86 min., 1981
Written by Sam Raimi
Directed by Sam Raimi
My rating: ★★★★
The beginning of a great friendship
* * *
Five friends go up to a Tennessee cabin for a weekend of fun. When they get to the cabin, things begin to go crazy. While there, the cellar door opens by itself and Scotty (Hal Delrich) decides to go and check it out. Ashley (Bruce Campbell) follows, after Scotty doesn’t answer. While down there Scotty scares him and shows him some stuff he found. First there is a book (the Necronomicon), a dagger with a skull craved into the handle, a shotgun and a reel to reel. They bring up the things that they found and listen to the reel to reel. While listening, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Ashley sister, starts to freak out and yells for them to stop. A little while later she goes into the woods and gets raped by the forest. Shit starts to spiral out of control because what they were listening to brought something from the other side to their world.
The acting in the movie is just okay. Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker do the only real good acting. When Ellen she is being tormented, she really looks shaken up and the expressions are priceless. Betsy also plays the possessed character perfectly, especially when his is just sitting, smiling and laughing. The rest of the cast range from rotten to pretty good, they are truly all over the place.
The effects is where the movie shines…and sometimes fall flat on its face. The ending claymation is pretty rotten, but most of the actual gore effects are top notch, like the pencil in the ankle is just plain cool. The amount of blood is just over the top; gallons and gallons are used in the best ways possible. Some of the cool uses are, the light bulb filling up with blood and when the fingers enter into the eye sockets. Just awesome!
Now the camera work deserves some special mention. Truly inventive camera work and some really fucking cool angles stand out, making most of the scenes extremely engaging. Sometimes the camera’s placement makes you take notice of something very minor which distracts you from what’s really going on. The view from the cellar during a scene makes the scene even cool than conventional use of a camera. A camera attached to the end of a 2×4 can make some very neat looking movements that have been imitated dozens of times since. One of my favorites is where the camera starts in an upside down view and then flips over the head of Ash to come to rest cleanly on his face. Ultra cool use of the camera!
There are so many things about this movie that are awesome, but there was also a bunch of things that are really dated. This movie is almost required viewing for any true horror fan. Make sure to pay attention to the camera work and the gore effects, because they are some truly great things that are sometimes missed in the big budget movies. Lastly, look for the nice nod to The Hills Have Eyes, because a little later The Evil Dead showed up in A Nightmare On Elm Street.Have You Read...?