The Evil Dead (1981)

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Evil Dead (1981) Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Horror masterpiece is gory but silly; violence, drugs.
  • NC-17
  • 1983
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 61 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The characters here seem like badly-behaved college students, going away for a weekend of drinking, sex, and partying. They blunder into the wrong place at the wrong time and pay dearly. There are no warnings or moral decisions involved; what happens is just pure bad luck.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not anyone you would want your teens to emulate. Ash is a bit of a buffoon, and at first he's just one of the college students looking for a good time. But he tries to begin a serious relationship with his girlfriend (before she's possessed by a demon). He has a difficult time dealing with his former friends after they become possessed and try to kill him; he has a conscience. Later, he faces his fears and fights his way to survival (sort of).


Horror movie violence and gore. In perhaps the most infamous scene from the movie, a woman exploring the surrounding woods of the cabin where she and her friends are staying is attacked by a tree. Vines wrap around her wrists and ankles before they spread her legs, and a vine goes between her legs before she manages to escape. Characters stabbed with pencils, swords -- gory and graphic. Axe dismemberment. When zombified, characters chew off their own hands. Thumbs to the eyes of the zombies. Characters thrown into walls. Horrific noises and demonic voices throughout. Zombies claw faces, claw legs, draw considerable blood. Zombie decapitation. Shotgun fired at zombies. Jump scares throughout. Characters decay into dust as roaches crawl over them.


There are two college-age couples in a cabin, and so there's kissing, and characters on the verge of having sex. Partial, brief, nonsexual nudity (breasts).


Infrequent mild profanity. " Hell," "bastards."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The college students drink something from a jar while driving, and then wine at dinner before all the trouble starts. They also pass around what appears to be a joint at dinner.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjcmcdowell September 24, 2021

A Masterpiece for Sure!

This is a masterpiece and a pioneer into the violent horror flicks we have today, and who knew that this film’s director Sam Raimi would go on to direct the Spi... Continue reading
Adult Written bypartyplayer9581 June 23, 2021

Fantastic effects for the 80s but NOT FOR YOUNG TEENS!!!

BEWARE!!! This movie is more graphic than you think! This movie contains a "Tree r*pe scene, which made me hide my face.


The ending... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJnews June 30, 2019

Coming from a kid that watched this at age 10

Although it does have a lot of gore it is not completely bad for children, there is a typical scene where a girl goes into the woods and it is implied that a t... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byscaryPERSON November 10, 2020

Really depends on who’s watching

I’m 13 and when I watched it I basically laughed through it. But also, that’s just me. This movie is really gory and disgusting, but that doesn’t bother me. A... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

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