from the outside world. By the time Ash is able to make a break from the infernal place and return to the reality he hoped to escape (but now longs for), he is utterly alone—but still battling demons.
How familiar is the story; how true.
We fashion lives of isolation, trying to escape our problems, our circumstances—our realities— by every method imaginable, and all too often find ourselves right back in the company of demons. Solitude in and of itself isn’t the problem, but isolation—that intentional drive to disassociate—is where the problems begin.
It’s a frightening proposition to share our frailties—perhaps even more so for Christians who’re supposed to have it all together. How can we let our brothers and sisters know the ways we’ve gone astray? We’re not supposed to have done those things, the things we most certainly did.
Those very things that Jesus most certainly wouldn’t have done. What will our fellow believers think? If we hide, they’ll never have to know. And when we start to hide from them, it’s that much easier to hide from Him, because after all, how could He love us when we’ve fallen so far?
We try to replace that relationship with a whole host of other ones, but none prove as genuine or fulfilling, no matter how much of ourselves we surrender in the process. Timothy warns against our allegiance to these everyday idols.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3: 1-5). Timothy closes the passage by advising us to “avoid such people.” We must also seek to avoid becoming such people.
We need to remember, and to remind others that may be struggling, that nothing we have done or can do is big enough to scare God away or to make him turn his back on us. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)
Draw close, and cling to the relationship found in communion with Christ Jesus. He will neither fail nor forsake you.