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Why Was The Evil Dead Rated NC-17?

"The Evil Dead" is one of the biggest cult-horror franchises there is. While the first film was made on a micro-budget and with many cast and crew members working for next to nothing (via Den of Geek), the franchise has since gone on to spawn two sequels, a remake, several video games, and a television series. Mighty heights to climb from such humble beginnings.

"The Evil Dead" is also notable for launching the career of writer-director Sam Raimi. Raimi has ascended the ranks to make movies like "Spider-Man" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" since then. Pretty impressive for a guy who started off shooting a movie in the woods with his friends and using plasticine to make cheesy gore effects.

While the story and the horror of the movie are pretty dated and occasionally even laughable by today's standards, "The Evil Dead" still holds a shocking NC-17 rating even four decades later. Even though the movie is not without its controversy, the rating seems to be decidedly out of step with the film itself, so what's the deal?

The Evil Dead was originally rated X

It's true that "The Evil Dead" holds an NC-17 rating today, but that wasn't always the case. When the film was originally released back in 1981, it was actually branded with the scandalous X rating and even called a "video nasty," a term from the time for particularly vulgar and obscene material (via Paste). However, the X rating has since gone the way of the dinosaur. The NC-17 rating that replaced it holds many of the same standards, though, meaning no one under the age of 18 will be admitted. That being said, NC-17 carries much less spooky stigma than the dreaded X rating.

Either way, when looking back at "The Evil Dead," it's easy to see why it stirred up controversy with its demonic incantations and over-the-top gore, especially as the Satanic Panic was brewing in the background at the time (via The New York Times). Still, when it comes to why this movie was rated so harshly, there's one scene, in particular, that comes to mind.

While we'll try not to get too graphic, let's just say a woman is violently accosted by vines and a tree branch at an early point in the film. This scene is still the source of debate today in terms of whether it has any value outside of shock and disgust, and it's one scene that even director Sam Raimi regrets filming. Though the original version of "The Evil Dead" isn't nearly as shocking today, it still has to carry that ominous rating, and scenes like the controversial tree branch moment are likely the main reason why.