The Evil Dead (1981)

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

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 32 reviews

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).

Violence

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.

Sex

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.)

Language

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

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.)

User Reviews

Adult Written bychurchill37 June 4, 2013

Know your kid & share your likes (within reason)

Our son saw (and loved) Evil Dead the Musical, live show, when he was 6. We were able to focus on stage effects & the difference between real &... Continue reading
Adult Written byCommanderBond April 14, 2013

A very Gory but very fun film

This movie and Evil Dead 2 are two of the best horror movies of the 80's, both are very gory. This film has much less humor in it then Evil Dead 2, or the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycoolcat123321 April 15, 2011

ewwwwww

Do i Even have to say it????
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, thi... 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?

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

Movie details

For kids who love horror

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