Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Season of Horror: The Evil Dead (1981)

I am pushing the boundaries of what I consider classic film, but I had to pick something appropriate for election night and The Evil Dead seemed to fit the bill. 

I acquired the Book of the Dead Limited Edition because Mom apparently purchased more than one for John so I ended up getting the extra one. I just opened it today and it feels like what I would imagine gross dead skin might feel like. It's been over 20 years since I've seen it, but I do remember being scared by this movie as a teen, thinking that just hearing the incantation as it played in the movie might raise the evil dead.

Two guys and three gals are going to camp in the forest, nearly crashing head on with a truck and falling through a rickety bridge on the way. As they approach the cabin, we no longer hear the sound of the car or occupants, but of a rope swing banging on the door, which suddenly stops when Scott retrieves the key above the door. Sound is used extremely well in this film to create tension and heighten fear, and the camera work is simply brilliant.

The kids get to the cabin and Scott goes inside while Ash and the girls unpack. The scene changes to  night and Cheryl is alone in the room sketching the clock which suddenly stops and she starts doing an automatic drawing of a book with a face. The door to the cellar starts banging as though something is trying to get out, and her eyes grow wide.

The kids are making bloody margaritas in the blender and Scotty is teasing Cheryl by whispering, "dead bodies in the cellar," repeatedly. Ash is stumbling over an ineffective toast and as they get ready to imbibe, the cellar door busts open and they all go stare down into it. Scotty takes the flashlight and goes down to explore. When he doesn't return or respond to their calls, Ash takes a lantern and goes down after him.

Scott jumps out at him and yells BOO and they explore the artifacts littering the cellar. Scotty examines a rifle, pointing it at Ash, while Ash discovers a creepy looking book with what appears to be a nose and mouth on the cover. He leafs through the book with odd symbols and sketches of skulls, demons and eyeballs. Scott finds a skull scepter and an ancient tape recorder. There is a half torn poster from what appears to be The Hills Have Eyes on the wall. I haven't seen that movie so would not know if there's a meaningful reference intended.

The kids are back upstairs chatting and having a grand old time. Ash shushes them and plays a tape recording from a researcher who describes his literary find of the ancient Sumerian burial practices and funerary incantations. The translation of the title is "Book of the Dead," which is bound in human flesh and inked in human blood and deals with demon resurrection and forces which roam the forest. While thunder booms and lightning flashes, we hear the voice on recording inform us that these demons may go dormant, but are never truly dead, and recitation of the incantations in the book give demons the ability to possess the living.

Cheryl wisely shuts off the tape recording, but foolish Scotty forwards it and turns it back on to hear what is sure to be the incantations described. I have to fast forward through the incantations...just in case, though it appears that a demon may have already been released tonight. Cheryl tells him to shut it off. He doesn't, and the ground is swelling and smoking with a red light from below. She screams to shut it off and a branch breaks through a window. She runs off and Ash reprimands Scotty for playing the recording.

Ash tells his girl Linda he's going to stay up and listen to the storm as she goes to check on Cheryl. He gives her a surprise magnifying glass necklace and they start sucking face, ensuring that the demons are on the way, which is quickly confirmed by the demon-vision point of view of the smoochers from outside the window, which moves to peep into the window where Shelly is undressing with Scotty, and then to Cheryl who looks at her automatic drawing from earlier and then out the window when the demon voices say, "Join us."

Cheryl has got victim written all over her because she goes outside and asks if anyone is out there. She decides to go on a night hike by herself to look for the peeping Tom, because what kind of horror movie would it be if someone didn't do stupid things? We hear bad cracking sounds around her in the forest and eerie groanings before we see branches and vines traveling along the ground, wrapping around her legs, arms and neck, stripping her of clothes and pulling her down to the ground to do unspeakable things to her. Let that be a lesson to you. Don't go out looking for whoever/whatever may be looking in through the windows after playing incantations to raise demons. Duh.

Cheryl makes it back to the house screaming, but can't get in and the demons are coming. She tries to grab the key above the door and the demons are coming closer. She fumbles with the lock and they've almost reached her. She drops the keys but Ash is reaching out and pulling her in as the demons retreat, making a disappointed demon sound.

Ash asks if it was something in the woods that abused her, but she claims it was the woods themselves and that the trees are alive. Cheryl says she wants to leave immediately, but Scotty says he's not leaving. She asks if Ash will take her into town or not. Ash goes to the car to drive her away, but it won't start. Cheryl says what we're all thinking, that "it's" not going to let the car start or let them leave, so it's pretty cool that the car then starts and proves us wrong. Of course we know Cheryl's not going anywhere, even though we'd like to think the two might escape what horrors await the group. Isn't that what we always hope for in horror movies?

Ash stops the car and Cheryl asks why, as he wanders off into the fog. He does not respond to her inquiries and she traipses into the forest once again to search for him. Apparently she did not learn from her recent encounter with the forest flora. She comes to the bridge, which appears to be destroyed and impassable, and she runs back to the car where Ash intercepts her. She repeats that "it's" not going to let them go.

Back at the cabin, Ash is listening to the recording as the researcher describes how his wife is now possessed by a demon and the only way to deal with it is by dismemberment. Linda is attempting to guess cards that Shelly is holding, who's falsely telling her she's correct, when Cheryl starts guessing all the cards accurately in a voice that becomes increasingly wild until she turns around from the window with a scary bluish demon face with eyes rolled up into her head. Her body is levitating with head lolling and limbs akimbo as the demon voice tells them they will die like the others before them and then she drops and goes silent as they stand horrified.

to be continued...

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