Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Within the Woods

So after hearing about this highly-coveted prequel to the Evil Dead trilogy for years now, I’ve finally gotten my hands on a copy. As a short film, it works fairly well, high on mood and violence but low on plot or characterization. Its main appeal, however, is obviously as an artifact showing how the Evil Dead series evolved as a concept from its initial genesis to when the first film was made.

The film was shot on Super 8 video as a promotional video to try to get some financial backers to give them the money needed for writer-director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell to make their feature film The Book of the Dead (obviously later renamed). The film has Bruce and his girlfriend Ellen, along with another couple, decide to stay at a cabin in the woods. Bruce and Ellen decide to go out on a picnic, Bruce casually mentions that the cabin was built on an old Indian burial ground, and soon he’s been possessed by the Indians and tries to kill everyone.

The low quality of the footage turns into both a major flaw and a hidden blessing. It makes a good chunk of the film pretty much impossible to see, but the darkness of it does manage to make the no-doubt amateurish gore effects a lot more realistic. The various stabbings and mutilations that frequent the last third of this film carry a bit of the feel of the music videos for NIN’s Closer – dark, grainy, and nasty. It’s not enough to make this a truly great film, but it does make it fairly enjoyable once it gets moving along. If you’re a fan of the Evil Dead films (and if not, are you sure you’re on the right blog?), then you’d be well-advised to hunt down a copy.

Rating: ** ½

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