This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s cinematic CVs both have the same name at the top: The Evil Dead, the first full-length feature either of the two friends were involved with that earned Raimi notoriety as a horror director with a grisly imagination on a par with Tobe Hooper or George Romero,, and also gave Campbell credibility as a square-jawed B-movie stalwart. Each film presents a different riff on the various common features of the premise; although each time it boils down to Bruce’s character Ash facing off against demonic forces that reanimate the dead, each film offers an extremely different spin on the premise – and, for that matter, on the character of Ash himself.
The Evil Dead
The premise of The Evil Dead is nothing new – it’s the same old “teenagers or college students go somewhere isolated, scary stuff happens to them” premise which dates back to the 1950s at least in the cinema, and probably much earlier if you look at campfire ghost stories. (Cabin In the Woods is pretty much built on how generic this premise is.) In this case, the college students in question are Ash (Bruce Campbell), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Scott (Richard DeManincor), Linda (Betsy Baker) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly), the isolated place is that good old standby, the lonely hut in the middle of the forest, and the bad thing that happens involves them discovering an archaeologist’s tape recording of readings from the Necronomicon, the playing of which frees the dark forces surrounding the cabin to launch a full-scale assault against their psyches. One by one the friends are possessed by the demons described in the book, turning into grotesque, malformed parodies of their former selves (dubbed “Deadites” in the later installments of the series), until eventually Ash is left on his own to fend for himself against his undead pals.