The Evil Dead (1981) Movie Poster Image

The Evil Dead (1981)



Horror masterpiece is gory but silly. For older teens only.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: NC-17
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 85 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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).


In 1983, this movie set a new standard for blood and gore, although movies since then have gone much further. Perhaps the most disturbing scene is the one in which the animated branches of a tree "rape" a woman. There are scary demons (with scary, screeching voices), as well as screaming, stabbing, scratching, fighting, bashing, biting, burning, severed limbs, spraying and/or gushing blood, and the spewing of some unknown white stuff. The hero, Ash, slaps his possessed girlfriend, straps her down to a workbench, and attempts to cut her up with a chainsaw (he can't go through with it). Ash uses a shotgun on the demons and also gouges out some eyes. In the end, the demons' faces melt. All of this stuff is presented in a very goofy, deadpan, tongue-in-cheek manner.


There are two college-age couples in a cabin, and so there's kissing, and characters thinking about sex. There is some partial, brief nudity (breasts). There's also the aforementioned "rape" by a possessed tree. (A tree branch thrusts itself under a girl's dress, between her legs.)


We hear "hell" twice, several uses of "God" and "Jesus Christ," plus "bastard" and "turd."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The college students drink something from a jar while driving, and then some wine at dinner before all the trouble starts.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Evil Dead is a horror masterpiece that upped the ante on gore for the 1980s but also introduced a kind of deadpan silliness to the genre. In 1994, the MPAA gave it its official rating, an NC-17, for "substantial graphic horror violence and gore." The effects are imaginative but dated, and it's unlikely that they will inspire much more than laughter today. The most notable sequence, however, is the one in which a girl is raped by an animated, possessed tree; that one still disturbs. Aside from the extreme gore and violence, there is some drinking, profanity, and brief nudity. The movie is definitely off limits for kids. (Please note: This is not the 2013 remake.)

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. 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 movie 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!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie'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?

  • This is classified as a horror movie, but is it scary?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 15, 1983
DVD/Streaming release date:December 1, 2009
Cast:Betsy Baker, Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss
Director:Sam Raimi
Studio:Anchor Bay Entertainment
Run time:85 minutes
MPAA rating:NC-17
MPAA explanation:substantial graphic horror violence and gore

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bycoolcat123321 April 15, 2011


Do i Even have to say it????
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byLeon8285 October 21, 2011

Amazing, for mature kids...

The Evil Dead is a gruesome and dark horror for the kids who can handle some over the top, bad quality violence. I dont see what everyone is bragging about, this is a low budget movie that has next to no gore compared to the more recent films. This is a movie that has mixed reviews but they are mostly good. All of the casting is good and Bruce Campbell is at his finest. There are some noticeably few mistakes like a plank of wood being made of foam, coming apart and Bruce trying desperately to hold it all together, quite funny. The "Rape" scene, compared to the films now, this scene is quite funny, especially means it was a tree that was the rapist, this scene has some bare breasts as the clothes get torn. The gore in this movie, was ground breaking for a low budget movie from 1981, but its just plasticine in stop motion, quite funny as now all of the movies nowadays use digital effects, not practical like The Evil Dead. All in all, some bad acting, some gory-ish moments with some dark humour, personally, I think its a masterpiece. Only watch if you are not afraid of gore, or bad acting.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 15 years old Written byMetropolisforever April 9, 2011

Campy Independent Silliness

"The Evil Dead" harkens back to an era when a few guys with almost no money could get a camera, make a movie with some cheap stop-motion effects, and make a fortune at drive-ins and grindhouse theaters. That era is over, but The Evil Dead is still fondly remembered for its campy thrills and over-the-top gore. While most modern audiences will simply laugh at the film's hammy acting and dated, low-budget special effects, that does not diminish its historical value. For a tiny independent film from 1980, The Evil Dead is surprisingly well-made compared to many of its drive-in peers. The level of gore is highly exaggerated here; it's really hard to imagine anyone being disturbed by this film. Any nasty scenes are very brief and not particularly explicit. The much-talked-about "tree rape" scene is also far too silly to be taken seriously, especially in the era of Japanese hentai and Internet porn. The ridiculously inconsistent MPAA handed this film an NC-17 rating in 1994, the same year they passed the much more graphic (and much more high-budget) Hollywood films Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction with R ratings. Kinda makes you wonder how they grade films, doesn't it?
What other families should know
Too much violence


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