The Evil Dead (USA, 1981)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Richard DeManicor
When John Carpenter was interviewed for the Masters of Horror documentary in 2002, he commented that his generation of filmmakers (Tobe Hopper, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and the like) became revered because they could break with the rules and generic conventions more than any generation before or since. Their arrival coincided with huge advances in special effects which enabled them to physicalize metaphors and express terror like never before.
Raimi famously described The Evil Dead as "a Three Stooges movie, with blood and guts standing in for custard pies." He believed, in other words, that the aesthetic sensibility of horror and comedy were very close, and that pain could and should be funny. The Evil Dead takes the mechanics of slapstick comedy, which is built around physical pain and embarrassment, and covers them in gallons and gallons of blood. We find ourselves laughing at the jokes while being scared to death by the monsters that are providing them, and the whole experience is immensely enjoyable.
Young Frankenstein: it begins as a comedy, then brings in the horror elements to increase the comic potential of the characters, and only becomes truly horrifying in its final act.
Hallowe'en it gives the impression that we are constantly being watched. Even in its quietest moments the film never lets us settle: the scale of the onslaught builds and builds so that the silences are as unbearable as the shocks.
Verdict: A deliciously demented debut