Monday, July 26, 2010

The Great Debate

The Evil Dead vs Evil Dead II- Kellen Terrett

There are a few questions that come to mind when I think about this debate. Most of them are about how you distinguish a film from a series. I can say that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back can stand on it’s own without its predecessor. This comes from the serialized nature of what Lucas’s larger vision of the film was, and why we could have Episode IV twenty years before anyone had seen the war atrocities of the clone wars. From the reference point of Star Wars I present my guidelines for this debate.

-Does the film continue to build upon the mythos of the world?
-Does the film stand on it’s own as a film rather than a chapter?
-Does the film stand up to others in the genre? Does it still stand up?

The Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981) is a nearly perfect horror film. It’s one of my favorite all time horrors and comedies, a feat that is seen to often and rarely done well. The balance between suspense, low-fi cinematography and a rock solid story is only enhanced by the all to self aware ensemble cast lead by Bruce Campbell. The Evil Dead makes a Pastiche of horror films gore and hyper violences while embracing the inherent camp.

It’s impossible not to laugh at it, which takes away from it’s credibility, because the laughter comes at the expense of the film. At times it feels like I’m watching something my friends in high school made, when we were trying to make a serious horror film. Despite the low budget and hackney special effects, the film works through it, and stands beside it’s rough edges like a proud parent. These moments are what make The Evil Dead such an enjoyable viewing experience.

That said, Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987) is the better film, and here’s why...

Does the film continue to build upon the mythos of the world? One Word; Necronomicon. Raimi inserts the book of the dead in The Evil Dead but expands it in Evil Dead II to be thee Necronomicaon from H.P. Lovecraft’s twisted stories. The tapes from the first film are there, and are expanded upon, in terms of their demonic origin. Even Ash (Campbell) is fully fleshed out, even giving us a smaller, impish version of his evil self personified.
Does the film stand on it’s own as a film rather than a chapter? The first 20 minutes of Evil Dead II are an abridged version of The Evil Dead. Yep. Go back, and watch it. The highlighted moments from the ED and the stored within EDII. This alone allows EDII to stand alone as an idea. Some could even say the EDII is the true beginning of the Army of Darkness Trilogy* and ED is simply an extended prologue.

Does the film stand up to others in the genre? In 1987 EDII was released, and so was another seminal horror film that launched another major hollywood star, Bad Taste by Peter Jackson. Bad Taste has some of the best moments of pure comic gore and horror ever captured, and for this ED wins because EDII hadn’t come out. But EVII’s influence crosses genres like the classic FPS Duke Nukem, combining over the top action and crewed humor.

Does it still stand up? Did anyone catch The Evil Dead Musical?!? Taking from all three films (ED, EDII, AoD) the staged Broadway hit ran for more than a year to major success. Moments from EDII and Ash’s signature chain saw are found in Spider Man II (Raimi, 2004), though this is not an homage but more the Raimi making the fans of both films cheer with delight!

I’m certainly not saying that The Evil Dead is a poor film. To this day the ending where the great unseen evil chases Ash haunts me. To be Evil Dead II has always been the strongest in the series, mostly because it expands and heightens all aspects of what the films stand for.

And if none of that is enough to move you into the EDII camp, then I've pose this last point; Catch Phrases.
- I'll swallow your soul! I'll swallow your soul! I'll swallow your soul!
- You're goin' down. Chainsaw.

*E.D. III/IV in development.