I would ordinarily not prefer comedic horror over something dead serious, but Bruce Campbell's presence on the screen & his decided strength as a comic actor made The Evil Dead series personal favorites.
The first Evil Dead (1981) was in fact lots better than most "Group Of Folks In Cabin Get Offed One By One" movies, though it is not a theme that has much to it. In ditching the extra characters in the remake Evil Dead II (1987) & focusing on the character of Ash, we get to spend most of our time with Bruce Campbell, whose physical comedy I regard as comic genius. With his capacity for comic rampages of body language, Bruce could've been a leading silent film commedian.
For years I'd go see Bruce in anything no matter how little the role, & he rarely let me down, though by the time he was trapped in that drivelly Wild, Wild West look-alike tv series Brisco County & other television work, I was beginning to realize the brilliance of his physical comedy really could not overcome any degree of lameness & stupidity. Talking like Groucho Marx in Xena episodes -- or that awful & quickly aborted swashbuckler joke series wherein he played the titular Jack of All Trades -- just underscored that he would've looked more the genius in silent films.
I know many people who prefer the first Evil Dead & believe the sequels rapidly deteriorated -- regretting the first remakes' increasing jokiness, & finding the third in the trilogy too much sword & sorcery & too little horror.
As for me, I can see Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3 (1993) repeatedly without getting tired of the snappy one-liners, & I actually am able to view both #2 and #3 as "serious" occurrences, but with a funny hero who keeps his wise-ass personality even in the face of extreme danger.
The fight-with-Ash's-own-hand in #2 was a laugh-riot and a frightening thing for him to keep his pissed-off sense of humor about. The attack of the miniature Ashes in #3 is just as hysterical, but Ash's smart-aleck perspective didn't keep me from worrying about him as a character caught in a really strange & deadly situation.
So to me these are much more than comic horror, since the comedy grows out the character of Ash rather than being imposed on a story by the type of director or scriptwriter who finds jesting easy but could never establish any authentic mood of horror.
For the first Evil Dead the director was, what, nineteen when he made it? With a budget of twenty-five cents? It would've been overlooked but it was one of the first horror films Stephen King helped promote with a poster-blurb. The film is really, really bad but at the same time incredibly likeable. #2 is a direct remake rather than sequel, redoing it the way it was imagined to be. Still silly as all hell but such an enjoyable film.
While my favorite is the baroque & very unique Army of Darkness, most horror fans seem to prefer The Evil Dead II which is the best cabin-in-the-woods horror comedy of all time. Then again more than a few prefer Part I because it does so much with no budget whatsoever. Ultimately you gotta see them all. Bruce Campbell's humorousness makes this series worth seeing many times over. The number of one-liners imbedded throughout makes them the most quotable horror films ever made.
The trashy greatness of the Evil Dead series has caused me to watch some positively horrible stuff just to see Bruce in anything, but too much terrible material eventually cured me of that. Like that made-for-TV film Tornado! (1996). What a piece of shit. Plus a few things that pretended to star him when re-released on video but wherein he appears for maybe five minutes.
His career for a while turned into a television kiddy-series second-banana kind of star. He hasn't been as smart as he could've been about just how stupid a role he's willing to take on, so he's rarely gotten the kinds of films he deserves. His best kiddy television performance was in that Brisco County science fiction wild west comedy series which tried to update the old Wild Wild West series as a science fiction comedy western, but apart from Brisco & his horse, the series didn't honestly have much going for it.
In his prime, he could've played Superman, he had the bod, & dangle a lock on his forehead, he looks just like the original DC comics drawings. The Cohen brothers took notice of him briefly for The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), & it seemed his career was going to take off.
But right now it looks like the best he can hope for is that there'll be an Army of Darkness sequel someday so that at least his cult status never diminishes, though even that won't happen on the strength of Bruce's attraction; rather, he'd the video game versions of Evil Dead would have to become so popular that Bruce & Raimi could coattail-ride the gaming industry into one more E.D. chapter.
In interviews Bruce has said the evil dead films never actually made a profit which is the only reason there's never been a fourth one. It is shocking to think how popular & well-known these little films have become without being big money-makers.
At base, though, Bruce is a truly great physical comedian. With a good director he can also act -- he was no slouch in that Cohen brothers film, but it was too small of a role to be very important. Being a great actor is not what's important, however -- John Wayne couldn't act worth shit but he had screen presence. Bruce has screen charisma & it remains to be seen if the right directors give him the chance to shine as greatly as I believe is in him. So far he remains a cult favorite with minimal mainstream attention, & time isn't standing still.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl