HMM Day 31 – The Evil Dead

In our Horror Movie Marathon we’ve gone through a wide arrangement of films. From Golden Age classics like The Wolf Man and Frankenstein. To Silver Age atomic films like Them! and The Crawling Eye. To Brutal Bronze age films like the entire Elm Street Series and low budget specialties like The Deadly Spawn. We’ve even highlighted a few great films throughout the crap fest of the 90’s like Candyman, The Relic and The People Under The Stairs. Then showing that not all modern horror is bad by highlighting some greats like this years Mandy to a practical effects gem like Frankenstein’s Army. All-in-all, it’s been a great marathon that covers a wide range of horror and the sub genres that exist within it. I think it’s fair enough to say it’s been a good year. Lots of jacked up movies, some deep seeded meaning ones and lots of funny ones with a certain campy feel to them that only a true fan of horror can love.

But let’s just admit it, if you were to ask me what is the most influential horror film ever made, then 1981’s Evil Dead would be my answer. But what the hell, instead of ending this marathon off with just the one film; why not honor the entire trilogy! That’s right, I’m talking about another run through of the legendary 1981’s Evil Dead, the amazing 1987 remake known as Evil Dead 2 and then cap this festival off with 1992’s Army of Darkness! Three films of blood, sweat and campy goodness! Let’s strap on our boom sticks and rev up those chainsaws! Hail to the king baby!


The Evil Dead

As five friends vacation at some cabin in the woods, they unknowingly unleash a fury of evil demons upon themselves. One by one, each one falls prey to this unspeakable evil!

The History

The entire Evil Dead series was created by mastermind Sam Raimi. A young and enthusiastic film maker that began his filming career making short movie with a super 8 camera along with his friends Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel and Rob Tapert. While in college Raimi studied ancient history and was fascinated and inspired by a book all about Egypt called The Book of the Dead. Also inspired by H.P. Lovecrafts 1924’s short story titled ‘The Hound’ where the word Necronomicon was first used. Add these two together and it would be his inspiration for the series MacGuffin. The Necronomicon or “book of the dead” that can summon demons. The first film Raimi and his friends shot would be called ‘Within the Woods,’ which would eventually become The Evil Dead.

EvilDeadThe film was shot in Morristown, Tennessee and already had Bruce and Ellen Sandweiss on board. Soon they filled the other roles of Scott, Linda and Shelly and began shooting. Which turned out to be a grueling process. The cabin has no electricity or a bathroom so they used generators and had to designate a part of the woods for shit brakes. It was in November that the film began shooting and it was cold and uncomfortable. Some of the shots where it seems like it’s night time were actually shot during the day so people wouldn’t freeze. The windows of the cabin were covered in thick black blankets to make it seem like night time. It was so cold in the cabin that the fake blood and guts would freeze to the actors! Not only was it cold but the actors had to perform their own stunts. So they were constantly hurting themselves.

Effects

All the effects were orchestrated primarily by Tom Sullivan and Raimi. The blood was made with karo syrup and food dye. The shots of the ‘evil force’ rushing through the forest was done by Raimi merely holding a camera and running as fast as he could through the woods. If the force was shown over water, it was just Raimi on a small inflatable raft being pushed from behind. The forest rape scene was shot backwards and just reversed to make it seem like the tree routes were crawling upwards. Other things like the growing infection and the melting demons were all stop motion animation.

Long Shoot

What was planned for only six weeks of shooting turned into twelve. Actors had to leave for other gigs so Raimi resorted to ‘fake shemps’ to fill in the roles. They would occasionally return to the cabin for more shots but later discovered the cabin was burned down and the chimney being the only thing left standing. Eventually the movie was releases by New Line Cinema and became a major hit. However causing an uproar within National Viewers and Listeners Association. The film was said to be the most gruesome display of blood and gore that was to ever be displayed. It was warned by religious groups as obscene and evil which probably further pushed the film into the spotlight. It received high praise from legendary writer Stephen King, which is featured on the poster. Some of the actors were so embarrassed by the film and didn’t want to be associated with it. Thinking it would hurt their careers. Everyone was later surprised as to how popular the movie had become. It was the most sold VHS that year and quickly placed itself into the cult status.

What can anyone say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s the staple of all horror films and reigns as the king even today. If you’re someone that doesn’t like or appreciate The Evil Dead, then you’re probably a terrible person and even worse; you’re probably not a fan of horror. The movie is so dark and twisted that I’m surprised it was even allowed to be made. I love the tone of the film and how it uses practical effects. Everything looks saturated and natural. It’s just a great campy movie that is a perfect example of perseverance and creativity. Raimi and everyone involved on this film were true pioneers in film making. The struggles and hardship they endured to make the movie deserves a great deal of respect. It’s been over thirty five years later and the movie is still as popular as it was when it was first released. The efforts of Raimi and company would inspire other directors like Peter Jackson to make films like Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Even today when horror movies have gruesome scenes of blood and guts, you can see homages to The Evil Dead.


Evil Dead II

Ash and his girlfriend Linda make their way to a cabin in the woods. There Ash releases evil demons that kill his precious Linda and torture Ash physically and mentally.

It’s debated as weather this movie is a sequel or a remake. Personally I stick to what Bruce Campbell proclaimed the movie as a “requel.” A re-imagining of the first film but also a sequel. So what I assume is this is the same Ash from the first film and it’s years after the first events. He’s with a new girl friend also named Linda. They want to go on vacation with at some solitary cabin in the woods. You would think Ash would be a little weary about going to some cabin again. I got it! At the end of Evil Dead, Ash is attacked by the ‘evil force’ thingy. It kills him but Ash is like Arda from Baskin! He’s being tested to be the savior of the world and is reincarnated over and over again until he accomplishes his divine task! He’s not aware that he’s lived this existence before? Anyways, moving on.

Evil Dead 2 is a masterful film and to me is my favorite of the three. It has hilarious and spectacular moments full of brutally sick and twisted gore. Bruce Campbell really lets his skills shine while he’s slamming those plates on his head. The scene where Ash fights his possessed hand is straight slapstick. I’ve actually let my kids watch portions of this movie and they absolutely love this scene. From what I heard the scene where Bruce cuts it off and the hand runs rampant through the house was inspired by the Hamburger Helper commercials!

EvilDead2Ash is a much more detailed character as we see him go through losing his lover, experiencing more pain and torture and even rising to become a hero of the day. His character is one we laugh at and cheer on more than the first. I like the objective in creating a heroes journey in this film. One that is much different than the others. Ash is kind of dumb and a perfect anti-hero in that he makes terrible decisions but inevitably rises to the occasion. Even if it means everyone around him suffers a terrible death. I think this is because of the choice in not having five initial characters. Less characters lets us spend more time with Ash. He’s developed into our hero, where as the first film doesn’t take a clear direction. He really grabs evil by the balls when he’s had enough and invents his chainsaw appendage. It’s one glaring difference in this film that separates it from the first one. He takes hold of the situation giving us a more diverse feel to the film. It’s because of Evil Dead 2 that Bruce Campbell would be launched into horror icon levels.

It’s usually the opinion of Evil Dead fans that this remake is a much better movie than it’s original. It may not have had as big of a cultural impact like the first, due to it being five years after the original and horror by this time was well established in the realms of gore. Evil Dead 2 has a much larger budget and clear objective though and probably is easier to process. Although the film went through many script alterations, Raimi used this movie to create a larger world beyond the cabin. Where Ash would eventually turn into a time traveling hero. Which leads us into the third film called Army of Darkness.

Army Of Darkness

Ash is transported to 1300 A.D. and must lead a ragtag team of knights in armor against an evil force of the dead.

Army of Darkness was filmed in 1992 and Raimi. Raimi was at this point a very established director. Originally Raimi wanted Evil Dead 2 to be a story where Ash is transported to the mid-evil times and fights the dead but producers didn’t like the idea and thus was forced to re-imagine his original 1981 film. With more influence and say Raimi was able to return to his original concept. What we got was this great 1992 film that features an eccentric and even more developed character. One that we all know as Ash Williams. The wise cracking buffoon that we all love.

ArmyOfDarknessArmy of Darkness might not be the best of the three but it is a delightful movie. It’s not even remotely close to being as gory as the others. They bring back the ‘evil force’ shot just one time in the film. It’s a great throwback to the originals. Yea, it’s just a different film and more action than horror but it’s ok. Kind of like the original Warcraft, there’s evil afoot but not possessing people and causing such havoc. I do love the squash buckling adventure feel of it can appreciate the route they took to make a bigger step in the story. It feels like those Errol Flynn style movies with sword fights and a more cliche hero. Although the comical element of the film makes it a spoof on hero films in that Ash is more coward and defector than a courageous leader. It’s not until the end that he finally redeems himself and becomes the prophesied hero. But Ash steps it up in his character arch. Giving us popular lines like “Well, hello, Mister Fancypants” or “This is my BOOMSTICK!” He’s just funnier and bolder in what he says. What I love most about the entire story is that it was foretold that Ash would come to free them all from the armies of deadites. Yet it was Ash who was the one that would make everything happen! Everything is this guys fault!

All-in-all Army of Darkness is a good film and I think offers a breathe of fresh air for when it was released. I think splatter films may have been over done and Raimi was merely giving us something new. I’ve always believed Raimi to be less of a horror director and just one that can deliver what the audience wants or needs. It was always rumored that and Evil Dead 3 (or 4) would be released and fans were clamoring for it. When Raimi gave us 2009’s Drag Me To Hell, I think fans were a little disappointed at first. He was returning to horror but not through Evil Dead. But when fans finally saw Drag Me To Hell, they were brought back to that over the top horror fest! Drag Me To Hell is a great movie and just rectifies my idea that Raimi just knows how to deliver the goods when needed. He’s not like George Lucas that will come back with something that’s all based on fandom and give us garbage. I think Raimi respects his classic film and doesn’t want to butcher it. It’s why in 2015 we got the brilliant TV series called Ash Vs Evil Dead. An impressive continuation of our hero Ash Williams that ran for three seasons.

Evil Dead is a brilliant series of three films (and show if you want to include it). The film has spawned a cult following of crazy fans all over the world. Ash Williams himself is an icon for all horror protagonists and will forever be my favorite character. I hated the 2013 remake merely because Ash wasn’t in it. It’s like watching Indian Jones without Indiana Jones being in the movie! It was all shock without the campy feel and the characters were boring as hell. It was too serious and just leaves me wondering why the film was made in the first place. It was not needed and like all modern remakes of classic horror, just a terrible interpretation. I don’t get it, horror isn’t something you need retold. Just because something is old and cheap looking doesn’t necessarily bad. Especially a film that doesn’t need new story or characters!

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I love The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. It’s a delightful series of films that should be on any horror fans movie list. No marathon can be truly complete without one of the three. These movies will forever remain a staple in the horror community. I love how it’s gained this amazing cult following. You can find people cos playing Ash Williams outfits all the time at any convention. Evil Dead tattoos are all over arms and legs and it’s a movie horror fans talk about together all the time. People love meeting Bruce Campbell for his role as Ash. He’s a brilliant character that shines on us all. He’s a hero of great magnitude that reflects a certain truth in all of us. We can all make mistakes and still kick evils ass! I for one will always love these films and I’m proud to make this the last entry for my Horror Movie Marathon of 2018! Enjoy this fine series and I hope they can bring a certain smile to your face.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kevin Quam says:

    I love the first two ED movies, but am more lukewarm on AoD. If AoD hewed closer to horror, than slapstick then I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. AoD also loses some of that grunginess that the first two films have. That being said, if AoD was it’s own thing, I probably would have liked it more.

    I liked ED 2013 because of its more straight-laced horror take on the franchise. And let’s be real, the only similarity between ED1 Ash and ED2 Ash is the name of the character 😛

    Like

  2. Great article. I love the first 2 ED films and enjoyed AOD but it doesn’t require repeated viewings for me. I still need to check out the tv series.

    Liked by 1 person

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