The Evil Dead (1981) Review

The Evil Dead
Image Source: IMDB

Movie: The Evil Dead (1981)

Production Company: Renaissance Pictures

Director: Sam Raimi

Producers: Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert

Scriptwriter: Sam Raimi

Main Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker & Theresa Tilly

Release Date: 15 October 1981

Running Time: 85 minutes

Certificate: 18

The Evil Dead (1981) – Introduction

Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror film The Evil Dead is full of humour, gore and campy scares. At the time of its release, it was considered too violent and horrific for most audiences. The film was in fact banned in a number of countries for a long time, and even now still retains a drastic X-rating. However, the film, and its subsequent franchise, has made name for itself, and has had a significant revival in recent years. I think this goes to show just how influential the original film was.

Synopsis of The Evil Dead (1981)

The first instalment of the Evil Dead franchise follows young Ash Williams, his friend, sister, and girlfriend as they travel to remote woodland for a weekend away. Things quickly go south after they discover a mysterious book, along with some haunting video tapes in the basement of their cabin. They are possessed by something, one by one, until only Ash remains standing. He has the choice of facing the same fate as his friends, or battling his way to survival.

Analysis of The Evil Dead (1981)

Original Concept

The Evil Dead (1981) takes both the ideas of the undead zombie and mythical demons, and merges them into one. This was one of the first films to attempt this style of horror. It is arguably the original blue-print that inspired many ‘un-dead’ flicks that followed it. The style is 80s-typically campy, and yet it still gives a great scare. I think this is due to the innate fear of something terrible happening to those you love. Main character, Ash, must take out everyone he holds dear to survive. This makes for a saddening and tense atmosphere in the final act of the film.

Avoiding typical ‘zombie’ horror tropes, The Evil Dead (1981) is original and creative in its concept. There is no ‘apocalypse’ forthcoming, all the evil of this film is contained within the cabin it takes place in. This gives a feeling of claustrophobia to the story. As the audience, we believe if Ash can escape the forest, he’ll be safe. Because of this, we root for his survival even more, as there is a clear goal in sight.

Visual Effects

For the time it was released, Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) has some amazing visual effects. All the scares in the film are done using practical effects. This gives the gore some edge, and even though it may not be realistic, it certainly is creepy. The makeup that creates the possessed characters is horrifying and makes them entirely un-human. The switch from the character’s regular looks to the zombified makeup is chilling.

The controversial tree branch scene in the woods undoubtedly has some great effects. The branches move around on their own, really helping to create this sense of the un-seen ‘monster’. Again, one of the aspects that really makes The Evil Dead (1981) is that the characters become the evil in the film. Not showing us any specific demon or creature creates this presence that looms over the entire story.


The legacy of Raimi’s work on this franchise is massive. With the two sequels to The Evil Dead (1981), and then the recent remake, along with Evil Dead Rise (2023), the universe grows ever-larger. Raimi’s original film not only gained a cult following, but essentially created a whole genre. Each new addition to the franchise reveals new snippets of lore for this universe. Having the newer films follow different characters and storylines has helped to keep the franchise alive, and reels in new audiences.

Even the spin-off show, Ash Vs. The Evil Dead, combines well-loved characters with new ones. It expands on the universe without undoing any of the already established lore. The legacy of The Evil Dead (1981) continues to live on, which I think goes to show how monumental of a film this is, not just within the horror community, but for films in general.

Summary of The Evil Dead (1981)

I think this is a franchise that will continue to grow and develop in years to come. There is a clear formula here that never seems to grow old. However, the original film is where it all started, and it’s not hard to see why this film has created such a popular franchise when you go back and re-watch its original source material. Overall, The Evil Dead (1981) is a staple in the world of horror cinema, and the legacy it has created reflects that.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good