by Tom Kapr
Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.
“Fine. . . fine. . . .”
“I don’t think so. We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound ‘fine’?”
Preface: The first Evil Dead film I ever saw was Army of Darkness, which was goofy, but I enjoyed it. I had peripheral knowledge of the first two films and their legacy, but it wasn’t until I rented it in college that I saw the first, and uncut, Evil Dead. I didn’t enjoy that one.
I just don’t get any enjoyment out of splatter films. I don’t glory in gore. I find it more disturbing than fun. So generally, I avoid this kind of thing. But I knew I wanted to see Evil Dead II at some point. It is generally considered the best of the trilogy and is highly regarded among cinephiles. And I’ll watch pretty much anything with Bruce Campbell. This being THE Bruce Campbell film, seeing it was inevitable for me. And it finally got voted through for this month.
There is a lot of really impressive and innovative camera work happening throughout this film. There are some shots that serve as nice throwbacks to some of the styles of the 50s B pictures, while at the same time pushing the craft forward. Sam Raimi’s work here should be studied. And it is really easy to see why Bruce Campbell became such a genre darling and his character Ash a cult hero. And some moments are genuinely funny. But that’s all I find groovy about it.
The acting in this film, Campbell’s perfectly over-the-top performance aside, is terrible. Like, really, really bad. But none so bad as that of the girl playing Annie. Holy Moses, that is one of the most unbelievably bad performances I’ve ever seen. Would it surprise you to learn this was basically her only film role? No? Me neither.
And as I said, I just don’t dig all the splatter and gore. It has its place, and can even be really clever and legitimately laughter-inducing (I’m think of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil in particular). But I’m not going to deride it for that. I knew what I was getting into, Raimi and company knew what they were making, and the people who love this film love it, and that’s fine. But the absolute worst thing about sitting through this was the awful sound mixing. I don’t know if this is an original problem, or just something that has happened over the years in the transfer between media, but this was one of the worst sound experiences I’ve ever had. One second I could barely hear let alone understand the dialogue and the next my eardrums are being shattered by roaring demons and screaming Annie.
Anyway, this a goofy movie that I appreciate on certain levels but don’t really enjoy but totally understand why people do.
Here are my final grades and Flickchart rankings for all three films in the trilogy:
The Evil Dead (1981): D / #2149 (out of 3264, a relative 34/100)
Evil Dead II (1987): C / #1610 (51/100)
Army of Darkness (1992): C / #1649 (50/100)