When you go out into the woods tonight, you’re sure in for a surprise which is what Ash, Linda, Cheryl, Shelly and Scott were in for when they decided their spring break would be as far away from civilization as possible. Seriously when will they ever learn.
As they enter the cabin, a rocking chair is swinging and banging against it which abruptly stops when Scotty reaches for the key, almost as if it has already trapped them thinking ‘gotcha’!
That night whilst Cheryl is drawing a picture of a grandfather clock it abruptly also stops and her hand begins to lose control drawing a strange square with a face on it.
It is later revealed that there is a book of the dead, the Naturom Demeonto, which has the evil deformed face printed on it (as the drawing may have indicated earlier), that drives the demonic entities to awaken.
At dinner the cellar door mysteriously flies open but they think “it’s probably just an animal”. Cautiously going down the dusty steps, they find the book and a tape recorder which they play, found to belong to a reasercher who had previously stayed at the cabin with his wife.
The man on the tape says ” .. The book is bound in human flesh and inked in blood..the first few pages warn that these enduring creatures may lie dormant but are never truly dead…it is through the recitation of these passages that the demons are given license to posess the living”.
What the man simply means is read (or in this case hear the man recite) the incantations and you’re screwed which has already happened to our friends here , as through the fog the ground begins to tear open as if something is about to crawl through it and strange noises can be heard coming towards the cabin.
The first creepy and frightful scene which I recall all too clearly to this day is when the girls are playing cards. As the girls try their hands at telepathy, Cheryl is facing the window and starts speaking strangely, memorising all the deck of cards without seeing them as she turns to face them in her demonic state driving a pencil into Lindas ankle.
After a small tussle, they manage to throw her into the cellar which is just as worse watching her rattle the chains with a gap to show her delightful face (!).
For most of us who have seen the movie at an early age would remember how scared we were of that low budget clown like make-up with glassy yellow eyes. It may make me laugh now but underneath that smile lies the fearful little girl I once was of such a face.
I remember holding up my hands and peeking through my fingers, having been scarred with nightmares for quite a year, thinking someone or something was hiding underneath my bed, staring at the foot of my bed incase it dragged me out.
The movie soon has everyone possessed at some point and it isn’t shy to show some gore as throughout the movie we are visualized with bodies being axed up, spliced up and buried up.
There is an iconic scene where Cheryl is seen wandering the forest as she hears whispers coming from somewhere unknown. She is soon attacked by some tree vines which tie her up, tear her clothes apart and rape her which is disturbing but shot in a great way.
What makes this movie even more frightening is the way it is maginificently framed by Sam Raimi. The zoom in and out shots and the silent tension really make all the difference to his low budget movie of it’s time. The story plot is short, the characters are simple, but it is the unique shock of horror which make this movie stand out above many others.
There are moments of pure silence with the doors being flung open and objects suddenly moving on it’s own, the sudden inject of music violently played, that drive the fear into your mind, making your heart jump that little bit faster.
The anitcipation of not knowing when and who is posessed is the most terrfying, along with the way the posessed screech and attack you by any means possible. You wouldn’t want to saw your girlfriend in half without being certain she is ‘better’ now would you?
When Shelly succumbs to the demonic forces she is accidentally thrown into the fireplace as they drag her out, she says “thank you, I don’t know what I would do if it had burned my pretty flesh”. whilst she smiles, writhing on the ground which is far from terrifying.
It is the marriage of darkness and dark humour that fits perfectly to create such a masterpiece which has now become a cult following for good reasons. (that always sounds creepy to say aloud but it’s true).
In interviews with Sam Raimi, I read that he said “it was one of the most difficult things i had done in my life..we didn’t have any winter wear. It was freezing”. ” we had no food i thought i was going to die”.
The fact Raimi continued to explain how they barely had much food on set to eat inbetween breaks (which was hardly), and casts began to slowly leave because of the intensive hours they had to put into their roles, is such a difficult process to imagine in such a profound movie.
The cabin itself was barely changed, shooting in a rustic place full of real bugs and filth which makes me have all the sympathy and respect for the man to have created such a movie during that time.
With fits of hysteria and constant giggling in a very disturbing manner, you’d be glad to meet the joker any day. If you have room for insanity, let your mind do the talking..it’s enough to make you feel crazy.
Credits: Directed and Written by Sam Raimi.
Starring; Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York.
Music by Joseph Loduca.
Other honourable mentions from 1981 that I love:
Raiders of the Lost Ark – Directed by Steven Spielberg
Mad Max 2 – Directed by George Miller