Under the Radar Films – Evil Dead Trilogy (Sam Rami)
When I was a child growing up in the 80s and early 90s, horror films were what brought my family unit together (except Dad who hated them). A confusing time indeed, both my grandmother and mother were obsessed with slasher films and horror films in general. Most kids were watching Flight of the Navigator or some Disney shlock. For me, it was Sleep Away Camp, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraisers….everything from bad to worse. At the time I was terrified with my active imagination. I remember watching the first Nightmares on Elm Street and I couldn’t sleep for a week…I even started thinking my poor old grandfather could be Freddy. I would pray to God in bed, begging him to let me sleep, promising that I would never watch another. The next weekend, I would run down to the video store and rent another.
When you think about it, the slasher films from the 80s could have easily been produced by Barbra Bush for propaganda purposes. For example, any teenagers having sex would be killed first by decapitated, the poor stoner kid smoking a bag of rag weed gets it next, and anyone who went against the police or authority would be sliced and diced. As a tween, this scared the living shit out of me way more than any after school special bullshit. My mom would rent them with us every weekend. I am not sure what was stranger, the fact my mom rented these films and loved the killing or the fact she would make my brother and I turn our heads away at the sex scenes (at that age, preinternet, I suffered through violence in the hope to see any sex act or nudity). Because, at least for me, the violence was less interesting than dope smoking sex acts. However, I still have a morbid fascination with horror films but I notice, even as an adult, I wonder if I should cover my eyes at any sign of a breast. Most of the slasher films fit this formula to a tee but there were some subversive and innovative approaches to the genre. By flipping it upside down, Sam Rami has created a series that has stayed the test of time and have become undeniable horror movie classics.
The Evil Dead films brought a freshness to the horror genre. Some filmmakers, like Sam Rami, have the ability to thrive on creativity in making low budget films. Rami went so far as to create his own zoom/fast cut/tight shot style that has since been mimicked and appropriated by other famous directors like Guy Richie. All formulaic approaches were literally tossed out into the WOODS. Each film progressed in vision and many fans will argue which film is the best. But for me, all three films are one in the same. It’s the telling that varies, the bits and moments of shock and awe with outrageous humour. Similar to Sergio Leoni’s Fist Full of Dollars Trilogy or Robert Rodriguez’ Mariachi Trilogy…the story comes second to the world the filmmakers create…pure fantasy. Super violent, highly stylized, dark skit comedy. It’s a roller coaster ride of thrills and chills; and just like a great roller coaster ride, it begins fast, gets out of control, and then its over just as fast as it begun. The Evil Dead films, including Army of Darkness, wore their B movie charm on their sleeve but I would argue that all three of those films have become masterpieces in DIY filmmaking. Made with heart, innovation, and talent.