Yeah, I know, I know...I said I wasn't gonna post here anymore, but I'll be damned if I let Halloween go by without telling y'all about yet another horror movie that scared the ever-lovin' shite outta me as a kid.
In the first entry of this series, I talked about some early childhood brushes with fear that made me a life-long horror addict. I then proceeded to recount my own personal experience with such notorious nightmare fuel as An American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien and the balls-to-the-wall horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead.
After Stephen King, the Arbiter of All Things Scary, proclaimed this year's repellent l'il entry to be "the most ferociously original horror film of"1981, I felt compelled to seek it out somewhere in my mid-teens. Particularly intriguing was this description of the picture in Horrors: A History of Horror Movies, written by clearly-traumatized movie scribes Tom Hutchinson and Roy Pickard:
"Everything is troweled on without question - from twitching zombie faces to white-balled eyes through to twitching, severed limbs seen through a camera wielded as though by a whirling dervish. The writer-director...has gone so far over the top as to be out of sight."
This is the movie that almost single-handedly kicked off the whole "Video Nasties" debate in the U.K. (see "Fail" below), to the point where the film was even banned from distribution for two years back in 1983. Of course I'm talking about the one, the only...
Although Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness in particular, ventured increasingly deeper into the realm of horror comedies, there's still a lot of gruesome, Grand Guignol-style black humor inherent in the first Evil Dead. This is made especially evident when you listen to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Blu-Ray commentary track, during which the director and his lead actor gleefully poke holes through all of the film's flimsy bits.
Indeed, to say that The Evil Dead was made on the cheap is like saying Donald Trump is "moderately self-aware". I'm sure that while they were making their modest l'il horror picture, Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert would never have guessed that it would eventually be subjected to the unforgiving scrutiny of high-def digital home video. In fact, DVD, and especially Blu-Ray, transfers are downright cruel to The Evil Dead. It makes the movie look like a pasty-faced cubicle monkey under the brutal glare of florescent lighting. And that's why I think the movie should be viewed the same way I first saw it: on a crappy VHS tape that's been unspooled and re-spooled about a thousand times.
Eventually I screwed up the courage and slipped that nasty, ratty old videocassette into my parent's virginal VCR. Given all of the hype, I was 100% convinced that what I started to watch that fateful evening was evil incarnate.I didn't see matte lines around the moon, seams in the prosthetic makeup or dwell on the lousy performances. What I saw thrilled me at first. Then it horrified me. Then it repulsed me. By the time it was all over and done with I felt as if I'd survived something traumatic with my wits scarcely intact.
But before I get ahead of myself, lemme set the stage for you. Five college students travel to the world's most decrepit log cabin, which lies practically abandoned in the Tennessee backwoods. Even before someone has a chance to unpack and / or crack open a beer, the flighty, artsy Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) is inexplicably compelled to sketch the image of an ominous-looking book with a twisted face on it. Apparently nonplussed by her flirtation with demonic possession, she blithely shrugs it off as if she's just been visited by the world's scariest muse.
Naturally, she popped back up again, screaming bloody murder all the while. Still hesitant to "kill" her, Ash tried the subdual approach by smoking Linda in the melon over and over again with what appeared to be a foam railroad tie. Despite the gratuitous level of head-trauma, she just kept coming at him over and over again, forcing our "hero" to admit defeat and decapitate his girlfriend with a shovel.
VAGUELY "EPIC" Here's my expanded review of the film originally posted on this site's sister blog, Entertainment Tourette's.
FAIL This particular doc details how The Evil Dead ran afoul of the draconian British ratings system, which clearly couldn't distinguish quality schlock from schlock schlock.