I turned 18 in 1994. So though I consider myself a child of the '80s, it was really the early '90s that informed who I am culturally. I have a great fondness for much of the TV, movies, and music that came from the '80s but when I really break it down, it was that period from 1990 to 1994 that I began to take the culture’s artistic mediums seriously. I may reach a nostalgic sort of glee when I hear Tiffany sing “I Think We’re Alone Now” or I catch Gremlins running amok, but its not until I hear Pearl Jam’s “Alive’ or remember my first viewing of The Silence of the Lambs that I see myself fully connecting on a deeper level to an artistic endeavor.
Remember, this was when Nirvana broke causing alternative music to run headlong into the mainstream. As a teenager from a small town in Oklahoma, this music helped me rebel from my surroundings. Even if I was purchasing all this outrageous rebellion from the mall. This was also when independent cinema moved out of the art house and into the big box cineplexes making household names of Tarantino, Soderbergh, and Kevin Smith.
As a budding film nerd, I spent most weekends, and any other day I was off from school, renting VHS tapes from the local (and really fantastic) video shop. It was there I learned about this entire world of film that existed outside of the blockbusters showing at the cineplex.
At the time I subscribed to Spin Magazine (a giant corporate magazine that pretended to be a independent/alternative rag) and at some point they did a movie issue. Their #1 movie of all-time was The Evil Dead 2. I’d never heard of it before and it seemed like a bold choice. Certainly it was different than the sort of stuffy, snooty lists that critics touted out every year. My local rental place had a copy and I immediately went out and grabbed it.
To say that I loved it would be understating it by about a mile. I adored every inch of it. Evil Dead 2 is such a wonderful mix of true horror, slapstick comedy, and art-house composition that nothing then or now really compares to it.
It was a perfect film for me in that moment as well. I’d loved slasher films growing up but was starting to outgrow its more juvenile tendencies. Evil Dead 2 had plenty of violence and gore but gave it a real auteur’s sheen. But it also reveled in what might be considered low-brow physical comedy. For me that scene in which Ash chops off his own hand because its become possessed and wants to kill him was the greatest cinematic moment I’d ever witnessed. It was so odd and violent and hilarious that I knew it would never be matched.
From there, I watched the original Evil Dead film, which has none of the demented zaniness of its sequel but is more straight-up horror. I didn’t like it nearly as much but recognized that even with a much smaller budget director Sam Raimi was destined for greater things. The much later, more direct sequel Army of Darkness was never able to quite replicate its genius, but it's still quite fun.
For years, I listed Evil Dead 2 as one of my top-five favorite films and though it doesn’t quite sit up that high these days, I still carry a great fondness for it. Which is why I went completely gaga when they announced they were putting out a new Starz television series based on the film franchise. We’d been begging Bruce Campbell for years to make a sequel and it was finally happening.
And now it's out on Blu-ray! I've actually not managed to watch the entire season yet. I caught the first few episodes and really enjoyed them, but one distraction or another got in its way and I got lost in the million other things vying for my TV-watching attention. I'm excited to get back to it and hoping for many more great things from hordes of Deadites everywhere.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
The Nice Guys: Shane Black’s 1970s LA Noir got some nice reviews but thudded at the box office. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play mismatched private detectives who investigate the suicide of a porn star. The trailer looks like a blast.
DCs Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete First Season: Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill plays the lead in this comic-book time-travel show. I honestly don’t know anything more than that, but that’s enough to have gotten me excited. Unfortunately, I can’t pick up the CW, and it's not streaming anywhere that I can find so I’ve not yet seen an inch of it. Now that it's out on Blu-ray I think I might have to remedy that.
Wiener-Dog: Todd Solondz makes dark, funny satires about the underbelly of suburban life. Truth be told, I’ve only seen his first two films (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) and while I thought they were both really good films, they were so disturbing I’ve not dared go back. This one is about the titular dog wandering from house to house and allowing the audience to see each family's tale.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War: I didn’t realize Snow White and the Huntsman, reviewed by Mark Buckingham, did well enough to deserve a sequel but here we are. I like most of the actors in both of them (Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and Jessica Chastain to name a few) and retelling of the Snow White story sounds exciting, but nothing in the trailers for these films looks at all interesting. Read Kristen's Lopez review of the movie.
The Walking Dead: The Complete Sixth Season: I think I have written about this series in several of my "Pick of the Week" articles and I always note how far behind I am. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen an additional episode since I noted the release of Season Five nearly a year ago. I’m a huge zombie fan but there is something about this series that just doesn’t grab me like I want it to.
Lucifer: The Complete First Season: Based upon a comic-book series (which had its origins in a character from Neil Gaiman’s excellent Sandman comics), this Fox show stars Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, the former Lord of Hell who resigns his throne to live in Los Angeles. That’s a very cool concept but man does this show look dumb.
A Taste of Honey (Criterion Collection): Part of the British New Wave of the 1960s, director Tony Richardson’s film details the life of a teenager and her journey through the economic desperation of industrial Manchester.
Woman in the Dunes (Criterion Collection): Another '60s art-house sensation from the 1960s, director Hiroshi Teshigaha was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film about a young entomologist who spends the night with a wild woman living at the bottom of a sand dune. We invite you to read Kent Conrad's review.