Spooktober Day 16: The Evil Dead (& Evil Dead 2)

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It’s a Sam Raimi– a-thon (kinda). At least the first two Evil Dead’s, because, well, I feel like they fit immaculately. The second is really a remake of the first with a higher budget, and a bigger dose of wacky. Ot just seems sensible to celebrate both. I won’t dive in, but the remake of The Evil Dead was actually one of the better classic reimaginings that I have seen (another to be mentioned later this month).

I’m not really sure why, perhaps just a matter of circumstance, but I actually saw The Evil Dead 2 before I saw the original, as a pre-teen. I saw them nearly back to back, and of course, as anyone who has seen these, there’s plenty of correlations that make the second more of an improvement rather than a real connective- sequel. It didn’t really change how I felt about either, all I knew was this: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were amazing, and I desperately wanted to make movies.

It’s low-budget filmmaking at its best because it utilizes the limited locale, the embracing of camp (is there a film that does this more??) and the fearlessness that goes into giving in to every, gory, strange, impulse.

source: New Line Cinema

When you watch either of these films you can feel Raimi’s love for the genre, from the debut on, there is a passion that is present in nearly every decision, every gloriously unique, rough around the edges, oddity. It’s proof that you can make a film on a low-budget, indie, DIY, and it’s inspirational in that way. As Raimi continues to make movies in the industry, it gives hope to the masses who want to follow in his footsteps. Even if… not exactly these peculiar ones.

Kind of like the Cabin in the Woods setup pokes fun of, five college students vacation in a remote cabin in the woods. Creepy, dark, obviously not the best place for some R&R and yet, they do it anyway. In a way, aren’t they asking for it?

When they find a mysterious book of the dead, they awaken something truly evil, demons that have been resting until the group summons them.

Somehow, despite some of the areas in the film that are too much or don’t quite work, the ones that do make up for it. The fact that this film still lives on in classic horror fandom is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of closeups and zooms, stop motion animation, frequent jump scares and some over-acting, even by our main lead Ash (Bruce Campbell) who continued in the sequels and the eventual show spin-off, but all of that builds to Evil Dead’s benefit. The cinematography by Tim Philo, including some intriguing long takes, really melds the the elements together, fashioning a unique viewing experience.

The ingenuity comes through even in the truly weirdest of times. The makeup work is really quite amazing for the time, and is a big proponent for the more effective chilling moments. For the most part though, the experience with The Evil Dead is one of wide-eyed curiosity to what will come next, and gut-busting comical moments. It’s also alarming, don’t get me wrong, there’s some parts to this film that are not easily swallowed.

source: Rosebud Releasing Corporation

In Evil Dead 2, it’s basically the same setup, the same lead, but with a bigger budget, and somehow? An even weirder trip. A do-over with even more freakiness. I think it kicks the humor into second gear, while also ensuring surprises are doused on the audience, on the regular. One of the reasons I almost prefer the second is because of how wildly out there it goes. And, that’s saying something considering some of what happens in the first. It’s a legacy of cinema for a reason. This movie goes so manic, so kinetic, it questions you to wonder about your own state of mind.

No one wants to be stuck in a haunted cabin, alone, but Campbell manages to entertain us as he loses his connections to reality, and somehow, we are fine joining him on this funny, strange, journey. It’s straight up gonzo, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It is also bloody mayhem. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you are just unsure of what exactly is happening, which eventually leads to more laughter- mixed with some disturbing content. Nothing you wouldn’t expect, truly, from this reimagining, but it’s a bit of a rollercoaster that one just can’t describe.

For both of these films, at the end of the day, it’s the direction by Raimi that makes these cult classics what they are. While I recognize, even now, that these aren’t for everyone, I feel like most can appreciate their intent, even if the execution makes their stomach woozy or their senses over-fried. It’s honestly a challenge to fully describe these films in a coherent way. To do so would be a misguided and almost- an insult- to the films themselves. You’ve got to experience them.

Either way, an impression is made.

That’s Groovy baby.

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