“Within the Woods” (1978) IMDb

Categorization

Pilot for a franchise of cliché-heavy horror that gradually picks up comedy and heroic action elements as the budget grows. Here, with a budget near zero, it’s quite serious.

Subject

Two couples. Secluded cabin. Ancient Indian burial ground.

Commentary

Took three days to make and served mainly to secure funding for the remake.

fiction moving picture zombie

Remake:

The Evil Dead (1981) IMDb

Categorization

More money. Still pretty serious. Some black humour.

Subject

Five people. Secluded cabin. The Necronomicon. A chainsaw. Rape by trees.

Commentary

Emblems include Bruce Campbell (cast as Bruce in the pilot, where he’s the first to go, here called Ash), zombies insisting on company (“Join us!”) and director Raimi’s “evil force” camera racing along with ominous sound effects.

References here: An American Werewolf in London (1981), Evil Dead II (1987).

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Sequel:

Evil Dead II (1987) IMDb

Categorization

Comedy horror bordering on slapstick, a bit like “The Beast with Five Fingers” (1919).

Subject

It’s almost a remake of the remake. The first few minutes describe an alternate progression and ending of The Evil Dead (1981), and then some new people arrive to the cabin, on the next day in a “continuing” story.

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Sequel:

Army of Darkness (1992) IMDb

Categorization

The sequel to the remake of the remake. An action comedy. Ash has completed his transformation from ordinary guy to comically invincible chauvinist.

Subject

Ash travels through time to the middle ages, where he accidentally spawns and fights a legion of the undead with chainsaw, car and shotgun.

Commentary

Lots of cool one-liners but no horror. Check out the ending where he takes a drop too many, if you can find it (there are at least three versions).

References here: Ash vs Evil Dead (2015).

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Sequel:

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2019.

This review refers to the first season only.

Categorization

Camp demonic horror in the style of Army of Darkness (1992).

Subject

Having lain low for 30 years, Ash accidentally attracts new Deadites by reading the Necronomicon on weed. He just wants to get to Jacksonville.

Commentary

A good showcase for Bruce Campbell’s star quality. Alas, the US TV serial format apparently requires a slow-moving criminal-investigation-style plotline, far removed from the high-concept butt-kicking of Army and worlds away from ever scaring a seasoned viewer. There’s more backstory about the book, but most of the supernatural worldbuilding is still folkloric and what it calls “evil” is just short-term asshole behaviour without an agenda. The Deadites are effectively medieval Christian demons with unexplored, internally contradictory ontological powers: Boring clichés in nominally creepy makeup. In one cut they’re superhumanly strong, in the next they can be squashed like overripe fruit. Being thus poorly planned, the fights are also poorely executed, heavily reliant on fast cuts and cheap tricks. There is no sense of escalation or a larger threat.

The opening episode is good as far as weirdly formulaic US supernatural adventure TV goes, but I’m too bad at shutting my brain down to keep following it. If you want to bail out before it turns really sour, stop before episode 5, where Ash’s young sidekicks give him a prosthetic hand built out of a Nintendo Power Glove—or something like it—so Campbell can use his real hand more freely on set, thus saving production money and undercutting the idea that Ash has had to make sacrifices.

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