Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
If you need to be told just what Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead is about, then just like your mother I’m not angry with you – I’m disappointed. Probably one of the most oft-imitated genre movies in history, The Evil Dead follows a group of five college friends as they head off to a cabin in the woods for some party time.
When spooky events lead them to the discovery of an ancient book in the cellar (the Necronomicon – Book of the Dead) alongside an old tape recorder, the group sit down for a read and a listen. This proves to be a fatal mistake, however, as the ancient rites repeated on the recording awaken an evil presence in the woods – a presence which begins to isolate and possess each of our protagonists one by one. Forced to butcher their now demonic brethren and confined to the cabin by murderous trees outside, will any of them live to see daylight?
The Evil Dead stands as a monolith of modern horror. Made on a shoestring budget by a group of film-obsessed friends, it also stands as perfect proof that you don’t need money to make something special; just buckets and buckets of talent. Not to mention blood. Raimi’s ability to build dread, execute perfect shocks, horrify, excite and plain ignite audiences with some incredibly imaginative camerawork cannot be denied – with the occasional slip into slapstick still managing to keep within the horrific tone of the flick; something that Raimi would dive feet-first into with the sequel/remake Evil Dead 2.
While it introduced the film world to the directorial chops of (now Hollywood heavyweight) Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead also provided the springboard for the acting career of cult legend (and Raimi’s good friend) Bruce Campbell. As the beleaguered hero, Ashley Williams (aka. Ash), Campbell is fresh-faced and energetic – taking a huge amount of punishment that would see many actors storm off a project in disgust. While Evil Dead 2 would take a slightly more knowing and cheesy approach to the material, setting up the type of role that Campbell has since become known for, his performance here is deadly serious and he does a fantastic job. Again, consider a group of friends making a fully funded (even if it wasn’t that much) horror flick for the first time and just try to keep your jaw off the floor.
A straightforward exercise in terror through and through, The Evil Dead carries a gritty, degraded and oppressive aesthetic alongside a wonderfully constructed score which serves to add to the grim sentiment of it all. While the low budget is more than obvious in most of the makeup work and gore effects, it still packs a wallop in terms of splatter (witness the pencil-in-the-ankle that is still wince-inducing to this day) at a level that was sufficiently boundary-pushing at the time. The fact that it was so effective as a horror film and a bloody splatter flick saw it quite quickly becoming the target of censors and the media during the UK’s infamous “Video Nasties” furore. Very few films that ended up on this list of condemned horror output were actually worth devoting any time to. The Evil Dead, warts and all, stands amongst those that are absolutely essential.
In the previous era of DVD, The Evil Dead and its sequels have seen an almost insurmountable number of releases hit shelves; from bargain-bin discs to Special Editions to Collectors Editions to Ultimate Editions to the Super-Duper-Kill-Your-Family-And-Eat-Your-Baby-Daughter-To-Get-It-Edition (okay, maybe not that one, but you get the idea), it seems any little extra that could be added was another excuse to release the film onto a ravenous fan base. Well, now we’re in the era of High Definition and the real question is: Is it worth the double (or quadruple, or whatever) dip?
The answer: Yes. Yes it is; a resounding yes. Sony Home Entertainment’s transfer of the flick is magnificent. Maintaining the gritty, grainy look of the original (let’s face it, considering the source it’s never going to look entirely pristine – and who would want it to?), but adding a level of fine detail that you may not have even thought possible. Scenes such as the initial slow, dread-inducing approach to the cabin are given a more three-dimensional feel and a surprising level of pop. The soundtrack has also been cleaned up some, but most are unlikely to notice it too much beyond some clearer dialogue and a cleaner high-end which really aids the score. I’m not going to get ridiculous about it and claim anything silly such as the high definition experience being like seeing The Evil Dead for the first time, but this is sure as hell the pinnacle of any presentation it’s been given so far.
In terms of special features, I don’t even know where to start. Just go out and buy the damn thing, would you!? Most of the features have shown up previously on DVD releases, but here we have an all-new feature commentary with Raimi, Campbell and producer Rob Tapert. If you’ve listened to commentaries involving this lot in the past, you know what you’re in for. It’s a blast, yet again. Literally hours of extra material is packed into this including a documentary, further interviews, a nifty picture-in-picture accompaniment to the main feature and more. You’ll have a great evening plonking yourself onto the sofa and digging into this one.
If you have the tech, this is an essential release of an essential film. Even if you have multiple versions on DVD, you won’t regret adding it to your Blu-ray collection, and if you don’t even have it on DVD then you have no excuse. Join us. Buy it.
- All New Commentary with Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell
- Picture-in-Picture: Join us! The Undying Legacy of The Evil Dead
- One By One We Will Take You – The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead
- Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor
- At the Drive-In
- Discovering Evil Dead
- Ellen and Drama Teacher
- On-Stage Interview
- Make-Up Test
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Discuss The Evil Dead in the comments section below!
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
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