The year was 1981, and a small movie by the name of Evil Dead was unleashed to the public. Did I see it on release day? Of course not! I was only 1-year old at the time! Fast forward to about five years later and the year was 1986 when I was 5¾ years old. It was June 10th, my older brother’s seventh birthday “bash.” My parents, trying to ease the anticipations of a horde of seven and eight-year-olds eager to uncover what presents lay hidden underneath a layer of decorative wrapping, they suggested we watch a movie to keep us at bay.
Like me, my father had a love for movies, and in the day of the VCR, he recorded plenty of movies and/or made copies of rented movies from one of the many local Mom & Pop video rental stores in the area (Blockbuster was non-existent in our neighborhood those days). He had about three cabinets filled with about 500 VHS cassettes that each consisted of about two or three movies recorded in SLP mode (do that math). So yeah, there were a lot of movies to choose. Being 5¾-years old, I was not very familiar with the lot of them, save for Halloween, which was already a movie very dear to me at that age. But, that’s another story for another time.
We searched and searched through what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of VHS tapes, reading titles and throwing them aside as there was no cover art for reference. Exterminators of the Year 3000, The Incredible Melting Man, Microwave Massacre, Def-Con 4, Black Moon Rising, etc., etc. Those are just a few that I remember off the top of my head. Never judge a book by its cover. However, I was bordering the age of six, and tantalizing cover art certainly would have been enticing, to say the least.
Then, there it was, snuggled in the far back corner within the cabinet, supporting the weight, and trapped, below a stack of about 50 VHS tapes was a “Scotch” brand VHS cover box. On the spine of the case, handwritten in red ink by my father, was Evil Dead. My curiosity peaked.
I turned to ask the impatiently growing mob of adolescent children behind me as I sought an immediate response to my new “morbid curiosity.” I didn’t know it at the time, but it was this moment that would introduce me to the cult classic called The Evil Dead.
There was a kid at the party who we’ll call “Booger.” Why? Well, because that’s what all the kids used to call him. Why? Because kids can be jerks. Well, “Booger” was an avid horror fan and he was about a year or two older than I was. His eyes lit up, and he pleaded with me to put the movie in for his viewing pleasure. Only problem was A. it was my brother’s birthday, not his and B. no one else wanted to watch it. And so, “Booger” did the natural thing for an 8-year old to do… he cried. Kids, being the jerks they can be, laughed at poor “Booger” and ridiculed him for shedding tears. Of course, the adults, mainly my father, conceded with “Booger’s” request. I don’t know if it was to please the crying boy or to shut him up. Either way, I really did want to see it.
I had a thing about not being able to watch a scary movie while the sun was out. No, it had to be in the dark or at night. I always felt that viewing a horror movie in the day/light was cheating the movie and not giving it the chance to scare me properly. Still, to this day, I do the same even though I can almost guarantee that I won’t be scared. Because of this, I didn’t watch the movie with the rest of the party. I did, however, see the opening “credits” of the film and the eerie silence that is present while the title displayed on the screen was more than enough for me to want to watch it all by my lonesome later that night. And so, I did.
Now, if you’re reading this, one can only assume that you are familiar with the Evil Dead movies. However, there was someone with whom I spoke with recently that has never seen any of the movies. It shocked me because, for some reason, I was under the impression that everyone has seen The Evil Dead. I was wrong. So, in case you haven’t seen the first Evil Dead, here is a very brief synopsis:
Five friends retreat to a remote cabin in the woods where they find an old recorder in which the former occupant of the cabin has recorded demon resurrection passages and incantations. The recorder is played back, and the spoken words unleash hell… literally. The five friends must fend for themselves as a dark force roams the woods and is determined to make it inside the cabin and take their souls before dawn!
Sounds like fun, huh? Ok, I must admit that, for its time, The Evil Dead was a scary film and may not live up to the test of time, for some. But, then again, there are people who think that movies such as House of Wax with Paris Hilton or Sorority Row are scary! Really? The Evil Dead is one that I would not categorize as a commercial film in that it is not as popular as, say, the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th series. One of the reasons that made those movies so popular was the fact that each of those movies sports their very own horror icons: Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees, respectfully. Although with the recent remake and TV show I’d have to say that The Evil Dead is fitting right in with said horror legends/icons, deservedly so.
The Evil Dead had no anti-hero but a hero that went by the name of Ashley J. Williams, or “Ash,” played by the “superhero-ly” big-chinned Bruce Campbell. Because of the lack of its mainstream notoriety, The Evil Dead established a cult following. No, not that kind of a cult.
What is a cult following? To make it simpler to explain, I’ll pass the reigns to Wikipedia who I think has a pretty good definition of what it is.
A cult following is a term used to refer to a small or large group of fans that are either somewhat or highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to “have a cult following” when it has a small but very passionate fan-base.
So, yes, there are very few (when looking at the broader scope of cinema lovers) that can appreciate this movie for what it is and look past the ‘campy’ and low budget feel of it. I mean, come on, it’s 2017 so people of this generation have seen it all, and it takes a hell of a lot more than mashed potatoes gooing out of a Deadite to scare them. Me, I prefer the old fashioned prosthetic effects over CGI (Computer Generated Images, see Avatar), anytime.
Not only did I think that The Evil Dead was great in terms of its simplicity as far as storyline is concerned, but many of us were graced with seeing Director Sam Raimi‘s first feature film. Sam who? For those who don’t know who he is: Director of Spiderman 1-3, The Quick and the Dead, and Drag me to Hell to name a few. What marvels me about Mr. Raimi is his directorial style and technique which features many Dutch angles (which I am a huge fan of) and custom made rigs such as the “Vas-o-Cam” and the “Shaky Cam”! As Illustrated in Bruce Campbell’s book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor.
How’s this for determination? Raimi and company, which consisted of high school friend Bruce Campbell and others, made a short film entitled Within the Woods (which was very hard to come by before the internet) shot on Super 8mm to raise money for a feature film version of the same story! Needless to say, they did it. The result was The Evil Dead which later spawned two more sequels and launched the career of Sam Raimi into Hollywood. Sort of a Cinderella story of the horror community.
The year 1987, one year after I saw The Evil Dead, I saw a teaser trailer that opens with a blooming, yellow flower over the sounds of some weird incantation chant. Then, the narration begins:
“Four years ago, in this quiet forest, in this cozy cabin…”
The cabin featured in The Evil Dead is revealed at this moment, and my heart pounded. I watched, wide-eyed as I saw that Ash was back to fight the deadites! I was excited, but I couldn’t help but think to myself… why the hell would he go back to the cabin?! Oh, how young I was, but, I was ready to be Dead by Dawn!