I’ve always been a big fan of the EVIL DEAD franchise. I own toys, comic books, and various DVD and Blu-ray releases of the films, plus I’ve seen them all on the big screen in 35mm! Though I nearly had myself convinced that I was sick of Raimi’s classic fright flicks, I have discovered that there truly is no escape for me: I am a Deadite for life!
After recently revisiting the 2013 remake (read my thoughts HERE), and seeing the trailer for the impending TV series, I’ve been waxing nostalgic about Raimi’s classic EVIL DEAD trilogy. As we stand on the brink of a possible EVIL DEAD revival, please allow me to take some time to share with you my EVIL DEAD MEMORIES!
First, let me begin with a confession: I saw EVIL DEAD II first! I originally heard about the film decades ago from a relative of mine. I lived a sort of sheltered life and my mother disapproved of me watching any horror films. Surprisingly, JAWS was given the all-clear, as was Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, and various other films featuring dinosaurs, dragons, monsters, and sharks.
My cousin Tony on the other hand, though younger than myself, was allowed to watch all the good stuff. It is because of him that I discovered the existence of THE EVIL DEAD. One afternoon as I was hanging out with him, and discussing various things of interest (e.g. cartoons, toys, Nintendo games, boobies), he told me about a cool movie where a guy battled monsters with a chainsaw and a shotgun.
The concept floored me; I had to see it! But there was no internet, video store visits were patrolled by my mother, and I didn’t know anyone who owned a copy. Even if I did, my parents would have shut down my mission to watch anything involving blood, guts, and human dismemberment.
And then, one fateful day whilst wandering around Sam’s Club (I was 14 going on 15 at the time), I made an awesome discovery: VHS double features on sale for ten bucks! Already a VHS hoarder with a collection of hundreds of (alphabetized) cassettes, I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
Upon glancing over the stacks of movies, one double feature in particular immediately caught my eye: EVIL DEAD II and DAY OF THE DEAD! I felt a rush of adrenaline and grabbed the two tapes! I stared wide-eyed at the covers: I had finally found my cinematic holy grail, plus it came with the sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD! Surely fate had smiled upon me that day!
I made an instant beeline to my parents, shoved it at them and begged for it. I’m sure in another universe, I was told that I was too young, and never got to experience the awesome that was contained on those two VHS tapes. But in this universe, I was given the standard, “OK, but you gotta do chores and homework to earn it.” Victory was mine!
As soon as we got home, I popped some popcorn, grabbed a soda, and ran upstairs to my bedroom with my video treasures. Though I was very curious about DAY OF THE DEAD, I knew which film I would be watching first. I tore off the shrink wrap, shoved EVIL DEAD II into my VCR, and braced myself for terrors beyond my wildest dreams, as one man fights for survival against supernatural forces.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out that the movie was more humorous than frightening. Perplexed by its “splatstick” brand of humor, I couldn’t help but rewind EVIL DEAD II once I reached the credits, so I could immediately watch it again! I was enamored with this movie and couldn’t get enough of it! I reveled in its glorious gore, gruesome stop-motion animation, and impressive makeup f/x!
As time passed, I made sure to share this cinematic gem with others when possible, and shoehorned it into conversation at every opportunity. Eventually, my circle of friends in high school were worn down by my constant praising of the adventures of Ash, and one night I finally got them to watch it. We crowded into the living room of my buddy Mike’s house, and popped the tape into his parents’ VCR.
At first everyone was heckling the movie and taking some potshots at it (threats of tugging it from the VCR were also made), but it quickly began to win them over. When the end credits began to roll they agreed that what I had visited upon then was weird, but that they actually really enjoyed it. (Sadly, when I tried to introduce them to ARMY OF DARKNESS, they were not as receptive.)
A few short years later, I reached a milestone in my life: My folks purchased a brand new computer just for me, plus they had a second phone line installed! This was doubly awesome because having my own phone line meant that I could connect to that newfangled internet thing, and tap into humanity’s collective knowledge. (Plus I could play games over the web and look at porn!)
This is when I discovered Sgt. Andrew Borntreger’s Badmovies.Org. I had never seen anything like it, and I eagerly read through the entire site in a few days. Because of Andrew’s awesome online hub of b-movie knowledge, I got my first taste of the original EVIL DEAD, and also discovered that there was a third movie: ARMY OF DARKNESS!
More importantly, my discovery of Badmovies.Org inspired me to learn how to build a website from scratch, and share my opinions and movie knowledge with the world. Because of Sgt. Borntreger, The B-Movie Film Vault exists. He was my muse, provided tips and ideas, and was the first major site to swap links with me. As we joke about from time to time: The Vault is the illegitimate child of Badmovies.Org!
Around this time, I eventually started work at a Suncoast (a dying breed of movie memorabilia stores that were typically overpriced and terribly managed) just before the big DVD boom hit, and that’s where I picked up my VHS tape of ARMY OF DARKNESS! Naturally I loved it, but the original film that started it all still eluded me.
Also, since I was working alongside some hardcore horror fans (who also thankfully introduced me to the films of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and Peter Jackson), I learned that ARMY OF DARKNESS had an alternate ending, which I would eventually see for myself when I bought Anchor Bay’s “Bootleg Edition” of the film.
For the record, I actually prefer the director’s cut with the post-apocalyptic ending. As fun as it is to see Ash battling a “she-bitch” in the aisles of S-Mart, I totally dig the original ending where he ends up sleeping too long and exits his burial chamber to discover he’s now trapped in the post-apocalyptic future.
And I did eventually get my paws on THE EVIL DEAD (procured rather cheaply on VHS at Wal-Mart of all places) but my young mind processed it as the weakest of the trilogy. Quite frankly… I hated it.
Now before you shout “HERETIC!” and starting lobbing stones (both literal and figurative), bear in mind that I saw the original film last. Both EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS had significantly higher budgets, “splatstick” craziness, and a highly quotable hero. The original EVIL DEAD is played straight for the most part, and Ash is not the one-liner spewing bad-ass we’ve all come to love and know.
These days, I have a definite love and appreciation for the original EVIL DEAD (though I still prefer its sequels). Considering what Raimi and his buddies had to go through to get it made (chronicled in Bruce Campbell’s IF CHINS COULD KILL, a damned good book that you should own), its very existence is miraculous!
Since discovering EVIL DEAD II so many years ago, I have accrued a small collection of Evil Dead-related goodies. My current collection includes:
- ARMY OF DARKNESS: 3-DISC COLLECTOR’S EDITION (BLU-RAY)
- ARMY OF DARKNESS: THE MUSICAL (DVD-R)
- THE EVIL DEAD (BLU-RAY WITH BONUS DVD)
- THE EVIL DEAD: BOOK OF THE DEAD EDITION (DVD)
- EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL (DVD-R)
- EVIL DEAD 2: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (BLU-RAY)
- EVIL DEAD II: BOOK OF THE DEAD EDITION (DVD)
- FRIGHT-RAGS EVIL DEAD “ASH” TEE
- MCFARLANE TOYS’ “ASH” FIGURE (MOVIE MANIACS: SERIES 3)
- MCFARLANE TOYS’ “EVIL ASH” FIGURE (MOVIE MANIACS: SERIES 4)
- NECA’S “S-MART ASH” FIGURE
- WITHIN THE WOODS (DVD-R)
I’m not as hardcore as some fans, but I think I occupy a comfortable middle ground. Though my collection may be small, I think the fact that I’ve worn out and/or upgraded several items in my collection makes me a bit more obsessive than casual fans.
Just for fun, I’ve included a tally below of how many times I’ve purchased each movie, how many Evil Dead shirts I’ve worn out, and how many times I’ve seen each movie on the big screen.
My Evil Dead Tallies:
Theatrical viewings: 2 (in 35mm!)
Formats I’ve owned it on: VHS tape, Single disc DVD, Book of the Dead Edition DVD, and 2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray.
EVIL DEAD II
Theatrical viewing: 2 (in 35mm!)
Formats I’ve owned it on: VHS tape, Anchor Bay DVD, Book of the Dead Edition DVD, Anchor Bay Blu-ray, and Lionsgate Blu-ray!
ARMY OF DARKNESS
Theatrical viewings: 3 (in 35mm!)
Formats I’ve owned it on: VHS tape, Bootleg Edition VHS tape, Bootleg Edition DVD, 2-disc Boomstick Edition DVD, and Screwhead Edition Blu-ray, and 3-Disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray!
EVIL DEAD (2013)
Theatrical Viewings: 2 (one digital screening and one 35mm screening)
Formats I’ve owned it on: Blu-ray
# of EVIL DEAD-themed shirts I’ve worn out: 2. I wore my THIS IS MY BOOMSTICK and HAIL TO THE KING BABY t-shirts so often, that the graphics were nearly worn off, and each one was full of holes. Even though they were basically rags when I finally threw them away, it pained me to do it.
Thanks for reading, and reminiscing with me fellow Deadites! Now that I’ve shared my history with Raimi’s films, it’s your turn! How big is your EVIL DEAD collection? How many times have you seen the movies? How many times have you purchased them? What’s your most prized EVIL DEAD collectible? Have you ever met Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Sam Raimi, or The Ladies of the Evil Dead? Share your anecdotes and boast about your EVIL DEAD collections below in the comments section!