A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Evil Dead is a classic 1981 horror movie in which a group of college students staying in a remote cabin awaken evil spirits that bring the dead back to life. While it's one of the defining classics of low-budget horror, the blood, gore, and demonic imagery, among other things, make this movie unsuitable for kids. In perhaps the most infamous scene from the movie, one of the women, while exploring the surrounding woods, is tied down by vines from a tree and nearly raped before she manages to escape (brief nudity, breasts). Axe decapitation and dismemberment. Gory stabbings with pencils and swords. Characters clawed in the legs and face. Thumbs press into eye sockets. Zombies shot with a shotgun. When the college students become "the evil dead," they emit horrific sounds and demonic laughing likely to cause nightmares for more sensitive viewers. During dinner, characters pass a joint around, drink alcohol. While the special effects are primitive by today's standards, they show characters decaying into dust as roaches crawl over them. In terms of stereotyping, the female characters usually act helpless and are perceived by the men as being overly emotional before they are the first to succumb to demonic possession; the men are goofy and fond of practical jokes, but are also presented as the only ones strong and capable enough to save the day.
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What's the story?
Five college friends, Scott (Richard DeManincor), Shelly (Theresa Tilly), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Linda (Betsy Baker), and Ash (Bruce Campbell) drive to a remote cabin for a fun weekend of partying in THE EVIL DEAD. They begin to notice strange things happening, and Ash and Scott discover a weird book and a tape recorder in the basement. They learn that the book is the "book of the dead" (bound in human flesh and written in blood). A voice on the tape recorder reads an incantation that unleashes an evil force. This force wreaks untold havoc and eventually possesses the bodies of four of the friends, leaving only Ash to defend himself. Can he last until morning, and will he be safe even then?
Is it any good?
This low-budget wonder shows a major director, Sam Raimi, emerging fully-formed, pouring imagination and energy into every frame of his feature debut. No other genre movie at the time moved quite as well as this one, with creepy, wide-angle shots, crazy movement within the frame, razor-precise editing, and an eerie, nightmare-inducing sound design. It also upped the ante on movie gore, cheerfully throwing in gallons of gushing, spewing blood, twitching, severed body parts, chainsaws, axes, shotguns; and he stopped the show with a truly horrifying sequence of a woman raped by a tree.
Aside from that sequence, The Evil Dead has a deadpan silliness that was new to the otherwise dark, foreboding horror genre. It's equal parts Three Stooges and Night of the Living Dead. It made a cult star out of Bruce Campbell, whose stoic, yet rubbery face and body seemed to follow the unique rhythms of the movie itself. It's streamlined, ageless, and undiluted, unquestionably a drive-in masterpiece. It's just not for kids!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Evil Dead's extreme gore and violence. How did it affect you? Were you upset? Laughing? Squirming?
Were these characters punished for their bad behavior, or were they just the victims of bad luck?
Ash manages to survive throughout the story. Something seems to have awakened within him to help him, even though he had to destroy his "friends." Can he be classified as a hero or a role model? Why or why not?
This is classified as a horror movie, but is it scary?
- In theaters: April 15, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2009
- Cast: Betsy Baker, Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss
- Director: Sam Raimi
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: NC-17
- MPAA explanation: substantial graphic horror violence and gore
- Last updated: August 31, 2021
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