150 Movies in 90 Days: The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2

My first introduction to Ash was in Army of Darkness, which I still consider to be a masterpiece that is above the criticism of mere mortals like myself. However, I'm ashamed to say that until June 11th, 2013 (over 15 years after I first saw Army of Darkness), I had never seen the other two films in the series: The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead 2.

I even bought them, sometime last year when I was looking around and the Blu-ray versions of both were on sale. Still didn't watch them, though, bogged down by school, work, and...well, school. That's part of the reason I'm doing this whole thing, in fact- I have far too many movies on my shelf that I've bought, but haven't watched.

June 11: #10, The Evil Dead

...and in related news, corn syrup prices have soared...

I've known for years that Army of Darkness represented a complete departure from the first film in the trilogy, The Evil Dead. Even knowing that, though, I had no fucking idea how much of a departure it was. Let me represent it for you the only way I know how- with a poorly-done graphic made in two minutes using Paint:

I'm not just saying this because The Evil Dead is a straight-up horror film. The production values are completely different, and necessarily so because The Evil Dead was made on a shoestring budget. Ash as a character is, well, not really Ash. At least, not until late into the film, and even then he is still just a regular guy who's pretty damn freaked out regular than the cocky hero with the quips he has become two films later.

When I watched The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I was struck over and over by how familiar a film could be even though I've never seen it before. This movie is that way because so many aspects of the film have been repeated and borrowed elsewhere since it was made. I mean, Cabin in the Woods literally does not exist without this, and if you've seen it, you'll enjoy this simply by recognizing where they got so many of the tropes.

Same with Army of Darkness. They're miles apart (literally, look at the graphic!) in many ways, but both films feature the "camera flying through the woods" technique to show that very bad things are coming, the tendency of everyday objects becoming possessed (most notably, mirrors), and of course, cabins. Then you also have the moment in Army of Darkness where a deadite appear to be dead, but isn't really, and Ash knows it. That suddenly makes sense, now.

Things I loved about The Evil Dead- the music, especially in the first half. It's wonderfully minimalistic and includes pianos, organs, all kinds of creepy touches that don't TELL you to be prepared for one of the stupid jump scares that modern horror films are so proud of, but instead suggest that terror is around the corner.

Furthermore, the film is just SO Sam Raimi.

Which is way better than being "SO Raven".
Raimi's directing is inspired and more than anything is what lifts this film above being a forgettable gore-fest. There are loads of examples, but I'll limit myself to one scene that contains several: Ash is going down into the cellar to check on a friend who went down previously, and obviously, we know that's not good. As he goes down the stairs, there's a closeup on his shoes that follows them down, step by step. He looks up, and we see from his perspective the opening of the cellar with his friends' worried faces looking down. When he gets to the bottom of the stairs, we are looking at him before we pan all the way around in a slow 360 that shows us the entirety of the creepy cellar before it makes its way back to Ash's face. Brilliant stuff.

Oh, and there's blood. TONS of it. As in, "enough that you just start laughing". Between that, the crap that comes out of the mouths of possessed folk when they die (looks like milk?), and some pretty bad claymation effects, it's hard to say that The Evil Dead is actually scary. But it's good! Grade: B

June 11:  #11, The Evil Dead 2

I'm not going to draw a completely separate crappy Paint graphic to show where The Evil Dead 2 stands on the Evil Dead-Army of Darkness continuum, but imagine that it's somewhere between the river shark and the first, smaller peak. Somehow, it manages to take two completely different things and bring them together in a way that does not seem completely forced or disjointed.

Now, at first, I thought the film was creepy, and not for the right reasons. There was Ash, taking a new girlfriend to the cabin where his friends were possessed and died, and hey, why not give the new girlfriend the necklace that belonged to the old one before you decapitated her with a shovel?

Then I realized that even though it was a new actress, the footage was re-shot (and just plain different), and all of the friends were excluded, it was actually a quick recap of what happened in the first film. Alrighty, then.

We get a lot of the same tricks from Raimi as in the first film; again, we see the camera zooming through the woods to symbolize the demonic forces heading to the cabin, and he even re-uses the 360 camera pan. This time, though, everything is more polished without losing any of the grittiness, likely simply because of the increased budget.

I kind of lied when I said that the change from a straight-up horror film to whatever the hell you'd call Army of Darkness wasn't abrupt, as there is quite a tone change when Ash decides to attach a chainsaw to the stump where his right hand used to be and then simply says, "Groovy." I didn't mind, though, nor did I mind when Ash pins down his possessed right hand underneath a pile of books, the top of which is A Farewell to Arms.

I'm not sure if it's because Evil Dead 2 feels a bit more fleshed out while The Evil Dead is kind of bare-bones, or if it's because the acting and just about everything else is better in the sequel, but I prefer the second film to the first. Maybe it's the Freddy Krueger glove hiding in plain sight as Ash walked through a doorway in the cellar? (My wife actually spotted it; I had to rewind.) Okay, it was probably that AND the ballet-dancing corpse. Grade: B+

No comments:

Post a Comment