The Evil Dead (1983)

Review

Along with vaunted classics like Night of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Re-Animator, and now The Blair Witch Project, The Evil Dead stands as one of the most highly regarded low-budget horror films put to celluloid — a veritable cult classic.

Now reissued on DVD for a second time (including one version bound to look like the human flesh covering the film’s Book of the Dead), The Evil Dead proves why it’s such a classic: Because it’s so much damn fun.

The story’s a strikingly familiar one: Young troublemakers visit a cabin in the woods, find a Satanic book and a recording of someone reading from it, they read the recording, and the chicks all turn into demons. All of which leaves one poor soul to defend himself against the carnage.

Ah, to be young again…

Bruce Campbell stars in a career-defining role as Ashley, the poor sap who seems inexplicably resistant to the demonic powers, and who’ll go to any length to fight them off. With a script courtesy of his old highschool chum, director Sam Raimi (collaborating here on one of their first films), Ashley hacks his way through his old friends — and even his possessed girlfriend — with whatever weapons are at hand. Is he afraid to blast the head off a once-lovely gal with a shotgun? No! And never mind the mix of Karo corn syrup and Alpo (or is it colored cream corn?) that comes spewing out her neck stump.

Raimi and Campbell were afraid the gore was so thick they declined to submit the film to the ratings board, instead going with a Not Rated for its eventual release three years after it was shot. As revealed on the new DVD’s commentary tracks (one from Raimi and producer Robert Tapert, one from Campbell), the investors were appalled — unhappy that the fellows had produced a comedy instead of a slasher film.

Which it really is is up to you to judge, but any fan of horror will be thrilled beside himself with the new DVD issue. Aside from the commentaries, you also get 18 minutes of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, where all manner of plastic appendages and bizarre prosthetics are on display. Fabulous.

The three-disc Ultimate Edition has more extras than you can shake a fake head at. Two cuts of the film are included, a widescreen (with commentary from Raimi) and a full frame version (with commentary from Campbell). A third disc offers numerous short extras, including two retrospective interviews with the film’s female stars and three additional interviews with cast and crew looking back at the movie. Additional deleted scenes and making-of featurettes can also be found scattered around the discs. Impressive!