I thought I’d seen this Sam Rami movie, but it turns out that Friday night’s screening at Vidiots in Eagle Rock was new to me. And I loved it.
When I was in middle school, I rented Evil Dead (1981), directed by Sam Rami, and it upset me. For one, tree rape. For another, I was twelve years old and in my parents’ basement, 100% freaked out. Evil Dead feels as if its been made by an intelligent insane person. I remember feeling literally trapped inside a screwed-up person’s mind, too mesmerized to press pause. It’s got a Texas Chainsaw or Audition feel, only it’s splattery and jokey at the same time.
Over the years, I somehow convinced myself I’d seen the rest of the movies, probably because I knew that as a horror nerd I should; I just didn’t want to.
But then my husband got tickets to the showing Friday night. It’s the same movie as its predecessor, only an actual comedy (and without the rape). The distinction is that we’re still in the mind of a genuine maniac, who is also a genuine artist. It’s not safe anymore, but it’s also not intending to frighten us. It just wants us to know that this whole thing called reality is kind of absurd. And it that’s upsetting for us to hear, well, so it goes.
This iteration really worked for me. Bruce Campbell has the physical chops of Jim Carey in his prime, but he also gets the wildly oscillating tone of this movie, at points laughing and crying in the same moment. It’s so believable that we feel tragedy within comedy within tragedy within farce within lampoon. And that unease: it’s not because we’re scared of what’s happening in the plot; we’re feeling honest to god existential dread.
I can’t stop thinking about the moment when the house and everything inside it begins laughing, and then Cambell, emotionally destroyed, laughs right back. A laughing lamp bends and pops back up, repeatedly, and Campbell follows along, mimicking the lamp. It’s one of the most magic scenes in film I’ve ever watched.