Monday, April 8, 2013

Groovy: Schaffer on the New Evil Dead, Evil Dead IV and Why Bruce Campbell is Wrong

My best friend in high school was a guy named Bob Walford.  Bob and I became friends because of our mutual love of comic books, superheroes, and science fiction.  But to be honest, Bob was much deeper into it than I was and truly a connoisseur of all-things genre.  Even in tenth grade, he possessed a commanding knowledge of fiction like Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker.  His knowledge of books could only be outdone by his true commitment to the cinema.  Bob knew things that blew my mind, such as the significance of the color orange in The Godfather.  I doubt even now my knowledge of any of those fields would compare to his.  Probably not even if we stacked me up now against him back then.
He was a true influence on me.  
It was Bob who first said, "Do you want to watch the scariest movie ever made?" 

He reached into his bag and removed a used VHS tape with a faded white label that had the words "Evil Dead" scrawled across the front of it.  He put it on and we sat together in his living room and watched it together, my terror only reduced by his calm narration of an endless stream of facts and details about the makeup, the direction, the back story, and how it all later tied together in Evil Dead II.  
When the movie ended, Bob smiled with the satisfaction a true aficionado can feel upon introducing a neophyte into a new world.  He reached back into his bag and said, "Do you want to watch the sequel?" 
Hell no I do not want to watch the sequel.  Are you nuts?  My fourteen year old brain said, "That movie scared Stephen King, Bob.  What do you think it did to me?"
So I wimped out and would not become reconnected with the franchise until some time had passed and I had matured enough to be standing in a video store in Lansdale, PA, and look up to see a poster for Army of Darkness.  
Now, I don't know about you, but for my money, there's never been a better advertisement for any movie in the history of movies that were geared toward a red-blooded American eighteen year old than the one for Army of Darkness.  Minus, you know, anything with the words "Debbie" and "Dallas" in them. 
It wasn't until I began watching the movie that I made the connection to that old, obscure videotape that Bob had shown me all those years ago.  For the fifteen minutes that Army of Darkness had been in the theater, I had barely paid it any attention because it was a limited release (in my area anyway) and I was just a dumb, broke kid.  
Needless to say, I've made up for my lack of earlier participation.  
To date, I own probably ten different versions of either Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness on Blu Ray and DVD.  I've got the limited Necronomicon screaming editions.  The Screwhead edition.  The alternate ending edition.  I've got all of them.  And I'll keep buying them as long as they keep adding different things I haven't seen yet.  
That's why, when Bruce Campbell says the thing holding back Evil Dead IV from being made is that the movies never fared well in the theater, I say, "What are you talking about?  The majority of hardcore Evil Dead fans were just kids when the movies were out and didn't have access to see them.  On top of that, how many millions of dollars have the movies made since the advent of watching them at home?" 
I think if you factor in the Sam Raimi factor now that he's established himself as such a mainstream director and the massive at-home audience, Evil Dead IV would do big business.  And I don't mean just big business.  I mean BIG business.  
So now, they release a remake.  
New director, new cast, new Evil Dead for a new generation, and one that I promptly, but silently vowed not to see.  
From the looks of things, it kind of appeared to be a straight up scary movie, much in the vein of the original movie I'd seen so many years ago.  Gone would be the fun of seeing Ash fight the Deadites with a chainsaw strapped to one arm and the word "Groovy" escaping his lips.  
That was enough to keep me away.  You see, I love Ash.  And I love the humor and fun the Evil Dead movies have always included.  
Oh, and one more thing.  
The new Evil Dead looks freaking scary.  
So, much like the original people involved in the making of my beloved franchise, I stepped aside to let the new generation have their own Evil Dead experience.  They didn't need the crotchety old man sitting in the back yelling, "This is sacrilege!"  I stayed away for everyone's own good.  
Until today. 
I just found out that there is a certain scene at the end of the film that gives spark to a better, brighter future that is filled with possibilities.  I won't ruin it for anyone who isn't in the know, but I will link you to the article at AICN that reveals what I'm referring to.
I'm not a big fan of spoilers, but I can honestly say that if I hadn't read that particular spoiler, I'd have never gone to see the movie.  Now, I'll probably go see it tomorrow. 
And that's groovy.  

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