Sam Raimi’s full length directorial début deserves its status as a flawed classic. The details about how this got made at all really show the determination of not just Raimi but all of those who stuck with it to the bitter end. Now he’s all ready to produce a remake of the film that started it all.
Five friends drive out an isolated cabin in the woods that they have rented. Scott (Richard DeManincor) is with his girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilly) and Ashley (Bruce Campbell) is with his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker). Ash‘s creepy sister Cheryl(Ellen Sandweiss) has also come because misery always insists on tagging along in case someone might be having fun.
This cabin really is isolated. To get to it they had to cross a bridge that was falling apart as they crossed it. The cabin is run down and has that feel of not being good place to be with all sorts of creepy noises and a wild camera running about outside.
The cellar door bangs open and they hear noises from down there so Scott takes the torch and goes down. After not hearing from Scott for a little too long Ash goes down to see if anything is wrong. Scott has found a journal, a tape recorder and a disgusting looking old book and a dagger left there by an archaeologist. They take it all upstairs and Asht turns on the tape recorder.
They sit listening to the archaeologist’s tape where he talks about Sumerian demons and a book bound in human skin that contained spells for summoning them. He then start reading these spells out loud and after while Cheryl starts freaking and demanding they stop the tape just when this party was getting started. Later that night Cheryl goes outside into the woods to see what’s making noises she get chased by the wild camera then attacked by the trees. Rob Tapert you are dirty.
Cheryl escapes the trees and wakes everyone up and demands that someone takes her back to town. Ash tries to but when they get to the bridge it has been torn apart by some powerful force and they have to return to the cabin. Ash listens to more of the tape on a head phone and finds out that the spell for summoning demons summoned a demon and it possessed the voice on the tape’s wife and dismemberment was the only answer.
Shelly is playing a game of “lets convince the retard she’s psychic” with Linda while Cheryl is staring out through the window at the woods and her voice goes all witchy and possessed sounding and every card Shelly turns over Cheryl gets right. Then she flies up and floats around with an ugly demon face and white eyes and complains about getting woken up.
Cheryl then gets very violent and shoves a pencil into Linda’s ankle and immobilises Ash with a book-case. Scott fights her and manages to get her into the cellar and chains the door closed. The wild camera comes for Shelly next while she is alone in the bedroom. Scott hears her screams and goes to look for her but he can’t find her. Then he gets jumped by someone in evil make up and a wig. They struggle into the sitting room where Ash leans helplessly on a axe watching on in horror. The Shelly demon’s head falls into the fire but Scott pulls her out. Scott repeatedly tells Ash to hit it with the axe but his pleas fall on daft ears so he grabs the axe from Ash and does it himself, chopping Shelly up into several wriggling body parts which they bury outside.
Scott wants to leave and see if there is another way down to town But Ash wants to stay and take care of Linda which is a bit of change for both characters. Scott runs off into the woods and Ash goes to see how Linda is getting on with the hole in her foot. It turns out that it’s got a bit infected with demons and it has spread a bit and she’s all evil face and white eyes and she attacks him. He hits her back and is about to blast her with a shotgun when she changes back. In the cellar he also hears Cheryl begging to be set free in her normal voice. Ash bends down closer and demon Cheryl grabs him through the floor boards. Demon Linda also laughs at him for his gullibility.
Scott comes back from the woods all ripped up by the trees and fatally injured. Linda attacks Ash again and in the struggle she gets stabbed right through with the big evil dagger. Ash takes her body out to the tool shed to cut it up but wimps out and buries her whole, so when of course she comes back to life and attacks him again Ash decapitates her with a spade.
The final battle between Ash and various members of the crew and the Raimi family dressed in monster make up is grisly and messy and involves a lot nasty looking liquids. This involves a nice blend of stop motion and live effects which must have been tricky to pull off.
This film feels very rough but Sam Raimi just about pulls it together to create something really disturbing. The POV camera shots are really well-used and of course spawned many copiers. The main cast are all pretty good and most of the time you don’t even notice when they’ve turned into monster with different build, hair colour or gender. I think this film will probably not have broad appeal of the sequels but it is definitely much more of a horror film than those are.