Ne­cro retro

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews - Robert Ben­ziker For The New Mex­i­can

The Evil Dead, cult horror clas­sic, rated NC-17, The Screen (one show only), 3 chiles Many film ca­reers are birthed in blood. Steven Spiel­berg, Peter Jack­son, Francis Ford Cop­pola, Oliver Stone, James Cameron, Cur­tis Han­son, John Sayles, Johnny Depp, Jen­nifer Anis­ton, and Kevin Ba­con are among the tal­ents in the movie in­dus­try who got early breaks in horror films.

Few of those movies, how­ever, are as bloody as The Evil Dead, which comes to The Screen in a re­stored 35 mm print at 10:15 p.m. on Satur­day, Sept. 4. This 1983 cel­e­bra­tion of gore, makeup, and more gore launched the ca­reers of di­rec­tor Sam Raimi (best known these days for the Spi­der-Man fran­chise) and Bruce Camp­bell (best known for be­ing Bruce Camp­bell). If you squint and look closely at the cred­its, you will even see the name Joel Coen (one of the Coen broth­ers) listed as an as­sis­tant edi­tor.

The rea­son so many peo­ple get their start amid the shrieks and screams of the horror genre is that horror films pro­vide easy ways to show off one’s chops on a low bud­get. The Evil Dead was shot in the Ten­nessee woods over a pe­riod of about 18 months for less than $400,000. As with other cheapie horror de­buts — in­clud­ing Ge­orge Romero’s Night of the Liv­ing Dead, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, and Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever — the film­mak­ers man­aged their fi­nan­cial lim­i­ta­tions in part by cast­ing just a hand­ful of un­known ac­tors and stag­ing a ma­jor­ity of the ac­tion in one ru­ral house.

It is to this house that five col­lege stu­dents travel for a week­end vacation, driv­ing in Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmo­bile Delta 88 (which would go on to ap­pear in each of Raimi’s films, in­clud­ing the whole Spi­der-Man tril­ogy and, sup­pos­edly, as a cov­ered wagon in his 1995 Western The Quick and the Dead). Once at their des­ti­na­tion, weird omens be­gin to sug­gest that some­thing isn’t right.

All hell breaks loose when they stum­ble into “The Book of the Dead” and some tape record­ings of de­monic in­can­ta­tions, which is a sure­fire way to ruin any vacation. The record­ings sum­mon evil spir­its who pos­sess the peo­ple one by one, turn­ing them into wild, vi­o­lent demons known as “dea­dites.” From there, the care­ful pac­ing of the film’s first half gives way to lots of fake blood and folks with freaky makeup jump­ing out and shout­ing “boo!”

It’s fun stuff, even if such rapid-fire an­tics can make the film’s scant 85-minute run time feel a touch long. What grabs you with each view­ing is the sheer en­ergy on dis­play. One of the more mem­o­rable tech­niques that Raimi em­ployed was his use of hand­held cam­era to in­voke the mon­ster’s point of view. That wasn’t a new de­vice in cin­ema, but Raimi’s cam­era soars through the woods at odd an­gles and in­cred­i­ble speeds that still feel fresh and ex­cit­ing to­day — even af­ter be­ing co-opted many times since, such as with the smoke mon­ster in Lost. Raimi de­vel­oped this tech­nique by mount­ing the cam­era to a two-by-four and then run­ning through the woods, he and Camp­bell hold­ing op­po­site ends of it.

The Evil Dead lacks the Three Stooges-es­que slap­stick and iconic one-lin­ers (“This is my boom­stick!”) of the se­quels, 1987’s


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