Ash and his friends decide to stay at a cabin in the woods. Therein they find a sinister recording and a book bound in human flesh. They decide it would be a great idea to play the tape one night, which is a sort of audio journal of some guy who had stayed in the cabin previously, who had been researching the history of the book and how it was used in resurrecting demons. Unfortunately for Ash and crew, the man is fluent in demon language and reads aloud the demon summoning ritual from the book. Soon, friends start being possessed by demons and all hell breaks loose.
The Evil Dead is an amazing horror masterpiece written and directed by horror virtuoso Sam Raimi, now famous as the director of the Spiderman movies. The quality of the direction is frankly unbelievable. This is basically the second movie the guy had ever done, if you include the low budget and rarely-seen Within the Woods. I usually don't like to get into histories of people involved in the movies I review, but you need to understand that Sam Raimi, on his second attempt, made a movie that outclasses nearly every horror movie of its time. It is that good.
It is absolutely packed with memorable shots and scenes. I especially like the scene where Ash attempts to escape with Cheryl and they find the bridge to the town to have been uprooted by some unknown force, steel girders curling up like the fingers of some demonic hand. The scene was shot with both the car and the camera on a slope. So when Ash exits the car and then passes between the car and the camera it appears that he is walking at a 45-degree angle to the ground. It's a simple but amazing effect, but when you see it it really makes you feel uneasy. And then when Ash discovers that the bridge is no longer an option, the scene is framed so that all you see is him and Cheryl in the headlights of the car, surrounded by total darkness. And the movie is filled with these kinds of amazing shots.
The sound effects are equally impressive, from the deep rumbling noise the demon presence makes as it glides through the woods, to the horrific voices the characters speak in when they are possessed.
Unlike its sequel, The Evil Dead is pretty much a total horror film, with very little (if nothing) to laugh at. It's a little amusing how much abuse Ash has to put up with, but even then it is more gross than funny. It's an extremely violent and gory film, but that is all part of the ride and as far as I am concerned this film is a perfect horror movie.