I can still remember the first time I saw The Evil Dead—sometime back in the 1980s, on VHS. (I don’t believe this 1981 film had a long run at the theaters—it wasn’t exactly date night stuff.)
The Evil Dead wasn’t like The Exorcist, in the sense that it would send your imagination running and keep you awake at night. Rather, The Evil Dead was one long series of endless jump scares.
The movie started intense, and it just never stopped.
The Evil Dead was also Sam Raimi’s best work. There was a certain dark humor in the film. But Raimi didn’t overplay the humor element—as he would in subsequent installments of the franchise, and later movies like Drag Me to Hell (2009).
The setup was simple: A group of people spend the night in a remote cabin. They play a recording that summons evil spirits from the bowels of the earth.
One by one, they are turned into homicidal zombies. The End.
And yet—maybe horror tales (whether on the page or on the screen) are best when they have simple, readily accessible plots. I remember reading Dan Simmons’s overlong Carrion Comfort and thinking, man this is just too much plot for a horror novel.
The Evil Dead was good storytelling. The special effects are primitive, by today’s standards. But the movie is still quite unnerving to watch.