By Altaf Khan (12 May 2013)
The Evil Dead is a 1981 American horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, and Betsy Baker. The film tells a story of five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a wooded area. Their vacation becomes gruesome when they find an audiotape that releases demons, who one by one possess each member of the group, leading to increasingly gory mayhem. Raimi and the cast had first produced short film Within the Woods as a "prototype" to build the interest of potential investors, which secured Raimi $90,000 to produce The Evil Dead. The film was shot on location in a remote cabin located in Morristown, Tennessee, in a difficult filming process that proved very uncomfortable for the majority of the crew.
The low-budget horror film attracted the interest of producer Irvin Shapiro, who helped screen the film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Author Stephen King gave a rave review of the film, generating the interest of New Line Cinema, who helped distribute the film. While a meager commercial success domestically, the film made its budget back through worldwide distribution. During its theatrical run, the film grossed $2.4 million. Original critical reception was positive, though years later the film built a much larger reputation. The Evil Dead launched the careers of Campbell and Raimi, who would collaborate on several films together throughout the years, including Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. It currently holds a 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has developed a reputation as one of the largest cult films. It has been cited among the greatest horror films of all time.
The film has spawned a media franchise, beginning with two sequels directed by Raimi; Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). It has received a video game and comic book franchise, and the film's protagonist, Ash Williams, has become a cult icon. A remake titled Evil Dead, co-written by Raimi and produced by Raimi, Campbell and The Evil Dead producer Robert Tapert was released in 2013. Five Michigan State University students venture into Tennessee's hills to spend their Spring Break vacation in an isolated cabin. There, they find "Naturon Demonto", a Sumerian variation of the Book of the Dead. They also find a tape recorder that plays demonic incantations from the book, unleashing evil demons. Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) hears the demons' voices and goes outside to investigate. Alone and far from the safety of the cabin, Cheryl is attacked and raped by trees possessed by the demons, but manages to escape back to the cabin.
The others do not believe Cheryl's story and assume that she was attacked by a wild animal. Her brother, Ash (Bruce Campbell), decides to drive her to town where she can find a place to stay for the night. However, they find that the only bridge connecting the cabin to civilization has been destroyed with the supports bent into the shape of a hand. Later, Cheryl becomes possessed and tells everyone that the demons will take them one by one then stabs Linda (Betsy Baker), Ash's girlfriend, in the ankle with a pencil. Scotty (Hal Delrich) forces Cheryl into the cellar and locks it, but his girlfriend Shelly (Sarah York) is also possessed by a demon, which spies on her from outside her bedroom as she is changing before hurling itself at her. Now possessed, Shelly attacks Scotty and sustains a number of brutal injuries before Scotty dismembers her with an axe. Clearly shaken by Shelly's death, Scotty leaves to go find an alternate trail through the woods.
Ash goes to check on Linda, but finds that she, too, has become possessed, but she makes no attempt to attack him. Scotty returns, having suffered grave injuries inflicted onto him by the possessed trees. He tells Ash that there is an alternate trail through the woods before passing out, and Linda and Cheryl start laughing maniacally at their predicament. The two women suddenly seem to snap out of their possession, but it is revealed to be a trick when Ash almost releases Cheryl from the cellar and she tries to strangle him through the door. Ash locks Linda outside of the cabin and tends to Scotty's injuries. Linda sneaks in through the backdoor and attacks Ash with a ceremonial dagger, but Ash is able to take the dagger from her and impale her through her torso, seemingly killing her.
Ash takes Linda's body to the work shed and tries to dismember her with a chainsaw, but finds that he cannot bring himself to do it and buries her instead. She rises from the grave and wrestles with Ash, who eventually decapitates her with a shovel. Returning to the cabin, Ash finds that Cheryl has escaped. Armed with a shotgun, Ash finds Cheryl hiding outside and shoots her in the shoulder, but it does not seem to have any effect. After barricading all of the doors, Ash descends into the cellar to find some extra shotgun shells, and while down there he hears mysterious voices and sees blood seeping from numerous crevices and openings in the walls. Scotty, now demonically possessed, reanimates and tries to kill Ash, but Ash cripples Scotty by gouging out his eyes then pulling out a massive piece of wood from the trees that attacked him out of his leg, causing blood to rapidly pour out. Ash then notices that the Book of the Dead has fallen near the fireplace and is starting to burn, as are Cheryl and Scotty, giving the illusion that the book's disposal into the fire will destroy the demons.
Cheryl breaks into the cabin and knocks Ash down with little effort. While Scotty pins him down, Cheryl repeatedly beats Ash with a fireplace poker. Ash is able to grab the book after several attempts and toss it into the fireplace just as Cheryl raises the poker to impale him. The demons leave the bodies of Cheryl and Scotty, which then become inanimate and rapidly decay and fall apart. Ash, believing he has survived the ordeal, heads outside. A demon emerges from the woods and descends upon Ash, who turns to see it and lets out a bloodcurdling scream.