Long before becoming a major player in the world of superhero cinema with his Spider-Man films, director Sam Raimi delighted horror fans across the globe with his no holds barred Evil Dead series. Filmgoers can now relive those days with The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, both of which are being screened as a part of this summer's Midnight Movies series!
Originally released in 1981, The Evil Dead is a low budget horror masterpiece. The film builds on a number of previously established tropes—Night of the Living Dead’s isolated house, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s group of doomed teenagers, Friday the 13th’s ominous wooded setting—and then makes something completely new.
Raimi employs incredibly inventive filmmaking techniques, effectively creating a surrealist nightmare for his most unfortunate characters, who one by one succumb to an ancient evil that resides in the woods. Although there is a fair amount of black humor in the film, this does not interfere with the movie’s visceral impact. From the moment the sun sets on The Evil Dead’s rickety little cabin, you’re on the edge of your seat.
After The Evil Dead, Raimi sealed his reputation in the annals of horror history with his adrenaline-fueled sequel, Evil Dead II, which was released six years later. Few horror films have pulled off the delicate balance of humor and terror that so perfectly exists in Evil Dead II. Slapstick is combined with buckets of blood in a chillingly effective way, as our charismatic hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) chainsaws his way through demon after demon. Due to Raimi’s decision to pull out all the stops, the truly insane Evil Dead II is one of only a few major horror sequels that are commonly considered to be superior to their originals.
Some films are successful as midnight movies because they work well at that late hour when your mind becomes hazy. The Evil Dead films are successful because they keep you wide awake. Violence, comedy, and a healthy dose of gore combine to create a chaotic assault on your senses—and the best part part of your weekend.