Sam Raimi’s iconic horror film, The Evil Dead, premiered in 1981 (and would be released in a number of theaters in 1983) introducing the world to a heroic S-Mart employee named Ash, a cabin in the woods, and a group of his friends who uncover terrifying evil. Ash, played by the talented Bruce Campbell, would go on into two more sequels: Evil Dead II in 1987 and Army of Darkness in 1993.
Games would also follow the blood soaked franchise with more titles than there were movies, and the first one would arrive on cassette in 1984 on the Commodore 64 based on the first film. Though it was also slated for the ZX Spectrum, that version didn’t come out until Palace Software released it with another horror-themed title, Cauldron, in 1985.
This game used a top-down perspective to view the cabin, its walls, windows, doors, and Ash’s shoulders and head walking around as he grabs a shovel to defend himself against the green mutants that were formerly his friends. Monsters such as disembodied legs, arms, and clouds of evil wandered about threatening to zap the 10,000 points of energy that Ash starts out with.
All of the action took place in the cabin which was a decent rendition of the actual one from the film featuring things that fans might remember such as the swing at the front swaying in the wind, the beds, and the windows and doors that have to be shut to protect against the evil.
The game also had weapons that wore out — something that would reappear in modern classics such as Dynamix’ Betrayal at Krondor, Irrational’s System Shock 2, and also in other horror-themed titles such as Capcom’s Dead Rising and Techland’s Dead Island. That kept players, as Ash, moving about avoiding monsters while desperately trying to find that next shovel, sword, or turkey baster to defend themselves with.
If the player managed to kill enough monsters, the cursed book causing all of this trouble would appear and the player could then take it and then destroy it in the cabin’s fireplace to end the nightmare.
It had some neat special effects and the arcadey look of the game didn’t make it a bad tie-in for the film which came out years earlier. Packaging was also pretty minimal — just a cassette and the label indicating the maker, Richard Leinfellner for Palace Software. You could even mail out for an Evil Dead t-shirt or poster!
Today, the game is regarded as freeware and if you have a C64 emulator, you can find a copy of it online. Sites such as mega-fan site, Deadites Online, also have pics of the cassette and screenshots from the game. Book of the Dead, another fantasic fan-site dedicated to all things Evil Dead, has a great archive of shots showing off the packaging of the game and the cassette label that came with it along with their emulators of choice for playing it.
It was the first and definitely wouldn’t be the last game to take fans back into Sam Raimi’s horror-filled universe of deadites and evil sorcery, a series of titles that had their own highs and lows in as much as Bond’s career does in video gaming. But if you find yourself complaining how fragile the designers made the weapons another modern title, just remember — Ash felt the same pain you did in the eighties. Perhaps it’s their fault for not shopping S-Mart.