Video Nasty 51: The Evil Dead

Ashley (Bruce Campbell) and his friends take a trip to an evil cabin, home to the Book of the Dead which, when read aloud, unleashes the biggest shitstorm since Simon Amstell read from Chantelle’s autobiography.

In 1981, Sam Raimi and his friends watched The Exorcist, took a bunch of coke (this is all speculation), went to a cabin in the woods with a few hundred buckets of fake blood and changed the horror genre forever. This nuts-and-bolts approach is both stripped down and blown up; minimalist in terms of plot and characterisation but excessive everywhere else. It’s wilfully nonsensical (and somehow still more cogent than most horror movies) and relentlessly gory, making up for its laughably bad acting, barely functioning storytelling and non-existent characters (Campbell doesn’t play Ash but Ashley in this picture) in pure, unbridled cinematic energy.

Mixing Three Stooges-style slapstick with splatter movie violence, Raimi showed that films could be really scary and really funny at the same time, spawning the horror/comedy sub-genre as we know it. His innovative directing and outrageous special effects have also passed into cinematic consciousness, all insane camera angles and crawling POV shots, combined with intense sound design to create a uniquely jumpy atmosphere. The ensuing 85 minutes feel like an ultraviolent cartoon done for real; a full-throttle assault on the senses that unleashes the crazed potential of low-budget filmmaking and makes you think twice before climbing a tree.

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