Should we get the tree rape out of the way, straight from the off? Okay, let's. The Evil Dead was banned, mainly because of this scene. Even now, it still gets an 18 rating. Compare it with Silent Hill. This has a razor-wire rape scene. Admittedly it doesn't go on as long, but let's not forget... it's razor-wire. Then the lady in question gets ripped in half. What rating does it get? 15, no problems. What did the banning of video nasties actually achieve? Pokemon for horror films.
Many years ago, I can remember going home at dinnertime from school. First on the menu was beans on toast (six slices of bread and a tin of beans - I was a growing lad) accompanied by a viewing of Rainbow. Then there was a video review programme; I can't recall its name. One day they showed a review of the 1978 Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and (finally he gets to it) The Evil Dead. I can vividly remember the shot of the swing seat banging against the side of the shack. And then stopping. At the time, this looked like it could be the scariest film ever. There was some mild pants spatter. (Amusingly, years later I watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I was waiting for a scene where someone's leg goes all veiny through the power of stop motion animation. The scene never came. Pesky mixed-up memory.)
Watching it now, it's not scary in the slightest. It's very low budget, but jam packed full of creativity (something lacking in Raimi's later works - the dire Spiderman 3 springs to mind). All manner of camera jiggery pokery was employed: tying the camera to a big plank and running round a forest with it as a makeshift steadicam, for instance. There are also some interesting compositions, that you wouldn't necessarily expect from a low budget effort; a shot of a pipe dripping sticks in my mind.
The Evil Dead feels like a dry run for Evil Dead 2 (more a remake than a true sequel). It's a blatant comedy and the main pleasure to be had is watching the legendary Bruce Campbell being lamped and generally beaten up. One of the funniest moments is watching him trying to extricate himself from under the flimsiest shelving unit. Top stuff. The censors obviously didn't get the joke. (They finally developed a slight sense of humour for Peter Jackson's Braindead luckily.)
The gore is really just for fun. It is definitely cartoon gore (as seen in such cartoons as Peppa Pig. Possibly). There is one wince inducing pencil in ankle scene though, which is a tad harsh. But the final battle is so giddily excessive, rendered in stop motion, that again, I'm amazed anybody ever took it seriously.
The Evil Dead is still fun now; I prefer the second film though. Even more of Bruce Campbell being hit. If you've never seen it, give it a try and you probably won't know what all the fuss was about either. As for the new remake, well, we'll see soon...
(Average rating for the season so far = 6.1)
If you like this you could also try:
Evil Dead 2, Braindead, Return of the Living Dead.