Friday, May 8, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 12)


Okay, I've already stated on this run through of movies that I wasn't a fan of horror movies, and I really didn't have the stomach for gory films as a teen. I loved A Nightmare on Elm Street - it wasn't really gory and had a bizarre fantasy element. It opened my eyes to a lot of slasher movies, that, when I finally started watching them I realised were not as horrible as I thought they were going to be.

There was always a legendary movie that was so nasty that a lot of the video stores in my hometown refused to stock it - The Evil Dead. One little video rental place, that was mostly electrical goods with a sideline for VHS rentals, had a copy. A very battered and worn copy, but I never had the guts to rent it. It was like that copy of Stephen King's IT that stared at me in the bookstore. I was fascinated by it, but unlike IT I didn't give in to the curiosity...

Until the trailers started on TV for Evil Dead II. There were a few of them involving Sam Raimi and Jonathan Ross, but the trailer I remember the most had the classic sequence with the shakycam breaking through the cabin, picking Ash (the awesome Bruce Campbell) up and flinging him through the trees, before slamming into one, dropping him face first into a massive puddle. It just looked amazing, and completely unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

If my memory serves me well, Evil Dead II came out on VHS at the same time as it had a very limited cinema run. I remember renting the VHS the day it appeared on the shelf, first person to hire it from the video store. I loved it. It was crazy, weird, and above all - funny. I really wasn't expecting it to be a horror comedy, something I'd never really experienced before. But Sam Raimi's direction was totally out there doing weird things with the camera that even now I don't quite understand. The scene with Ash looking around the room as the objects taunt him - the way the image distorts and seems multileveled 2D. Amazing.

Bruce Campbell is a legend. How he managed to do that movie without majorly injuring himself I don't know.

I watched it multiple times, and felt that I really should muster the courage to finally see The Evil Dead. I rented it from that little video store - probably their only rental that week. It was not what I expected. It was dark, messy, and not funny in the slightest. It was okay, but I don't think I really appreciated it until (like many) I watched Jonathan Ross' TV series The Incredibly Strange Film Show. Ross was a bit of nerd, and his series spent an episode looking at the work of a particular director. The episode on Sam Raimi is reportedly the hour of TV that inspired Edgar Wright to make movies. It's highly recommended and you can find it on Youtube in parts.

That blew my mind - how they funded a low budget horror movie, and basically just went off and made it for peanuts.

I bought the soundtrack on vinyl for Evil Dead II, and eagerly awaited the promised sequel hinted at by the "Hail he, who has come from the sky, to deliver us from the terror of the Deadites!" final scene. The sequel was cool, but it was no Evil Dead II, and remains the only movie my wife has slept through at the cinema. (She was very tired).

Another recommendation in addition to that Incredibly Strange Film Show episode (and the David Lynch one from the sequel series) is to check out Bruce Campbell's books, especially "If Chins Could Kill" if you really want to see what went into the making of the first Evil Dead movie. A brilliant read.


[Footnote: Another recommendation is to check out the remake of the original Evil Dead, starring Jane Levy. Released in 2013, I was fortunate enough to be sent a review copy of the bluray and watched it twice in a row. It's brilliant, horrific, and messy, but well worth a watch - and keep watching to the end of the credits]

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