It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon, 18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London, 14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust, 10, The Wicker Man, 9, Halloween, 8, The Blair Witch Project and 7, Hellraiser.
At #6 I’m going to cheat a bit and have not one, not two, not even three films, but four as I slap all four Evil Dead films in one blog.Lets start at the beginning..
Everyone reading this knows the plot. Five kids go to a cabin in the woods, unleash demonic forces and carnage ensues. That’s it. Doesn’t sound much but the first Evil Dead film is simply one of the most fucking enjoyable times you’ll ever have watching a horror film, and yes, much of this is due to the sheer sadism that the director Sam Raimi inflicts upon his young cast, including a young Bruce Campbell. Yes, the effects are cheap. Yes it looks cheesy but it doesn’t matter. It’s wonderfully directed even as there’s all manner of sticky horrible things being thrown at the screen.
Sadly this also suffered at the hands of the moral campaigners as one of the most famous Video Nasties, but it had a prodigious life in the cinema and if memory serves me right, ran continuously in a cinema somewhere in Glasgow for something like three years In London it was a regular late night show at the sadly departed Scala in Kings Cross. As soon as it hit video in a sadly butchered form it still managed to go from strength to strength but it took until 2001 or so before a full uncut version was released on DVD/video in the UK which seems so insanely censorious now because, well, it fucking is!
In 1987 Sam Raimi gave us Evil Dead II.
What can you say about this apart from that if you don’t like this film, or indeed love it then you’re dead from the scalp down. From the moment it opens to it’s barking mad ending it’s just a mix of Raimi’s comedy and horror with some of the best sight gags, physical horror and sheer slapstick you’ll see in a horror film. It also elevates Bruce Campbell very, very firmly into the role of a cult hero
There’s two scenes in particular that rank as among my favourites in any genre of film. Please feel free to take a wild guess as to what these scenes are…
Moving forward to 1992 we find Army of Darkness. At this point the series moves away from horror towards a more jokey tone, mixed in with the sort of fantasy epic Ray Harryhausen used to do.
In the UK it has the subtitle, The Medieval Dead, which I still think is a great title for the film, but Army of Darkness it was. It’s a good film, not great as it suffers from a middle section which is frankly padded out far too much, plus it’s not quite got the edge of the first two films. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film, it’s not, but it’s a missed opportunity.
There’s also two endings to the film. One clearly wraps up the series while the other leaves things open for more, and for years there was always a feeling that Raimi and Campbell would return, but Campbell seemed to rule out a return while Raimi became a huge success thanks to the Spider Man films.
This all changed this year when the reboot/sequel Evil Dead was released.
I was prepared to hate this. Ok, Raimi and Campbell were producers, but it looked like every single other ‘reboot’ of classic horror films, so that would mean cynical CGI violence, a rape scene, crap actors and all of would be shot in the same sort of deep grey tones that would hide the seams not to mention the shoddy CGI.
Evil Dead isn’t that. It glories in it’s violence (very nasty with little CGI getting in the way) in such a way that it makes other reboots seem like the half-arsed efforts they are. It’s also made clear it’s a continuation of the original films through a few subtle hints throughout the film, but you really, really have to stay to the end to have the biggest hint laid in your lap.
I won’t spoil it, but the end is a glorious frenzy of red which hints of a sequel and of a connection to Bruce Campbell’s Ash character from the first three films. Give it a chance, seriously. As you’ll find out soon enough I have no time for reboots of classic horror films but this was a pleasant surprise.
The best news is that not only will there be a sequel to this year’s film, but Army of Darkness 2 is coming, to be followed by one last film which unites both strands together. Done right these could be very special films so lets hope shall we?
Next time, your mother knits socks in hell….