Thursday, September 27, 2018

Cheap Thrills: In Praise of The Evil Dead

On the envelope-pushing effects work of Sam Raimi’s hand-tooled gorefest, set for re-release this Halloween.

During his formative years, Sam Raimi spent much of his time making amateur Super-8 films with childhood friend Bruce Campbell. Raimi had just turned 20 when, in late 1979, shooting began on his feature debut, The Evil Dead. He and Campbell raised the budget themselves, begging friends, family and anyone who would listen, with only the $1,600 prototype short Within the Woods to establish the credibility of their intent.

The total outlay initially came in at $90,000, though it would eventually reach $350,000, accounting for post-production and marketing. What followed was, by all accounts, an arduous six-week shoot in and around an abandoned cabin during the Tennessee midwinter, with long hours, primitive facilities, multiple injuries, dwindling funds and frozen equipment that would have to be thawed at the derelict building’s fireplace.

The rest, as they say, is history. As well as bringing in a healthy return on investment ($29.4 million at the box office), The Evil Dead has variously been praised by Stephen King, vilified by Mary Whitehouse, cut to ribbons and banned in several countries (incredibly, until as recently as 2016 in Germany); it has become a home video best seller, spawned multiple sequels (both official and unofficial), a remake, a musical, a TV spinoff series, video games and comic book crossovers; it has secured lasting careers for Raimi and Campbell, and a permanent place for itself in popular culture. It is now frequently recognised as one of the all-time best entries in the horror canon.

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