Tag Archives: Ellen Sandweiss

Within the Woods (1978, Sam Raimi)

While Within the Woods is well-known as a precursor to The Evil Dead—Raimi has a number of sequences he uses again, once he’s got a budget—it’s more significant for its differences. First, it’s a monster movie. While gory, it has more in common with an old Universal horror picture than it does Evil Dead. Second (and related to the first), it’s Raimi’s only film for many years with a female protagonist. Bruce Campbell’s not the lead here, it’s Ellen Sandweiss.

As a director, some of Raimi’s shots work and some don’t. Once he gets to the horror sequences, he’s more in his element, but he does have some strong material before.

Sandweiss is excellent—even if her last ten minutes is constant screaming—as is Campbell. Mary Valenti’s good, Scott Spiegel isn’t.

It’s an interesting, moderately successful film. It deserves a real release, for Sandweiss’s performance alone.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; produced by Robert G. Talpert.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Bruce), Ellen Sandweiss (Ellen), Mary Valenti (Shelly) and Scott Spiegel (Scotty).


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The Evil Dead (1981, Sam Raimi)

For whatever reason, Sam Raimi now has The Evil Dead released in a matted version (to 1.85:1 from 1.37:1). It looks awful.

Raimi’s strength as a director comes from his constantly agitated camera; his static shots are–well, I guess the shots of the sun setting and the moon rising in Evil Dead are cool–mediocre at best. With the improper matte and the utter lack of head room, his static shots become much, much worse.

I haven’t seen Evil Dead in about ten years (I still have the OAR DVD release around and feel like it deserves another look) and I think the ship’s sailed for me. I saw the unrated, NC-17, rated X version. I can’t figure out how the film, with it’s super-cheap special effects, deserves such a rating. It’s cartoon violence.

Things I noticed this time include Theresa Tilly’s terrible scream (wish there was a good synonym for scream starting with t, let me tell you) and Richard DeManincor’s character’s complete indifference to other people.

There’s a lot of other stuff to the picture, sure, but it’s basically all about seeing Raimi’s camera movements. Joseph LoDuca’s score might be the best thing about the film, just because it’s so good, compared to the roughness of everything else.

Campbell does an all right job–definitely the best performance–but everyone’s underwritten here. It’d be impossible to gauge acting talent from Evil Dead.

The last third is unbearably long though. Boring gore. Who knew?

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; edited by Edna Ruth Paul; music by Joseph LoDuca; produced by Robert G. Tapert; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Ashley J. Williams), Ellen Sandweiss (Cheryl Williams), Richard DeManincor (Scott), Betsy Baker (Linda) and Theresa Tilly (Shelly).


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