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Horror is definitely my favorite genre of film, but if there’s one series that I could watch over and over again, it would have to be the Evil Dead movies. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Bruce Campbell. A chainsaw for a hand. Deadites screaming, “I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!” That horror series.
And with a new Evil Dead movie on the way (and Halloween right around the corner), what better time than now to rank all 4 Evil Dead movies. Now, before you even ask, yes, I have watched the off-Broadway play as well as most of Ash vs. The Evil Dead, and I love them both. But this is a list of the movies rather than the TV show or the play. So if this were a list of 6 rather than 4, I would place the TV show dead center at #3, and the Musical at #4. Both are great, but neither are as great as the 2 movies that I’d put at numbers 2 and 1, respectively. Come get some.
4. Evil Dead (2013)
Partially written by Diablo Cody (she was brought in for script revisions) 2013’s Evil Dead is both tonally different from the original movie and also a love letter in the highest order when it comes to the plot. The story this time around concerns a heroin addict (played by Jane Levy) who’s brought to a cabin in the woods to try and beat her addiction. But everything else is very similar to the original. There’s even a tree rape scene, and of course an evil book in the basement that unleashes hell.
Besides that, though, the evil is much more spelled out this time around and is known as The Abomination, or The Taker of Souls. What follows is an excursion into violence, as this is definitely the bloodiest movie in the entire franchise.
And that’s kind of the problem with it. 2013’s Evil Dead is really great as a horror movie, but not so much as an Evil Dead film. The biggest problem with it is that it’s missing its center with Ash, played by Bruce Campbell. Its violence is also the main attraction here as the characters are kind of bland when compared to the original. And while you might think it’s unfair to compare this movie with the original since it’s really a soft reboot more than anything else, its story is so similar—besides the excessive, unhumorous bloodshed—that it’s kind of hard not to compare it to the original.
For a better cabin in the woods movie with humor and a lot more of Evil Dead’s campy charm see, er, The Cabin in the Woods, which is definitely a lot more tongue in cheek and enjoyable than this ultraviolent take on the series.
3. The Evil Dead (1981)
Coming out one year after The Shining I really do think that The Shining and The Evil Dead really jumpstarted the 1980s to make it the greatest decade of horror movies ever (eat your heart out, 1930s). Directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell in his first major film role, The Evil Dead is a horror film with a simple premise that went a long way. It’s about five college kids going off to a cabin together, only to unleash the dead after reading a book in the basement.
The special effects were great for the time and all the characters, while uninspired, are still really fun. The acting isn’t all that great, with even Bruce Campbell looking like the neophyte actor that he was back in 1981, but the story feels unique for such a simple haunted house premise, mostly because of Sam Raimi’s direction and the out-there camera techniques. Plus, it’s the only film in the original trilogy that can be considered a genuine horror movie, so it has that going for it.
2. Army of Darkness (1992)
By 1992, Sam Raimi and company decided screw it, let’s just make a horror comedy, with more emphasis on the comedy. And they succeeded on all fronts. Army of Darkness follows Ash after the events of Evil Dead 2 (more on that in a few) where he gets sucked into a portal and sent back into medieval times. But instead of this being even remotely terrifying, what we get instead is a whole lot of slapstick humor with Bruce Campbell even pulling the ‘ol sneeze-a-roo when trying to answer an important question because he forgot the answer to it. And if you’ve ever played the video game Duke Nukem, then a lot of the lines in this film should sound familiar since probably half of that game’s quips and one-liners came straight from this movie.
Army of Darkness is definitely the silliest movie in the franchise and what most people probably think of when they remember the Evil Dead series. Ash is much more of an action hero in this one, wielding a chainsaw for a hand (And later a groovy metal hand) and a “boomstick” in the other, but there are just so many memorable moments in this movie that it’s sometimes easy to forget just what a great overall film it is. But it’s not the best movie in the series. That would be…
1. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)
If there is a perfect horror movie, it’s Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. Both a reboot as well as a sequel, Evil Dead 2 sees Ash in the same cabin in the woods as the original, but the story is all changed up. This is not the wet-behind-the-ears Ash we got in the first movie. No. This is an Ash who would cut off his own possessed hand with a chainsaw, and then put said chainsaw over the stump to kick some deadite ass.
The story is more engaging than the original’s and it’s the perfect mix of scary (that chuckling deer head still bothers me) as well as hilarious. Bruce Campbell does the best performance of his career as Ash in this one, and while most people probably think of Army of Darkness when they remember the Evil Dead franchise, it’s Evil Dead 2 that cemented Ash’s character and brought him into legendary status. There is not a wasted second in Evil Dead 2, and in my opinion, it’s the greatest comedy horror film of all time.
I try to make it a point to watch all 4 Evil Dead films every Halloween season, and I’m currently on Number 2. But what are your thoughts? Which Evil Dead movie is your favorite and why? Sound off in the comments section below.