When five college friends go to stay in a mysterious cabin deep in the woods, it’s safe to assume they’ll be lucky to see their homes again, as they will undoubtedly encounter a clan of cannibalistic hillbillies or some centuries old curse. So when, in Sam Raimi’s schlock horror debut, the kids find the Book of the Dead, bound in human flesh, written in human blood, and play a recording of it being read, the dead become free to walk the Earth, and the kids must struggle to stay alive until morning, in the hope of finding their way back to civilisation. So far, so standard, but where the film differs from the gory also-rans is when a girl is dragged into the woods – by the woods – and raped by a tree. Plug sockets and light bulbs leak with blood, and one by one the kids become possessed by demons, with bloodied eyes, gnarled, pallid skin and faces like beaten up clowns. Raimi’s innovative camerawork and game cast – all terrible actors aside from our hero, the uber-chinned Bruce Campbell – stand this film out from its imitators and inspirations.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is that rarest of sequels that rewrites the entire plot of its predecessor in its first 7 minutes, showing what the film could have been had a greater budget been available – a more attractive love interest, advanced effects and even a back story for the Book of the Dead. Having discovered an audience for his own brand of homemade horror and slapstick splattery, Raimi lets himself, and reprising star Campbell, off the leash, balancing the grotesque with the quirky in such classic scenes as Ash cutting off his own possessed hand and replacing it with a fully operational chainsaw. The more what the fuck moments add to the feeling of watching someone’s head explode onto a screen – the maniacally laughing moose head and bizarre neck extension are standouts, and this remains a tremendously fun, if occasionally bat-shit insane adventure.
As with Raimi’s other threequel, 2007’s Spiderman 3, the approach to Army of Darkness is to take everything and throw it at the script, see what sticks, and include it all anyway. This leads to a film with a frankly ludicrous premise – at the end of part 2 Campbell’s Ash opened a rift in time, and is now stranded in 1300AD, and stretches it past breaking point with the sheer volume of ideas piled on top. The opening death pit scene is fun, but the ensuing insanity of a two-headed Ash (beginning with a repulsive eye growing on his shoulder), Gulliver’s travel style tiny men causing havoc and a skeletal army complete with beards takes it all too far. The result is a film still endlessly enjoyable and quotable, but lacking the overall playful sense of fun from the previous entries.
The Evil Dead choose film 8/10
The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn Choose film 9/10
The Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness Choose film 6/10