I think this one's going to be tough, gang.
If previous entries are any indication, the hardest reviews to write so far have been movies that are either extremely well-known (I feel kinda stupid telling you guys about movies you're familiar with) or that are really good (I can't explain it, but it's much harder for me to sing praise--not that it's harder for me to enjoy a movie, but I find it incredibly challenging to extol a film without sounding like sycophantic, sound bite-generating critics like Gene Shalit). So given that today's entry--Sam Raimi's 1981 cult classic THE EVIL DEAD--matches both criteria, I'm afraid this review's going be pretty tough going. We'll at least be able to skip the standard plot synopsis.
Like a lot of genre fans, THE EVIL DEAD made quite an impression upon me the ifrst time I saw it. I was over at my good friend Kevin's--astute readers may remember him from the RE-ANIMATOR review--and I recall thinking the first half-hour was extraordinarily slow . . . but I also had a feeling that the impending payoff was going to be well worth the investment. Well, we all know how that one turned out, and I must say the combination of unrelenting grue and kinetic camerawork reduced me to a happy li'l puddle of jelly. (Kevin, on the other hand, had unexpected company drop in just after the infamous "tree scene"--much to his relief, I'm sure--and the memory of their bemused, slightly uncomfortable reaction was just as much fun as the film itself. Not as much fun as watching BLUE VELVET with my grandparents, but fun nonetheless.) A year or two later, this would be the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, my buddy Joe Sidor had lent me his VHS copy and I must've played that sucker thirty times, memorizing every single detail. It was easily among my three favorite horror flicks, coming on the heels of the aforementioned RE-ANIMATOR and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
But--and I'm afraid of losing any genre cred I may have earned with you people with this--I'm finding that the movie doesn't hold up as well as those other two. Even the sequel, which is really just a remake with more meat on its bones, seems to affect me less and less on subsequent viewings.
I'm not sure why that is. I don't really think it's the film itself--there's an almost palpable energy running throughout the proceedings, an unmistakable passion for the act of filmmaking that overrides any deficits in craft, and even those are minimal. The godawful climactic stop-motion effects aside, Raimi demonstrates a remarkable amount of skill in his debut feature; it's not much of a stretch to imagine him helming the most expensive movie of all time some twenty-five years later.
Or perhaps it's the so-called geek contingent. I'm not knocking anyone who loves the movie or its follow-ups, but THE EVIL DEAD has achieved a certain amount of ubiquity in horror circles. Thanks to Raimi's transition into a blockbuster director and Bruce Campbell's ascension to the top of the cult-film heroes list, even people that don't consider themselves hardcore horror fans (or people who think the genre began with HALLOWEEN back in 1978) love this flick. Hell, you can find a chainsaw-handed Ash on T-shirts at Wal-Mart, fer chrissakes. Is that my problem, then? That THE EVIL DEAD has emerged from beyond mere geekdom into mainstream culture? (Maybe not mainstream, but Bruce Campbell is doing Old Spice commercials, and I'm sure his history as Ash, or at least his SPIDERMAN cameos, are responsible for his landing the gig.) The surge of bile that rockets up my throat whenever I think of the upcoming remake tells me I might be on the right track.
Regardless of how I feel, or will feel in the future, THE EVIL DEAD is what it is. I'm sure as hell not going to convince the readership of this blog that it's not one of the ass-kickingest movies of all time. It is, I really believe that. I've just lost much of my initial enthusiasm, and I think that adrenaline rush is what makes the movie so damn fun. I suppose thirty viewings in three months can do that to any film, be it cult classic, cinematic masterpiece, or plain ol' guilty pleasure.
There. That wasn't so hard.
(YouTube wouldn't let me embed the trailer, so how 'bout Joe Bob Briggs hosting its cable television premiere?)