5. Cheryl in the Cellar (The Evil Dead)
The Deadites are invading the cabin Ash (Bruce Campbell) and friends were to spend a nice weekend away in but has now become a fortress against invading supernatural forces. Some of their group are dead, some are possessed, and one has been locked in the cellar.
Aside from the movie poster with the girl reaching up as she’s dragged into the earth, the most simple but iconic image the original Evil Dead brought to horror cinema is that of Cheryl, white-eyed and physically ravaged by the demon possessing her, peering out of that chained cellar trap door. The demonic entity filthily mocks her group of former friends and lies in wait for anyone foolish enough to come within reaching distance.
This is a true testament to handmade truly independent filmmaking, as well as to how scary low-fi effects can be when used in combination with committed performances and innovative, eerie sound design.
4. It’s Him (A Simple Plan)
Having found a bag containing millions of dollars in a crashed plane in the woods, brothers Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) have been keeping it secret for months, agreeing to split the spoils if no one comes looking for it by spring. But, when they are suddenly asked to show an investigating FBI agent the crash site, they become uneasy at the agent’s sudden appearance and his resemblance to an at-large criminal. Hank’s wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) calls a Bureau office to verify his identity, before making a panicked warning call to her husband at the police station.
Now armed with life-saving information, Hank has to get himself some protection for the trip without letting “Agent Baxter” (Gary Cole) know that he knows. So, in a flash of inspiration, he makes an excuse to double back to the Sheriff’s office and sneaks a pistol out of the gun cabinet, fumbling for the right bullets in a desk drawer all the while stealing glances outside to Baxter waiting for him.
Perhaps Raimi’s most acclaimed film outside of his work on Spider-Man, this riveting crime thriller has a doozy of a final act, and the well-timed delivery of two simple words, “It’s him”, gives you a stomach lurch to rival the shock misdirect in the finale of The Silence of the Lambs.
3. Ash Tools Up in the Workshed (Evil Dead II)
Having cut off his own possessed hand before it could kill him (who wouldn’t?) and now itching to fight back against the Deadites, Ash (Bruce Campbell), with the help of archaeologist Annie (Sarah Uriarte Berry), retreats to the tumbledown workshed outside the sinister cabin in the woods, turns a shotgun into his boomstick, attaches a chainsaw to his wrist and gets ready to “carve us a witch” in the cabin’s cellar.
When he’s appropriately prepared to re-kill the dead in full action hero mode, revving his chainsaw and twirling his gun into its holster, as the camera comes in for a dramatic closeup Ash famously cocks an eyebrow and huskily quips “Groovy!”, and you instantly know what sort of tone Raimi is shooting for.
The whole scene lasts about 45 seconds and is made up of 21 simple shots, but the rhythm and sound design make it one of cinema’s most effective examples of showing a hero getting ready for a final showdown.
This has to be one of the most grin-inducing montages in genre filmmaking, referenced and lovingly parodied in everything from Commando to Hot Fuzz and beyond.
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