Programming note: Like me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AmandaLovesMovies
Also, plan on livetweeting Hubby’s Romero movie marathon @tuxedopengin
There are few little engines that could type stories in film history like the making of the Evil Dead series. After making countless Super 8 shorts in high school, longtime friends Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and crew decided to self-produce their first feature length, the now classic (and soon to be remade) Evil Dead. They started out hitting up dentists for funds and having to teach themselves about international distribution and today Sam Raimi directed a major superhero trilogy and Bruce Campbell is the most beloved “B-movie” actor of his generation, hell, even their assistant editor (Joel Coen) found greatness with a string of Oscar winning films. It goes to show that to succeed in show business all you need is a dream and a lot a fake blood.
While Hubby and I have a lot in common, one thing we don’t see eye to eye on is horror movies, as he loves them (the crappier the better in some cases), while I find them mostly boring. The Evil Dead trilogy is a good compromise for us. Like with sci-fi, I appreciate horror films that have a sense of humor to them and it’s clear that Raimi and crew realized early on how ridiculous their concept and limited means were and decided to just have fun with it, with each installment being more ridiculous than the last. They thumb their nose at continuity and always have Ash in a different predicament than the one we last saw him in.
In Evil Dead we follow a group of friends who are vacationing in a cabin in the woods when they unleash an uncontrollable evil when playing a translation of the Naturan Demanto, aka the Book of the Dead. One by one they are possessed until only Ash (Bruce Campbell) is left mortal. He must fight off his sister, his best friend and his girlfriend but safely leaves the cabin, or does he? This is the most straight horror film in the series with some gruesome scenes including the chick who gets raped by a bunch of trees and milk spewing demons (Raimi’s way of getting around an X rating for too much blood). However, the film’s leading man provides a hint of heart missing from many horror films, as Ash struggles with destroying the woman he loves’ body even though doing so will determine his safety.
In Evil Dead II Raimi and crew obviously saw what a comedy goldmine they had on their hands. We find a very different Ash who had been spending a romantic weekend in the woods with his girlfriend, gone are the friends and his sister, when he discovers a taped translation of the Book of the Dead, now called Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. When Linda is possessed, Ash must kill her and bury her but he discovers evil has taken control of HIS HAND. This one has a lot of Bruce Campbell on his own and he’s really a joy to watch. From his epic battle against his own hand, to losing it as he realizes the entire room is laughing at him, Campbell is phenomenal. I always felt he could have been a much bigger deal if he went legit, but he would have had a lot less fun along the way. Ash interacting with the lamp always cracks me up. Eventually he teams up with real owner of the cabin’s daughter and she recites a spell to remove the spirits and ends up sending Ash to the Middle Ages where he is herald as a hero, much to his dismay, opps!
In Army of Darkness we find Ash not a hero in the Middle Ages but a slave who is later seen as a god when he demonstrates his mighty boomstick. Despite all the pampering, he wants to return to his own time and his job at S-Mart. To do so he must retrieve the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis and speak a specific phrase, which he of course forgets causing an army of the dead to rise. This one is the most comical of the three, with many Stooge inspired moments. You also get to see a lot more of Ash the man in this film as he fights various versions of himself. We gets to see Ash as kind of a blowhard, but a blowhard with great one-liners. I saw Evil Dead The Musical (2nd row splatterzone!) when in was in New York and was pleased to see them work in all of Ash’s great zingers from this one into the script even though the plot was a combination of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.
A remake is coming our way and while Raimi and Campbell are on board with it, I can’t help but be a little wary. A lot of the appeal that has led to its diehard fanbase is due to its campiness and tongue in cheek sense of humor. They got away with a lot because they weren’t Hollywood films so it will be interesting to see what translates.