In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The More Things Change...


This month’s non-horror selection was discovered by way of Colin Geddes, the programmer for Toronto’s Midnight Madness programme. I was on his Facebook page sometime ago and thought to myself ‘what would a person as knowledgeable about film as Colin is, put down as his favourite movies?’ Looking through the list, I saw obvious choices like Goodfellas and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but also a curious title called Punishment Park. A catchy moniker such as that warranted further investigation.


Punishment Park is the 1971 offering by provocative filmmaker Peter Watkins. In a not-too-distant-future America, left-wing dissidents (activists, protestors, artists) are put on trial by a jury of their peers. Once convicted, they are given a choice. Either serve out their prison sentence, or go to Punishment Park. The Park is a section of the California desert and if they can make it across the fifty-mile distance in three days without being captured by the pursuing National Guardsmen, they will earn their freedom.

The film is shot in fake documentary style, one of the first to employ this, after honing the technique in his previous shorts The War Game and Culloden, in which possible (a nuclear attack on England) and historical (the 1764 Battle of Culloden) events are re-enacted. Punishment Park follows two camera crews. The first covers a bunch of dissidents on trial, and the second are out in ‘the park’ interviewing prisoners and guardsmen alike. The genesis of Punishment Park occurred when Watkins heard about the events surrounding the trial of The Chicago Seven, and later the tragedy at Kent State University. Already fuelled by his opinions on the McCarran Act of 1950, Watkins would cement his reputation as a political agitator.

The reason Punishment Park is such a remarkable film is that the issues raised are timeless. Totalitarian governments don’t happen overnight, they start with baby steps. A suspension of a civil right here, the stifling of free speech there. All in the name of national security. It would be easy to discount these dissidents as the dregs of society, as abrasive and uncouth as they are, but it is the behaviour of those with the power – entrusted with impartiality – that is the most appalling. Films of this nature are compelling because they are often not as implausible as you think. The ‘not-too-distant-future’ is just that. Okay, enough with the lecture. What makes Punishment Park even more realistic is the overall candidness of it. The actors used were not professionals and large portions were improvised really giving you the impression that the camera was just recording something that actually took place.

Because of its ugly subject matter, Punishment Park is a tragically under seen film. Make no mistake though; it is as poignant today as it was almost fourty years ago. If you can find it, you should definitely give it a watch. You may be surprised by how much of the dialogue you recognize from today’s headlines.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

25 Kills.

Check this out. It's Liquid Generation's "25 Most Awesome Horror Kills". I recognized twenty-two of them. How many can you get?

The video isn't embedding for some reason, so click here to watch it.

Stellar music choice, wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

WHOOP! WHOOP!

Here's a cover from the upcoming Marvel comic series adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand. Below are Lloyd Henreid and Andrew "Poke" Freeman (at the wheel) I presume?

Love it. Love it. LOVE IT!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Festival Of Fear '08

I was going to split this up, but for the sake of continuity, I’m just going to do one long post. Enjoy!

Friday

After failing in my quest to not get raped for parking downtown, I finally walked though the Convention Centre doors into the expected bedlam. I met up with two friends and we walked around a bit. The goal is to get all shopping done as early as possible before it gets really crazy on Saturday, but it never ends up working out that way.


I made the rounds and dropped in on Colin at the Midnight Madness booth and Adam and Thea at Toronto After Dark. I think Adam might actually recognize me the next time we cross paths now. Speaking of After Dark, what a friggin’ impressive line-up this year. They announced the first eight titles of the fest that day and it reads like a want list of all the films I couldn’t see at Fantasia, including Let The Right One In and Trailer Park Of Terror. AND I get to see Tokyo Gore Police again. JOY UNLIMITED!

The only downer of the day was that Linnea Quigley cancelled last minute. Whenever this happens, rumours abound. Over the course of the weekend I heard everything from her boycotting due to Ruggero Deodato’s appearance, to her doctor advising her not to fly. Oh well, that freed up more time for shopping. I have a shit-ton of reading to do now.


I was hoping I might come across a Machine Girl T-shirt, but no such luck. The most hilarious T-shirt I saw was the Shit Wizard. It was a powder blue shirt with a drawing of a mage shooting feces from his fingertips. Tremendous!

I did also manage to catch some shorts. The DVD player started acting up after a while, so I only saw a few, but my favourite was Matt Day’s UK short 'Wish'.

Saturday

It was an early start and my first Q&A was Kristy Swanson. It’s very surreal when you see a childhood crush in the flesh (I was about thirteen when I first saw Deadly Friend). She's an extremely lovely woman. I had a clip I wanted to put on here, but the file is too big, so if I can figure out a way to post it, I will. In the meantime, here's a pic.


Over the course of the Q&A, I’d forgotten about some of the stuff she had been in, like Higher Learning (right, I know, how could I have possibly forgotten about that?) and Flowers In The Attic. There was quite a mix of fans there, even a few ladies asking about her little Web series called 3Way and, of course, Skating With The Stars. It was a great way to start the day.

It was awesome hangin' with my buddy Schwartz at length. We can talk movies all day long. Not so much with our other companion for the weekend, Berge. What can I say about Berge? I could relate some of the amusing things that came out his mouth over the last three days, but you really had to be there to fully appreciate it. For some reason, he was obsessed with getting Ruggero Deodato’s autograph, even though he had never heard of the man before that day and never seen any of his films. Needless to say, Schwartz and I took great pleasure in busting his balls all weekend. It’s tough being the newb.

We wandered around for a bit. Schwartz was telling me about this booth selling books about the history of death photography. He was fascinated by it. Did you know that, even to this day, ninety percent of parents still get a photograph taken of their dead child? The only difference now is that it is kept private as apposed to at the turn of the century when said pictures were displayed as you would any other family portrait. Morbiiid. For more info on this grim topic, click here.

Trash Palace was there. Stacey had set up this curtained four-seat theatre where you could watch selected shorts for two bucks. Always the showman, that guy.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer had a large presence at the Expo, as you can see. They are really promoting the hell out of it. Good for them.

Here are some more random pictures from the floor.

A remake I'm actually looking forward to. Incroyable!

Review upcoming!

Lara Croft AND Catwoman?! Now, that's a crossover I'd like to see!

What would a convention be without a little Star Wars?


When three o’clock rolled around, it was time for the guest of honour Wes Craven to appear. I’m interested to know why people ask questions at Q&A’s that they would (and should) already know the answer to if they ever watched a DVD special feature, read a book or spent anytime online. I shit you not, “Where did the look of Freddy Krueger come from?” was asked TWICE! I’m not trying to be an asshole, but come on man, ninety-nine percent of the audience already knows the answer and I’m sure he’s sick of telling the story. Unfortunately, that’s how most of the Q&A unfolded. Apart from a talking a little bit about Last House On The Left’s rocky initial release, there was a lot of stuff we already knew.


I joked beforehand about mentioning Music Of The Heart and then someone actually DID. To which Craven replied, “oh you terrible man...” Apparently, Madonna was originally up for the Meryl Streep role. Take from that what you will. He also talked a bit about the upcoming Last House remake and his new film 25/8. If you can stand the bootleg-y nature of it (it's a lot darker here than it is on my camera unfortunately), here’s the little clip he played for us.

video

RIGHT after Wes Craven, due to boneheaded scheduling, was Brad Dourif. He’s a sedate fellow. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much talk of Chucky, other than that he is attached to the supposed remake. He told a variety of anecdotes about Deadwood, his love of ensembles and working with Miranda Otto and Werner Herzog. He also does a killer Christopher Lee impression.


Sunday

This was the best day overall I think. The first order of the day was the Q&A with Mr. Cannibal Holocaust himself, Ruggero Deodato. Berge had finally managed to procure himself a copy of it to get signed. He then proceeded to tell a dumbfounded Schwartz and I that after he had watched it the previous night, he couldn’t understand what the big deal was about.

Berge: I was expecting more gore.
Schwartz: It has people being impaled through the anus, man.
Berge: No big deal.
Me: Oh, you see that everyday, do you? Like, on your way to work?
Berge: I’ve seen better, it wasn’t as gory as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Schwartz and I share a knowing look, one of many that weekend. He doesn’t believe us when we tell him there is barely a drop of blood in TCM.

We get into the Deodato’s Q&A and it was perhaps the most fascinating of the fest. Like Argento last year, he spoke in broken English, so there was an interpreter there to fill in the gaps. There were no angry animal activists after all, but the moderator did get the issue out in the open by promptly asking if he were to remake Cannibal Holocaust today, would he still have the animal footage? Deodato said he wouldn’t, but not based on any moral grounds. It would just be simpler to sell to other markets without all the animal slaughter. The stuff he captured in Holocaust was not anything that hadn’t been going on in that area of the world for hundreds of years. His motto?

"They kill, I shoot."

Someone asked a good question about the state of Italian horror, to which he aptly replied, “What state?” He said that he blamed the Americanization of Italian cinema for the decline of good genre products and that Italy needs to stop trying to imitate the stuff coming out of Hollywood and get back to the ‘near-realism’ of their heyday. He did say there was a promising new film called Gomorra, which had a great showing at Cannes this year that may pave the way toward worldwide respect once again. He also mentioned there is a four-director anthology in the works, including the likes of himself and Lamberto Bava (Demons). He described it as an Italian Masters Of Horror, except the installments will all be feature length. Deodato’s piece is entitled NATAS and is about two friends who torment a third.

When asked about his thoughts The Blair Witch Project (Holocaust was clearly a direct influence), he said at first he was pissed, but soon realized it was a blessing because Project’s massive success threw light on his own work. The true film scholars were quick to point out where the ‘fresh’ new technique utilized in Blair Witch Project came from, thus opening a whole new audience to the Deodato’s signature work.

The last Q&A of the convention was the unmistakable Sid Haig. I had a feeling that from the energy he brings to his roles – namely Captain Spaulding – he was going to be a good storyteller and I was not wrong. Haig is another one of those actors that you don’t realize how much stuff they have been in until they start talking about their experiences. He is definitely one of those ‘oh, I forgot he was in that’ kind of guys.


His Pulp Fiction story was great. His agent said Tarantino had a part for him in his new movie and sent him over the info. After reading that his call involved four locations in one day, something seemed off. It seemed very rushed and "TV" so Haig washed his hands of it. He didn’t know at the time that was how the big Q operated. It might say one thing on the call sheet, but when he shoots a scene, it takes as long as it takes. It could be one day or it could be three. “So” Sid sighed, “Ving Rhames ended up playing the Marcellus Wallace character.” Ouch. But, as we all know, Tarantino was persistent and later cast him in Jackie Brown (a reunion with his old co-star Pam Grier) and Kill Bill Vol. 2.

The Q&A ended on an emotional note when Sid spoke of his charity Habitat For Humanity. He was close to tears as he told the story of how his Armenian grandparents worked their fingers to the bone to establish themselves in America. He has great respect for people who want to work hard to make a better life for themselves and nothing but contempt for “those motherfuckers who stand around with their hand out.” Linda Blair could learn a lot from Sid Haig because he did in two minutes what she couldn’t do in an hour in 2006, which is sincerely bring attention to a noble charity without ramming it down our throats.

Now the fest was winding down. Sliding briskly through the aisles, I suddenly came face-to-face with an Asian cutie dressed up as Gogo Yubari. And OF COURSE I was in hurry to get somewhere else and had to make a tough decision. Do you think I could find her a few minutes later for a photo op? She was the one that got away, folks.

My last purchase of the weekend was this sweet Twin Peaks print. Fucking sweet.


The final event on the agenda was a screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with director Tobe Hooper in attendance. Seeing Chainsaw on the big screen was amazing. It has real power in that environment. I could tell I was in the presence of a lot of people who just really adore the film and Hooper got a standing ovation when he came on stage. I get the feeling this interview will end up on a DVD somewhere, judging from the amount of camera crews that were milling about all night.


Hooper commented a lot on the stagnant remake-heavy state of American horror and expects the next cycle to be extremely angry, based on the political climate being similar now as it was when Hooper and his contemporaries Wes Craven and George Romero made their groundbreaking films. Hooper mentioned a few times – and I am in complete agreement having said it here on many occasions – that the French are really the ones in horror’s drivers seat right now. Even though I ended up going by myself, it started late and I encountered more than a few jackasses during the course of the evening, it was a great time. If you ever get the chance to see Chainsaw on the big screen, do yourself a favour and make an effort to be there.

That’s another Festival Of Fear/Fan Expo in the books. It was another fantastic year with a good mix of guests and a great trade show floor. Talk to ya soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wish You Were Here!


Having a fabulous time at this year's Festival Of Fear! I've got tons of pics, vids and stories to post, but I won't have time to sift through it all until Monday, so check back then. Have a good one!

Friday, August 22, 2008

All Abooaard!

A movie I had been waiting to see for some time was Midnight Meat Train. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus) and adapted from the Clive Barker story, it features Vinnie Jones as a hulking transit-going serial killer. I think those three things alone should be enough to pique any genre fan’s interest.


Photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) stumbles upon the trail of a killer (Vinnie Jones) who likes to dispatch late-night train goers.

The best part of Midnight Meat Train is that Kitamura is behind the camera. His fresh camerawork throughout certainly makes for some great moments. I really dug the look of the film too. It gets very action-y toward the end, but I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, considering his kinetic nature. Vinnie Jones is as menacing as ever, playing someone who you wouldn’t want to cross paths with any time of day, let alone after midnight. Leslie Bibb (Iron Man) and Roger Bart (Hostel II) are some other familiar faces in the cast and Ted Raimi shows up in an eye-popping cameo.

The movie delivers in the gore department for the most part, though I would have liked less CGI. I’m not sure why Kitamura decided to go this route. He can’t use money as an excuse because Versus – his signature film – was made on a shoestring and boasted tons of practical effects work. That’s not to say the visual effects in Meat Train are bad, it’s just that as time goes by I’m finding myself getting more and more distracted by bits done with zeros and ones.

I have not read the Clive Barker story that this movie is based on, but it seems to me that they may have just taken the nugget of the idea and padded it with a lot of run-of-the-mill filler. I know that this is an accepted trope of horror, but one day I hope we will be beyond the point where we see the protagonist sifting through old newspaper clippings for the sake of exposition. To all you screenwriters out there, it can be done in other ways. Take Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer for example. I know we’re talking apples and oranges here, but bear with me for a moment. In Brooks, the back story is revealed to the title character via old man Howard – played by David Fox – whose delivery is so comically brilliant that the scenes between the two of them are some of the best in the entire movie.

I was feeling the story in the first half as Leon was hanging out in the ghetto trying the ‘capture the city’ with his camera, but that seemed to be all but abandoned by the last act. That may have been why the ending wasn’t satisfying to me. There weren’t really any surprises (save one) and when the inevitable explanation comes for all that has transpired, I was sort of left going ‘oh… okaaay.’

Midnight Meat Train is a worthwhile watch, but it didn’t really pack the punch that I was hoping for.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things Are About To Get Nuts!

I've got a big weekend coming up. It all starts with a screening of Midnight Meat Train tomorrow night and flows into the three-day-extravaganza of The Festival Of Fear. Every year, there is a parade of genre celebrities and what better way to call attention to them than a FOF '08 themed Coverbox Wednesday!

The Guest of Honour this year is none other than Wes Craven, the mastermind who gave us A Nightmare On Elm Street, the exploitation pillar The Last House On The Left and The Scream series. For more Coverbox Craven, click here.



Director Tobe Hooper is also in attendance, hosting a special screening of one of my all-time faves (and likely one of yours) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.



I'm TOTALLY stoked about seeing perennial girl next door Kristy Swanson.



The ubiquitous John Saxon returns to Canada!




Brad Dourif, horror veteran and voice of Chucky is in the house!



I had to use Galaxy Of Terror for Sid Haig because I couldn't find the appropriate cover for Spiderbaby unfortunately.


Though most people know her as Jigsaw's protégé, Shawnee Smith was already well versed in horror by the time Saw rolled around.


Prolific Scream Queen Linnea Quigley is here in the flesh, as well. She is the last of the 1991 Weekend Of Horrors attendees (H.G. Lewis, Kane Hodder & Tom Savini were the others) that have come back to The Big Smoke for FOF. Anyone else notice the similarity between the last two covers? Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

So, as you can see... Craz-eee-ness! Check back throughout the weekend for updates on my adventures at Toronto's Nerd Prom.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Rest Of The Fest


The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival is inching ever closer and the rest of festival's several hundred titles were revealed today. While the bulk of the genre goodies are in the Midnight Madness programme (announced a few weeks ago), there are a few that trickle into other areas. Here are some that I am keeping my eye on.

A Sauna that can cleanse you of your sins? What a lucrative business model! Seriously though, I have been hearing buzz about this Finnish thriller for a while now, so it is definitely on my short list. Check out the trailer below, courtesy of Twitch.com.



Vinyan is the new film from Fabrice Du Welz, who gave us Calvaire (The Ordeal) a few years back. I don't really have an affinity for Calvaire that some others do, but there is no question that it was beautifully shot. Vinyan is a thriller about parents desperately trying to find their missing child.

Canadian icon Bruce McDonald takes on the zombie genre with Pontypool. This movie also has the distinction of being the first Canuck feature to use the new fangled Red One HD camera. Pontypool focuses on a radio host who just happens to be broadcasting when a zombie-like virus hits his small town.

Acolytes is a movie I neglected to mention during my earlier Midnight Madness post. The premise of this Aussie offering is delicious. Three high school students blackmail a serial killer into taking care of a bully who tormented them when they were younger.


These are just four of the fabulous titles that Toronto is rolling out this year. For the full list, check out the TIFF website here. I am giddy, GIDDY I tell you, with anticipation folks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ooooo Treats!

A friend of mine just got back from a trip to Japan and brought me back a little something. Machine Girl Merch!


Thanks Darryl! Best. Present. EVAR.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mirror, Mirror

Yesterday, I peeled off from work early to catch Mirrors, the new movie from Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes remake). Going in, I had heard that the movie wasn’t screened for critics, which was a bad sign, but there are exceptions to every rule (The Ruins) so I kept an open mind. It looks like the media blackout may have worked in their favour because when I was buying my ticket for the four-fourty show, I noticed that, much to my surprise, that the next two shows – the five-twenty (!) and seven o’ clock – were sold out. I have NEVER seen that for a horror title that early in the day. Whatever they did to get people in the seats, it worked; at least for the first weekend anyway and let’s face it, that is what’s important to the bean counters these days.


A down-and-out ex-cop (Kiefer Sutherland) gets a job as a night watchman at an old burned-out department store. When he starts seeing things in the mirror-covered interior, he starts to doubt his sanity. Then he receives a package from the dead man he replaced that suggests there really is something deadly about the MIRRORS.

I’m sad to report that Mirrors is pretty average fare. It is clear after the first act that it is, in fact, a Korean remake, though I didn’t know that beforehand. I think the studio was wise to not make this apparent during their ad campaign because the whole Asian horror thing has played itself out over here. Aren’t we at the point where, after recent duds like One Missed Call and Shutter, we roll our eyes when we hear that the latest thriller is a hastily slapped together repackaging of something from the Far East? There are some good bits, (Aja does a good job of keeping the mirror gimmick fresh) but mainly it is a baseline story stretched around a few cool set pieces, the basic Asian horror formula. In addition to its Asian underpinnings, there was also a lot of Bill Malone’s House On Haunted Hill in this movie too. I don’t think anybody would have batted an eyelid if Mirrors had been a Dark Castle release.

The story, as I said, was a little wobbly. It follows the standard structure used in The Ring and many others, but character motivation is a big problem early on. I don’t care how badly you need this job guy, if on your second shift the place makes you hallucinate that, say, oh I don’t know, YOU ARE ON FIRE, it’s time to maybe call it a day and put in an application at McDonalds. As for the acting, Kiefer is Kiefer. It’s just very hard for me to see him as anything other than Jack Bauer these days, especially when he utters lines like “Don’t make me threaten you” and the ever-popular “DAMMIT!” I had to chuckle at every one of these bits, which was probably not the intended reaction they were going for.

"Chloe?"

Considering this is Alex Aja (the guy responsible for the lusciously crimson High Tension) with KNB EFX at his disposal, I would have thought there would be more gore in this. Sure, there are two or three wonderfully bloody bits in the film, but that’s about it. This is disappointing because that was the only thing I was counting on Mirrors to deliver on. There was also a bit too much CG going on. I know KNB has been utilizing digital effects to augment their work for some time now, but it was nowhere near as fluent here, as it was in The Hills Have Eyes, KNB’s previous collaboration with Aja. Lastly, a big critique I have is the end action sequence. It wasn’t shot very well. There was a lot of shaky cam in darkness, which was very disheartening. There was likely some good KNB stuff on display during this scene and it would have been nice to actually see it.

At the end of the day, Mirrors is watchable stuff. I’d rather watch a good director slumming, than something from some nobody that has no business being behind a camera.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two More...

The horror anthology show Fear Itself continues to soldier on over at NBC, so here are two more reviews. Episode seven was directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and entitled “Community”.

A young couple (Brendan Routh & Shiri Appleby) move into an exclusive gated community only to find that the residents engage in some bizarre practices in order to maintain their quality of living.

Community is a weird affair that tends to throw reality out the window. Relaying the message of ‘always read the fine print’, it takes a fairly standard premise and launches it into the absurd. Consequently, it is fairly lame and by-the numbers. I’ve seen this setup before in things like the Stepford Wives, The Twilight Zone and The X-Files and the only thing that is different here is the conclusion. I was hoping Mary Harron could add something to combat the overall banality of the material, but sadly I found her presence was hardly felt. I almost didn’t recognize Brendan Routh, who seems to have not flown off into obscurity and is still working. His bland performance certainly won’t win him any meetings with casting directors though.

Just another day in the neighbourhood.

Granted, I have to grade this episode on a curve because the power went out at my place (causing me to lose a few minutes toward the end), so I’m little cloudy about certain character motivations. To be honest though, the story wasn’t compelling enough to make me want look it up online – it certainly was not like the time I almost chucked my DVR across the room when it cut off the last fifteen minutes of Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, the best Masters Of Horror episode EVAR!

So, another miss. If the pattern continues, the next episode should be good, right? Right?!

Next up, is “Skin and Bones” by Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter).

Rancher Grady (Doug Jones) arrives back at his farm emaciated and frostbitten after being lost in the mountains for almost two weeks. His family soon notices that all is not right and is soon in a fight for their lives against something Grady brought back with him.

This piece is all about Doug Jones. He is one creepy fucker in this. You may not recognize him without all the prosthetics and computer accompaniment, but the impossibly thin Jones has been in dozens of films. He not only played The Silver Surfer in The Fantastic Four sequel, but also Abe Sapien in both Hellboy films and the dastardly Faun in Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Skin and Bones is an apt title for this episode, as Jones is just THAT. I swear, at some points, I could see his internal organs. Even more crazy is that frame of his isn’t just for one role (ala Christian Bale in The Machinist), he’s like this ALL the time!

Someone please get this guy a sandwich!

Skin and Bones starts strong, but tragically overstays its welcome. The climax drags and then ends abruptly, which is a shame because there was something good going on here for a bit. Alas, that seems to be the late motif of Larry Fessenden. His last film The Last Winter I found really engaging until the end where it toppled like a house of cards and I hear the same can be said about his 2001 film Wendigo, as well. And, just what IS up with Fessenden and the Wendigo? Why is he so obsessed with that legend?

Skin and Bones is decidedly better than Harron’s previous episode, but still not as consistent as of some of the earlier Fear Itself offerings. It is definitely worth checking out though, just to see a rare glimpse of Doug Jones stripped down to his freakishly bare essentials.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

12 Things I Love About The Evil Dead


I usually don’t do ‘list’ articles because God knows there is an overabundance of them on the Internets, but screw it. Vagrancy Films screened a print of The Evil Dead last Wednesday and I dropped everything and made sure I was there. Not only because it had been a few years since I had seen it projected, but it also gave me a chance to hook up with a bud I hadn’t seen in a long time (good to hang with you again Schwartzy!). The Evil Dead has always been one of my staple films and every time I watch it, it reminds me what I love about horror and the art of low budget filmmaking itself. I had a fantastic time at the screening and it filled me with great joy to see that – even twenty-five years after its release and its excessive DVD availability – The Evil Dead can still fill a theatre. So, please join me as I reminisce about some of the many things I love about this quintessential cult classic.

Young filmmakers Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert wanted to make a feature, but before they could shoot a frame, they needed money. They made a thirty-minute short called Within The Woods on a shoestring and began showing it to possible investors. This included dentists, people in real estate and local merchants; anybody thought to have money. With a grainy, low quality Super 8 print they managed to finagle ninety-grand out of people’s pockets. Within The Woods is not without its charms, but anyone who has seen it must assume that it was mainly the super enthusiastic sweet talking skills of the trio that led to those purse strings’s loosening.

Obviously, The Evil Dead is nothing without THE MAN, Bruce Campbell. Every time I watch it and there is that first close-up of Bruce in the car I am always struck by how young he looks. The now gigantic horror icon was barely twenty-one when he shot The Evil Dead! Having been friends with Sam, Rob and their crew (who I like to collectively refer to as The Renaissance Boys), he appeared in most of their earlier Super 8 films. This was mainly because, as Raimi has said, “Bruce was the good looking one.” This made Bruce the logical choice to don the blue and brown and become the reluctant demon killer Ash. Bruce as Ash would endure unending punishment at the hands of Sam, who could seemingly talk him into doing pretty much anything for a shot.


The first of MANY knocks!
Over the course of the shoot, Bruce would be abused, pummelled and covered and covered AND covered in blood. And through all that, he was always up to the challenge. It was that physical side of him, as well as his sidesplitting demeanor, that really made Bruce a star of the genre.

If there were another star of The Evil Dead, it would be the camera. Sam Raimi is world renowned for his distinct style of filmmaking and the roots of this can be seen all over his first feature. Sam has said that he always equated filmmakers with magicians, with camera shots being their tricks. "Do they know how I am doing this trick? If not, then I am succeeding." The Evil Dead is a testament to ingenuity and sheer will because, make no mistake, this is what was holding this picture together at certain stages of the shoot. Raimi had a vision of what he wanted for The Evil Dead (then known as The Book Of The Dead) and because funds were incredibly limited, he had to continually invent ways to achieve that vision. This included constructing rigs that have become synonymous with the name Raimi, the most well known of these being The Shaky-Cam. Nowadays, Shaky-Cam is part of film canon and refers to the style used in movies like the last two Bourne entries and Cloverfield, but back in the day, this was a term that Raimi pioneered. The Shaky-Cam was constructed due of their lack of a Steadicam and used for all those sequences where you see the point-of-view of the demon force travelling at great speeds. The camera was fastened to a two-by-four, with one person on each end of it. This enabled them tons of freedom for camera movement. Other innovative practices included,

The Sam-O-Cam – For the first shot in the swamp, Raimi taped the camera to his hand and sat in an inflatable raft that was pushed along by two wading crewmembers.
The Ellie-Vator – So named for actress Ellen Sandweiss. This was an X-shaped rig fastened to her back to levitate her off the floor during Cheryl's possession scene.
The Ram-O-Cam – This was utilized when the camera bashes through windows. The camera is again on a two-by-four with a device out front to break the glass just before the camera goes through it.
The Vas-O-Cam – Invented by crewmember Tim Philo, it is the shoestring equivalent of a dolly track. The camera on a two-by-four, slides along another plank greased up with Vaseline. This was used in the long take scene where Ash carries Linda’s body outside.

The one-of-a-kind location in rural Tennessee plays a major part in the feel of The Evil Dead. The dishevelled cabin took weeks to clean out and get into shape. The crew also had to deal with mud slicked roads and the constant curiosity of the locals. The cabin has since burned down, but it will forever live on in the film.

A few scenes in the movie take place in the cabin’s cellar, but the place they filmed in had no basement, so they had to construct one. The cellar you see in the cabin is only a four-foot deep trench. All the cellar footage was shot in a farmhouse in Michigan, many months later. This is movie magic at its best, people!


Looking down into Michigan.

Looking up into Tennessee.

The ‘Classic’ 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It has appeared in every single of Raimi’s films (except The Quick And The Dead for obvious reasons) and has become sort of a running gag among Raimi fans.

The Peek-a-boo sequences are a great touch. At first, this exchange between Ash and Linda seems like a cheesy romantic interlude (which it is), but Raimi later revisits it while Ash is burying his then dead girlfriend.

Scotty the asshole. This guy, played by Hal Delrich (a pseudonym to avoid union woes), has all the great lines in the movie. The exchange between Scotty and Ash about his ex-girlfriend’s looks cracks me up every time.



Yes, they went THERE. Probably the most infamous part of The Evil Dead is the tree rape. This is what likely dubbed it a ‘video nasty’ and made it so elusive on home video in many parts of the world for so many years. It was a decision made by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert while watching dailies and was shot in so many little pieces, that they just didn’t realize how much it was going to affect audiences. In an interview for The Incredibly Strange Film Show, Sam relates (clip below) that he regrets he went that far with it.

video


I have to give it up for Tom Sullivan’s amazing production design. This is the man who created the Book Of The Dead and matching ceremonial dagger. He also worked with Bart Pierce on the stop motion animation meltdown sequences of the movie’s climax.

Over the course of a few films, there was a playful exchange between Sam Raimi and fellow horror filmmaker Wes Craven. Raimi observed a torn poster of Jaws in Craven’s 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes and then decided to do the same thing in Evil Dead.


Craven then responded to this by having his main character Nancy watching The Evil Dead on TV during his 1984 masterpiece A Nightmare On Elm Street. Not to be outdone, Nightmare’s poster and Freddy glove appear in the 1987 Evil Dead sequel. Like the ubiquitous appearances of his classic Oldsmobile, it is this playfulness that exists within Raimi that makes him such an enjoyable filmmaker to watch.

The Evil Dead has even spawned a musical. The first show was Aug 14, 2003 (the night of the East Coast blackout) in Toronto and continued with runs in Montreal, New York and most recently California and Seoul, Korea. No matter how unlikely that may sound, I have seen it a few times now and it is every bit as awesome and enjoyable as the movie that inspired it.


I could go on, but you get the idea. I ADORE The Evil Dead. It most deservedly holds a place in The Fearsome Fifteen. Sam Raimi and company endured one of the most gruelling shoots on record to give us – to quote Stephen King’s famous tagline – “a ferociously original horror film”. In a forest outside Knoxville, Tennessee in the fall of 1979, a small crew of green filmmakers stretched a minimal budget and persevered through impossible odds. Their success maybe only due to the simple fact that no one told them they couldn’t do it. You boys are an inspiration to us all.