Evil Dead Trilogy (1980, 1986, 1993)
“First you wanna kill me. Now you wanna kiss me. Blow.”
Let’s rewind six years. February of my senior year of high school. (Dates me, doesn’t it? Don’t worry. I’m dating other people, too. I’m not exclusive.) To be exact it was February 19th, 1993. Opening night. 8:15 pm. (I know this because I still have the ticket stub. How sad is that?) Two friends of mine, Jeremy and A.J., tell me that we have to go see this movie called Army Of Darkness. I had seen previews of the movie, but hadn’t really heard anything about it. I only knew that it looked like one of the stupidest things I had ever seen in my life. “No, man. We’re not going to see that thing. Look at it. It’s got talking skeletons! It’s awful!” “No. We’re going. You’re coming with us.” “Whatever. It’s gonna suck.”
We go. We see it at the Riverside Theatre. For those of you in or from Austin–which would be all three of you–you know what kind of audience I’m seeing this movie with. Lots of people screaming and yelling. Occasional gunfire. You know. The classy part of town.
I’m already a little on edge. I’m seeing a movie I have no interest in. I’m going to a really bad theatre. We’re going in a car that starts with the push of a button. (A.J.’s car didn’t need the key. Don’t ask. It also drank a quart of oil about every 4 miles and threatened to break down every three. Interesting car, that.)
What happens that night is amazing. I go from skeptic to fanatic within less than an hour and a half. From the time Bruce Campbell comes on screen and says, “My name is Ash and I’m a slave,” I’m hooked. I shouldn’t be, but I am. This movie is bad beyond all reproach. The great thing about it is that it’s bad on purpose. Until then I didn’t know that movies were ever made like that. I hadn’t heard of Italian horror films or Waterworld. I kind of knew who Ray Harryhausen was, but I didn’t know Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell. It started a whole new chapter in my life. I started to love bad movies. I started to learn more about all kind of directors and actors. I became a film geek. The rest of that school year became the year of Ash. We never stopped quoting him. A favorite was, of course, “Gimme some sugar, baby.”
If Jeremy and A.J. are out there (I have since lost touch with them) I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done to me. I know I am. I owe you guys a lot.
I saw the other two movies a couple of years later after getting my job at Blockbuster. I annoyed plenty of people with “that Army Of Darkness” movie that they had never heard of. I was excited when it came out on video (sometime after I got the job). I now own AOD and EDII. Still need the first one. I’ll get it soon, though. Don’t worry.
Anyway, that was my introduction to the world of the Necronomicon. Now, six years and hundreds of horror flicks later, I’m still a fan of these movies. Now I’ve seen the man himself. Bruce Campbell was at the screening of these three classic schlock/shock flicks. He talked to us for about half an hour before the first one and then talked again after it for about half an hour. We found out just how crazy Raimi is. He takes great joy in tormenting poor Bruce. All those stones that are thrown at him at the beginning of AOD? Sam’s. He threw them as hard as he could because “that’s what they would really be doing!” He also threw dog food at him at the end of the first Evil Dead. When the zombie gives its final explosion, Sam actually threw it in Bruce’s face. Alpo, to be exact. In EDII, he put him on a spinning X and worked him like a video game. Bruce was dragged through trees and bushes and spun faster and faster while Sam smiled and pushed buttons. In AOD he yelled at Bruce so much that Bruce finally asked him, “Is this how you’re going to direct Gene Hackman? Yell at him, belittle him, make him feel like crap? I’m sure that’ll work, Sam.” Sam’s kind of a freak.
We also learned about the hardships of the MPAA. They let the first two movies slip by them. They’re unrated. As Bruce put it, “They were taking notes for seven years. ‘There goes Evil Dead. That’s one. There goes Evil Dead II. That’s two. Oh, Army Of Darkness? NC-17!!!’ Yeah. Talking skeletons. NC-17.” Needless to say, it didn’t get that rating. Why should it. It’s barely PG-13. They gave it an R, though.
We also found out about Sam’s car. It’s in pretty much all of his movies and has maybe one piece left of it’s original self. The car that Ash drives in all three movies is Sam’s. It’s also the car that Dr. Westlake runs into in Darkman. It’s the car that’s driven in Crimewave. It’s somewhere in A Simple Plan. He’s even working it into his new one. It’s pretty doubtful that it’s in The Quick And The Dead, though.
Bruce, however, was almost in TQATD. The actor who played the announcer of the gunfights wanted to defend his daughter, who was turned into a whore. Sam finally decided to shut him up when Bruce came to visit. He had the makeup people make him look dirty and disgusting saying, “It’s not much of a stretch.” Then he had Bruce say something to her like, “Hey, baby. Let’s go back to my place.” Then the father comes up behind him and puts him in a choke hold. Sam told the guy that he could really do it because “this guy’s a stunt man.” He shot it, told the guy he did great and yelled at Bruce because he didn’t do it right. He had been getting it from Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman all month, so he had to give it to somebody. Why not ol’ buddy Bruce?
Oh, and the origin of THE LINE? They were about to film the kissing scene between Ash and Sheila and he wasn’t supposed to say anything. Just kiss her. Before they started shooting they couldn’t find Sam. Bruce finally heard some maniacal laughter off in the corner. Sam was looking very pleased with himself. “I know what your gonna say to her!” “Um, ‘Kiss me’?” “No. ‘Gimme some sugar, baby’!” More maniacal giggling. Apparently most of this movie was filmed like this. With Sam off camera giving them lines as they filmed it. Hey, if it works…
Just so you guys know, Bruce is just as much of a smartass in real life as he is on screen. He made fun of Sam. He made fun of people in the audience. He made fun of e-mails that he got from fans. He made fun of fans in general. He’s awesome. I want to be him.
So, Evil Dead. One of the grossest horror films of all time. You thought the pea soup was disgusting? Wait until you’ve seen oatmeal and dog food.
A group of friends go up into the woods to an abandoned cabin. (It was actually an abandoned cabin, too. So abandoned that it was falling down. It burned down in 1980, two years after the movie was filmed.) Only one comes back…maybe.
If you have a weak stomach you definitely don’t want to see this movie. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s as gory as anything that Dario Argento dreams. The acting, on the other hand, is awful. So is the dialogue. With great lines like “We can’t bury Shelly! She’s our friend!” Bruce brings a new level of acting to the screen. He told us that what we were really seeing on the screen that night was twelve years of acting lessons. I can believe it. He’s not the only bad one, though. They’re all bad. And two of them were SAG members! How’d that happen? Well, I guess Keanu Reeves is SAG, too. (By the way, Hal Delrich and Sarah York aren’t their real names. SAG found out and fined both of them. It’s not nice to fool with Mother SAG.)
Other than the gore, watch for a ripped The Hills Have Eyes poster (Raimi’s statement that THIS is the most grueling horror film ever made, not Craven’s cannibal hillbilly flick. Craven retaliated by having Heather Langenkamp watching The Evil Dead when she’s trying to stay awake in Nightmare On Elm Street. Of course Craven started the whole thing with a ripped Jaws poster in The Hills Have Eyes. Who is this guy thinking he’s made a better film than Jaws?), and the scene where Shelly gets raped by trees. Don’t ask, just watch it. I hear she got Dutch Elm’s Disease. (That was Bruce’s, not mine. Send your hate mail to him.)
The one really strange thing about this movie is the fact that Ash lives (maybe). Think about it. Who lives through most of these flicks? The Jamie Leigh Curtis/Neve Campbell character. The virtuous young girl. This one has the weak guy surviving. One audience member said that this series makes Ash the first horror super hero. Works for me.
Generally, it’s just a fun, gore-filled time. Not much in the way of story or other artistic stuff. The only talent seen here is the special effects and the occasional direction. But that’s all it takes for this one. Awesome. One of the best of it’s genre.
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn starts all over. It has about 10-15 minutes of Ash and Linda (nobody else this time) coming to the cabin in the woods. In a few minutes Linda is dead and Ash is thrown into a puddle. He wakes up as a demon and then is magically cured (huh?). He does, however, lose his hand in one of the funniest scenes in any horror movie. (How many plates do we have?) After a while the cabin’s owner’s daughter, her friend and two bits of white trash who are tagging along show up and think that Ash killed her parents. They throw him in the cellar not realizing that her mom is in there waiting to carve some Ash. And the movie ends up pretty much how the first one did. Everyone dies but Ash and he gets sucked into a vortex taking him into the Middle Ages setting up Army Of Darkness.
The great thing about this one is the mix of gore and comedy. The first one had more gore and a little comedy (most of it unintentional), but this one pushes the comedy envelope. Some pretty good gore, but not nearly as much. That’s ok, it’s still awesome.
Some things to look for: After Wes Craven put the original in Nightmare On Elm Street Raimi felt he had to retaliate again. This time Freddie’s glove shows up above the door of the work shed. (I actually saw it this time, so I know it’s there.) Raimi’s brother, Ted, shows up in this one, but you wouldn’t recognize him even if you knew what he looked like. He’s the Possessed Henrietta. He’s got so much makeup on that he doesn’t even look human. (Go figure.) When they talk about Henrietta they say that she’s in the fruit cellar. Is there any fruit down there? No, it’s just a way to reference Psycho. And then there’s the book that Ash puts on the bucket that he throws over his severed hand: A Farewell To Arms. Only the Marx Brothers could do better.
The cabin in this one has a story behind it that Bruce told us. The original burned down in 1980 (as I’ve said before), so they had to rebuild one in a studio. The designer watched the original and did a very faithful copy not realizing how bad it looked in the original. They had taken a wall out of the cabin to make a bigger living room. (They also had to dig a hole for the trap door.) That’s why there’s a plaster wall on one side of the room and a slated wood wall on the other. The designer just put it all back the way it was. Of course, this strangeness makes the Haunting-like bit with strange noises coming from all sides look really cool.
This is probably my favorite of the trilogy. It’s hard to say, though. I’m a big comedy hound, but I’m also a pretty big gore hound. (After all, some of my favorite horror flicks are Italian.)
By the way, Stephen King had a lot to do with getting this one made. He accidentally saw the first one and said that it was the “most ferociously original horror movie I have ever seen.” This made other critics take notice. They thought it was just bad. Now they knew that it was an original bad movie. When the second one was being made Stephen was making Maximum Overhype nearby. Dino DeHorrendous (again, Bruce’s words…along with New Lies Cinema) didn’t want to give Raimi any more money for this stupid little horror flick. He went to visit Stephen who heard that they were filming EDII. “Oh! You’d better give them some money! They’ll turn something great out!” “Of course we will Stephen! We were just going to!” That was the best thing that came out of King’s directing debut.
Now we get to the first one I ever saw, Army Of Darkness. Bruce Campbell became a much better actor and got a lot more one-liners. (There was “Groovy” and “Swallow this” in EDII. Now we’ve got about twenty more.)
The beginning of this one is a little different from the end of the last one. In that one he had just killed a demon in the medieval times and the soldiers were worshiping him. In the beginning of this one he is a slave. Bruce said that they couldn’t get the rights to EDII so they had to reshoot the entire beginning. That explains the parts with Linda (this time played by the only really famous person in the entire series, Bridget Fonda–a fan of the first two–no, really!). But why is it that the scenes in the cabin look exactly like the scenes from the end of the second one? So much so that they have to be from that movie? Who knows.
So Ash is now stuck in the middle ages. He has to get the Necronomicon without waking the Army of the Dead (Klaatu Barada Necktie!), but he, of course, fails. Then they have to fight the talking skeletons.
There are some movies that you can watch over and over and over again without ever getting tired of them. Ghostbusters. Duck Soup. I have found out the hard way that AOD is not really one of those movies for me. I still love it and what it’s done for me (as mentioned above–I’m a freak, aren’t I?), but I didn’t have as much fun this time around. I knew everything that was going to happen and every line that Ash was going to say. The other two were just more exciting, I guess. This one was pure comedy that tried really hard to work. And it does as long as you don’t watch it too much. I’ve seen it about 10-15 times and it’s kind of lost its magic for me. The first two were just as much fun this time as AOD was the first time. I’m not panning the movie at all. It’s a great flick. It holds a special place in my heart. Nothing will take that away. And I suggest that everyone rent it. Everyone, that is, who loves horror, comedy or bad movies. Not for gore-hounds, though. There just isn’t much of that here. This one relies on (bad) special effects and one-liners.
So, there it is. All three Evil Dead movies. Back to back to evil back. I will leave you all with some final words of wisdom from the man himself. (They’re paraphrased, though. I don’t have THAT good of a memory.)
“Don’t go see a movie just because it’s Summer and you think you have to. There’s no such thing as a ‘Must See Movie.’” In a way, I agree. Don’t go see Armageddon unless you think you’ll enjoy it. In that case, there is no such thing. Although there are movies that should be required viewing for everyone mature enough to see them. Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List are two of those. Movies that make you sick because they actually happened and we can stop it from happening again.
On a lighter note he also said, “We need some real horror movies again. I want a horror movie with a score instead of a soundtrack. One that’s scary, not funny. Scream is not a horror movie.” This, I agree with. Any of you starving filmmakers out there need to take note. (I count myself among you still. I may have to put my plans on hold for a while, but I’m still there.) If you want to make a horror flick, watch movies like Evil Dead, The Haunting, Alien (yeah, it’s a horror movie), The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Poltergeist…the real horror movies. The ones now, fun as they are, aren’t real horror movies. They’re thrillers with knives. Even Sam Raimi “took his teeth out and put them on his dresser.” (Again, Bruce’s words. Don’t blame me, Sam.) Army Of Darkness is great, but it’s not a horror movie. We need gore. We need scares. We need movies that will keep us awake at night. Scream almost had it with the first 15 minutes. I was scared as hell when Drew Barrymore was running around the house looking for her soon-to-be killer. After that it was just fun. That’s not what a horror movie is all about.
If anyone knows of an actual horror movie that really scares you that has been made in the last ten years, e-mail me. I’m still looking. I’ve seen most of the major ones (especially the teeny-bopper ones–Scream, I Know What We Killed Last Summer Two Years Ago, Urban Legend, etc.), but I’m ready for a real horror movie. What’ve you got?