I believe I have made a significant find in the Kandarian ruins, a volume of ancient Sumarian burial practices and funerary incantations. It is entitled “Naturum De Montum”, roughly translated: Book of the Dead. The book is bound in human flesh and inked in human blood…
In 1981, Sami Raimi unleashed The Evil Dead on an unsuspecting world. The 85 minute gore fest starred Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. The role would become Campell’s signature character and remains one horror’s most iconic heroes. The movie spawned two sequels (Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness) and a television series (Ash Vs. The Evil Dead), along with a massive cult following.
Three years after the release of The Evil Dead, Palace Software released a video game version for the Commodore 64. A survival horror game, it featured you as Ash. The game was set in the cabin featured in the film. As in the movie, Ash had friends at the cabin. A green cloud floating about the cabin possessed them, transforming them into Evil Dead. You could close windows to keep the cloud from reaching your friends, but once it got them all bets were off. They had to be destroyed. A variety of weapons could be found around the house, including a shovel, a hatchet, and a sword. They could only be used for a limited amount of time. Amusingly, as you hacked at the zombies, they became disembodied body parts which kept on attacking.
You began the game with 10,000 health points. Lose all your health points and it was game over. To defeat the game you had to gain enough points to conjure the Book of the Dead and throw it in the fire.
The game came about at a peculiar time. Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers and Listeners Association began a campaign against what they termed “video nasties,” movies they deemed harmful an obscene. Curiously, some of this hysteria was self inflicted. Go Video, the company behind the film Cannibal Holocaust, wrote an anonymous letter to Whitehouse and the NVLA, hoping that by creating a controversy they could boost attention on their film. As the panic grew, films were blamed for an increase in violent crime, and think pieces were written like, ““How High Street Horror is Invading the Home.” A number of films were prosecuted for what was deemed “obscenity.” The Evil Dead avoided prosecution, but the hysteria affected the distribution of the game. A version developed for the ZX Spectrum never received an official release, appearing later as a free bonus with the game Cauldron, and many stores were reluctant to stock the Commodore 64 version.
Playing the game today, the worry seems patently absurd. Even Your Computer magazine noted how unnecessary the fears were in their 1984 review. They stated, “you might have wondered if home computer graphics were capable of the sort of gory special effects video nasties trade in. The Evil Dead would confirm your doubts…there is nothing here to keep even the most unworldly 12-year-old awake at night.” The graphics are rudimentary and nothing approaching gore ever really enters into the game. In addition to the graphics, the gameplay was incredibly simplistic, which is not to suggest that it wasn’t entertaining. For fans of the films, any opportunity to be a part of the Evil Dead world is, in the the immortal words of Ash Williams, “Groovy.”