Born from a short named Within the Woods, which was directed by Sam Raimi, and starred both Ellen Sandweiss and Bruce Campbell (who would both appear in The Evil Dead), The Evil Dead is a flat out classic of horror cinema. It's slow burn atmosphere and it's completely insane final act adhere this masterpiece to the hearts of many genre fans.
Shot over a year (the original shoot was proposed to last only six weeks) with a cast and crew of thirteen people, The Evil Dead is arguably the greatest low budget film ever made. The talent on display behind the camera is breathtaking, while in front of the camera, only Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss shine, but more on that later.
Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, and after playing a recording that contains an ancient incantation from the Naturan Demonto (The Book of the Dead), insane demons are released and possess the friends one by one. This really is all I can give as a synopsis. Fleshing it out anymore would surely result in me posting spoilers, which is something I refuse to do in my reviews.
The first thing that hits you about The Evil Dead is it's slow burn atmosphere. Almost nothing happens for 25 minutes, and thereafter the fear the movie creates is punctuated by moments of pure insanity and unrelenting splatter, as well as some incredibly off-kilter camera angles and sound effects. The violence, while sometimes shocking, is also incredibly over the top, almost to the point of being cartoon-like. It really is a horror fans dream.
The characters are incredibly underdeveloped, but it doesn't matter, as they are thrust into a situation that had never been seen before, and one that manages to make you jump, laugh, gross you out and basically manipulate every sense you have, and before long you forget about their acting talent as you are bombarded with demented voices, jump scares, weirdness, over the top violence and blood letting. The acting is also rather wooden, but again, it blends in with the demented goings on in the movie universe, and helps the performances of the possessed teens to come across as completely insane.
The Evil Dead is also an incredibly noisy film, drowning the viewer in audio insanity, and again this adds to the demented goings on. The sound design works to put the viewer on edge, suffocating the viewer with numerous screams, growls and taunts, and is almost as unrelenting as the over the top violence.
What seems to be lost on many genre fans is the sheer inventiveness and blatant personal style Sam Raimi brings to this movie. He showed so much individualism, creating camera shots that had never been seen before and taking great pleasure in putting the actors through great amounts of torture to gain the perfect performance from them.
Since The Evil Dead, no film has even come close to capturing the spirit of true horror, nor has any movie ever shown the inventiveness, insanity or downright disregard for their viewers. The Evil Dead stands today as a classic of American horror cinema, yet to be rivaled or toppled from it's throne.