Greatest Movie Series
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The "Evil Dead" Films

The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead Films
The Evil Dead (1981) | Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) | Army of Darkness (1993)

The "Evil Dead" Films - Part 1

The Evil Dead (1981)
d. Sam Raimi, 85 minutes

See also The Evil Dead.

Film Plot Summary

Five Michigan State University students in their 20s, who were spending a weekend 'spring break' retreat in a rented, remote cabin in the Michigan mountains, inadvertently unleashed (or raised from the dead) dormant, demonic evil spirits from the ominous surrounding forest.

  • Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell)
  • Linda (Betsy Baker), Ash's girlfriend
  • Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Ash's younger sister
  • Scotty (Hal Delrich)
  • Shelly (Sarah York), Scotty's girlfriend

Scotty was driving the group in Ash's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, and crossed a rickety and dilapidated wooden bridge to the cabin. [Note: Although Scotty claimed the cabin was a rental, it was privately owned by Professor Raymond Knowby, an archaeologist, who had discovered the Book of the Dead in the ruins of Castle Khandar.]

Later that evening, they entered in the cellar, where they found a number of items: a The Hills Have Eyes poster, a shotgun, a Khandarian dagger (with a hilt of a face in pain), and an archaeologist's reel-to-reel tape-recording translated account of a cursed and forbidden book ("bound in human flesh and inked in human blood") named the Naturon Demonto (or Book of the Dead) - the strange book had an angry face drawing inside. It had reportedly been found among the Khandarian ruins of a Sumerian civilization, and was filled with ancient burial practices and funerary incantations, and information about demonic resurrection.

Unaware of the after-effects, they played one of the tapes of ancient spells, and unleashed demonic forces, coming supposedly from the woods. Afterwards, one by one, each of them, except Ash Williams (B-movie icon Bruce Campbell), became violently possessed by 'evil dead' forces. [The film was extremely effective for its super-fast POV shots of the demons approaching.]

In the film's scariest and most infamous (and gratuitous) predatory tree rape scene, Ash's younger sister Cheryl was attacked in the woods outside the log cabin at night by vines and tree branches that wrapped around her neck and limbs, stripped her of her clothes, caressed her and then spread her legs ("It was the woods themselves, they're alive") - one tree branch suddenly impaled her in her crotch.

Possessed Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss)

After Cheryl was chased back to the house (with quick POV tracking shots), she was soon transformed into a demon zombie with a greyish white face and superhuman strength. As a result, she floated above the floor, spoke with a ghastly voice, and grabbed a pencil from the floor and jabbed it into the ankle of Ash's girlfriend Linda. Cheryl had to be confined in the basement fruit cellar with a padlocked trap-door leading up to the living room.

Possessed Shelly (Sarah York)

The next to be possessed was Shelly who was in her room when a demon crashed through her window and attacked her; she also became a Deadite, and began to attack her boyfriend Scotty's neck and face; with lots of demonic screaming, he wrestled her and tossed her into the fireplace where her face was charred; when she tried to stab him with the long Sumerian dagger found earlier in the cellar. He unsheathed his own hunting knife and cut her right hand at the wrist; then, Shelly bit into her own wrist and completely severed it by herself - her hand still held onto to the hilt! Scotty grabbed the dagger from the ground and stabbed Shelly in the back with it - with the hand still attached; she collapsed to the floor and after spurting a white substance from her mouth and hand stump. She appeared to be dead; but then when she reanimated, she had to be dismembered by Scotty with an axe - one of the messiest, goriest, and bloodiest segments in the entire film. Ash and Scotty dragged her body parts in a sheet outdoors, where they dug a grave (with a cross) and buried them.

Insisting on getting out, Scotty decided to leave on his own, but suffered from massive injuries inflicted by demonic trees when he tried to escape the area, and soon returned after his brief foray into the forest.

Next, the first sign that Linda was becoming possessed was spreading infection from her ankle-pencil stabbing. She was discovered to be possessed (although she could revert back to her human self to fool Ash). She attacked Ash with the Khandarian ceremonial dagger; after a brief struggle, he bloodily impaled her in the back with the weapon and she fell onto Scotty's body, while puking blood and milky vomit. Ash took her body to an outdoor tool-shed where he strapped her down to a workbench with chains and was tempted to chainsaw her into pieces; after a change of heart, he decided to bury her and carried her outside to dig a grave; ultimately, she rose out of the ground after being buried, and began clawing at Ash's legs, drawing blood; he was forced to grab a heavy wooden beam to beat her, and then when she made a giant leap toward him, he beheaded her with a shovel - blood spurted from her neck stump onto his face as Linda's body attempted to rape him; he freed himself from her and escaped back to the cabin.

Possessed Linda (Betsy Baker)

Cheryl (who escaped from the cellar) continued to attack Ash. Scotty also became zombified, and Ash gouged out his eyeballs before he was subdued.

Zombified Scotty (Hal Delrich)

Battling for survival and to stop Cheryl and the reanimated Scotty, Ash threw the Book of the Dead into the fireplace - and the light of dawn saved him (as their bodies deteriorated, in time-lapse photography), although the film ended with a fast-moving evil dead spirit rushing through the forest toward Ash.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

This was the first installment of the popular cult Evil Dead trilogy, a low-budget, non-humorous B-grade gore-fest horror film with the Stephen King quote-tagline: "the ultimate experience in grueling terror." Writer/director Sam Raimi's debut film was the ultimate "cabin in the woods" story, although it had very little dialogue, plot and character development. It could be compared to director/writer Jack Woods' Equinox (1970) - another tale of a cabin in the woods, four friends and a professor, an occult tome and crazed demonic forces.

Evil Dead was originally titled: "Into the Woods" - the title of the pitch film used to acquire potential investors. It told about five college students who drove to a remote shack, played a reel-to-reel tape recorder with incantations, looked into a old book with demonic drawings and incantations, and summoned up bloody hell.

22 year-old writer/director Sam Raimi created some of the most exuberant, inventive, comic-book, tongue-in-cheek parodies with horror themes ever produced - starring Bruce Campbell as the one-armed protagonist with a chain saw. Famed future director Joel Cohen co-edited the film with Raimi.

Due to this film's graphic violence in a few of its scenes, it was banned in several European countries. In the UK, the film was subject to obscenity trials and various censorship cuts - particularly the misogynistic tree-rape scene. On-screen blood and gore would have given the film an NC-17 rating if Raimi had presented the film to the ratings board when it was first released.

With an initial production budget of only $375,000, the film grossed almost $11 million (upon re-release).

The Evil Dead was remade as Evil Dead (2013), the debut feature film of director Fede Alvarez (and produced by both Raimi and Bruce Campbell). The remake affectionately retained all of the blood, gore, and slapstick horror of the original film.

Scotty First to Enter Remote Abandoned, Rented Cabin in the Woods

Book of the Dead or Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the Cellar (With a Face In One of Its Illustrations)

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell)

Cheryl Stabbing Linda's Ankle

Cheryl Confined in Cellar

Shelly's Dismembered Body Parts

Linda's Pencil-Ankle Wound Spreading Infection

The Beginnings of Linda's Possession

Linda's Decapitation With Shovel

Scotty Reanimated As a Zombie

Ash's Successful Attempt to Move the Book into Fire

Scotty's Deterioration and Decomposition

Sole Survivor Ash at Dawn

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