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The Evil Dead (1979-82)
Director: Sam Raimi

review by Christopher Geary

Don't go in the woods. Don't stay at the old cabin. Don't look in the cellar. Don't open that ancient book. Don't have premonitions of doom. Don't talk that cheesy romantic talk by the fireside. Don't wander out into the fog after dark. Don't try to flee the crime scene in your car. Don't say everything's going to be just fine by morning. Don't stab your possessed girlfriend with that antique dagger. Don't bury an undead woman in a shallow grave. Don't expect to survive the night...
   Billed as "the ultimate experience in gruelling horror" this remake of a student film called Within The Woods, clearly inspired by George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), is presented in its original uncut version in widescreen format (ratio 1.85.1) on Anchor Bay UK's Region 2 DVD release. Sam Raimi's classic splatter movie is still enjoyable despite its tacky gore quotient, luridly OTT violence, shamelessly obvious low budget limitations (resulting in three years of continuity errors) and blatantly absurd plot. It casually flouts, and yet passionately reinforces, lots of horror movie conventions with an anarchic disregard for logic and consistency that has won The Evil Dead a devoted cult audience, even in its crudely censored form.
   Thrill to the demonic antics of 'fake shemps', ponder the bad taste of the intact rape-by-a-tree sequence, laugh or scream at the hapless hero's plight. With bland readings from the Necronomicon, the cheap 'n' cheeky slime monsters, and blood that, yes, actually runs down the screen this remains one of the most unbalanced, yet humorously entertaining, films of its era.
   DVD extras: cool animated menus, the US trailer, photo gallery, and two audio commentaries - one by director Raimi and producer Robert Tapert, plus another deadpan one with star Bruce Campbell.
previously published online, VideoVista #31

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Director: Sam Raimi

review by Dawn Andrews

The opening scene has a tunnel through which cute couple Ash and Linda drive happily on their way to a remote mountain cabin, both blissfully unaware that they are about to star in the most quoted, most vilified, most adored cult horror movie of all time. A thing of evil had been unleashed in the quiet woodland, and roams at high speed, on a device that sounds like a supercharged hover-mower. The couple's idyll of piano playing and potential champagne quaffing is short-lived, as Linda is carried off, leaving Ash forlorn and alone, pulling the kind of faces that only Bruce Campbell can pull and somehow get away with. Distrait, Ash hunts through the woods, to be confronted by the transformed evil Linda, who moves with all the reckless abandon and menace of a Thunderbirds puppet. Ash beheads her with a spade, and then buries her. So it begins!
   Bruce Campbell - his timing, ingenuity and athletic prowess - turns this film into a comic-horror experience of epic delights, it is wonderful to watch him gurning his way through the most outlandish events, fighting with his own possessed hand, using kitchen implements to protect himself from himself, and finally sawing his hand off with a chainsaw - being thrown through windshields, dragged screaming through the woods, half-drowned, beaten, thrown into cellars, and finally being the one who closes the portal of evil by being sucked through it. (But that's another sequel!) He had a very busy time of it. A myriad special effects, laughing deer, books, lamps, a latex-coated Henrietta, whirling like a gruesome animal carcass, blood gushing from the cellar in an unending and hysterical torrent - all good clean ghoulish fun.
   Momentum's DVD Region 2 release includes an interview with three seemingly ordinary looking guys, one wearing a truly hideous pair of shorts, who are responsible for the sublime to ridiculous effects, and who gloat horribly over the hard time given to the poor actors who had to endure performing them.

previously published online, VideoVista #32

Army Of Darkness Evil Dead 3 (1993)
Director: Sam Raimi

review by Ian Shutter

Following the prologue, offering a recap and intro to events of Evil Dead 2, we go back in history (like Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, 1889) with suitably frazzled Ash (Bruce Campbell), to a faux medieval age where our hero is taken captive, escorted in chains to a castle and thrown into a pit to fight a hideous ghoul. So far, so good... Bring it on, Ash says, wielding both chainsaw and shotgun to deter his captors from attacking him while explaining his time-warped predicament to the local wizard and priest, Wiseman Joe (Ian Abercrombie). King of the castle, Arthur (Marcus Gilbert), doesn't believe Ash's story at first, but rebellious Duke Henry the Red (Richard Grove) sees our shop assistant turned demon slayer as a potential ally in his war against Arthur. Princess Sheila (Embeth Davidtz) spits on Ash, certain he's one of Henry's men, until she sees he's a man of mystery, and then she falls in love with him.
   To return home, Ash learns he must embark on a lonely quest for the legendary Necronimicon, a book ("bound in human skin, written in blood") of spells with the secret of time travel. He builds a metal hand ("Groovy!"), romances Sheila, destroys a possessed witch (Patricia Tallman, who starred in the 1990 remake of Night Of The Living Dead), and then dutifully sets off on horseback to find the ancient book on an altar in a haunted cemetery. Forgetting the ceremonial phrase ("Klaatu barada nikto," the famous line from Robert Wise's SF classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951) that will permit him to remove the book from its display, Ash unwittingly releases hordes of deadites and demons, including an evil version of himself from a mirror dimension. At one point, he's knocked unconscious and tied up by Lilliputian selves in a witty homage to Gulliver's Travels.
   Yet more genre references follow Ash's escape from his doppelganger, and happy return to Arthur's castle, as the army of darkness finally appears in the form of skeletons on the march (using rod and cable-controlled puppet figures, unlike the stop-motion animation effects by Ray Harryhausen's for 1963 Jason And The Argonauts), but Ash's girlfriend Sheila is kidnapped during a siege, and she turns into a bad-girl after falling under the evil Ash's power. Can the 14th century artificers build a steam engine to drive a 1973 Oldsmobile? Will the battlewagon be enough to defeat their enemies from beyond the grave? Why is one of Arthur's knights wearing sneakers? (This is Sam Raimi in his 'silly cameo' mode.) The film's ending comes in two versions, one gloomy and catastrophic, another light-hearted and whimsical. There are neat cameo roles for Bridget Fonda as S-Mart checkout girl Linda, Ted Raimi as a cowardly warrior, while directors such as Josh Becker, William Lustig (Maniac), and Bernard Rose (Paperhouse, Candyman) have fun in the background playing 'fake shemps'.
    Army Of Darkness is one of the most entertaining US comedy-horror adventures you will ever see, with a unique brand of slapstick lunacy that rivals the physically energetic Hong Kong style action-fantasies. The two-disc DVD Region 2 edition from Anchor Bay UK includes the original US theatrical version, behind-the-scenes featurette The Men Behind the Army (19 minutes) about the creative guys at KNB f/x narrated by Bruce Campbell, and the director's cut Bruce Campbell vs The Army Of Darkness, which has 15 minutes of extra footage, plus commentary with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Ivan Raimi (co-writer), four deleted scenes, storyboards that display alongside the movie, creature designs, biographies, and a trailer.

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