Cinema: Behind the Scenes
How One Movie Can Change A Lot

         Just as in the world of opera and musical theatre, the world of the cinema is made to run smoothly by the actors, director, and everyone else behind the camera. No film would ever succeed without the talents of cameramen, technical directors, composers, and writers. These people contribute many positive things to the success of a film, other than just a pretty face. Not to bash actors, but they have to have someone apply their make-up, tell them where to stand, what to say, and what camera to look into.

         Although this is an easy argument to present, I will discuss it citing examples from one movie that has been called “terrible” many times over. I will say that I disagree with this judgment. Anyway, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead was filmed in 1979 and released somewhere between 1981 and 1983. There seems to be some disagreement about that. It starred Sam’s good friend Bruce Campbell (the undisputed King of B-movies).

         To give a brief synopsis, the movie is about five college students who vacation to a cabin in Tennessee. While at the cabin, they discover a tape recorder, book, and dagger. These items were used by a scientist, who was reciting incantations from the book and released evil spirits. Of course, they play the tape and the demons are released to posses each of them. Through a lot of blood, guts, and dismemberment, Ash (Bruce Campbell) is the only one left alive.

         It does not sound like much, but it is a great movie. I will also shamelessly pitch Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, two sequels to The Evil Dead. Also, if you are really interested, check out The Evil Dead Within the Woods. This is a prequel to The Evil Dead used as a pitch to raise money for the actual movie.

         Now, back to the good stuff—there are several scenes of unseen demons moving about the forest chasing people. Sam Raimi is a genius with cameras. We have all witnessed this with his work on the Spider-Man trilogy. However, back in 1979 Sam pulled this off by simply running through the woods holding the camera. It is outstanding. There is a circulating rumor that a motorcycle was used also, but it has yet to be confirmed. These are other scenes that have very odd camera angles that are quite difficult to figure out. The answers are simple. An angle moving about and around Campbell’s head was achieved by mounting a camera to a 2 X 4 and walking around manipulating the angles. We also see that Sam is quite fond of “hiding” with the camera. There are several scenes shot from the ground view and one from behind a porch swing. It is a great effect that gives the impression that the characters are being watched.

         The setting of The Evil Dead could be no more perfect. It is set at an actual run-down cabin in the Tennessee mountains. There is a story that people were actually murdered there, so it is quite eerie. It really gives the scenery an authentic character.

         While the acting is not the best ever; the sounds and music in this movie are outstanding. The score was written by Joseph LoDuca, who would go on to work with Raimi on the Hercules and Xena television series. The film is scored entirely with piano, strings, percussion, and synthesizer. In one of the first scenes we find Scott (the other male character) exploring the cabin. Behind this scene is a wonderful piano piece. Some parts of it sound quite random, but the descending dissonant lines and arpeggiated bass are wonderful.

         For some of the movie frantic scenes you will hear dissonant strings playing agitated pizzicato style notes. They sound very shrill to the ear, but are very appropriate. On the other hand, during a small love scene, you hear the strings play a nice romantic melody. As nice as it is, it does not lose the characters of the horror present.

         As for other sounds in the movie, you will hear very distorted voices saying “join us.” Yeah, it is a little corny, but it was the beginning of the 1980’s. There are also other grunts and screams throughout.

         Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead changed the horror genre. Many of the techniques he used are still used today in many movies. Of course, they do seem a bit more professional now since they are working with a little more than an $8,000 budget. It is a film that should be respected and never overlooked. Go rent it.

Brant Veal

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