Similar to the Hays Code in the United States but officially state-sponsored, Sweden created a censorship board in 1911. Designed to keep anything offensive from perverting the young minds of moviegoers, it banned movies as diverse as Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Mad Max from being played in Swedish theaters. With the rise of home video, an influx of illegal bootleg VHS tapes began finding its way to film fans across the country. By the 1990s, a growing number of filmmakers and movie lovers began protesting this censorship by demanding that the law be thrown out.
Writer Göran Lundström and director Anders Jacobsson created their own protest film with Evil Ed. It finds a young, mild mannered film-editor forced into watching a series of trashy horror films filled with exactly the sort of things the Swedish censorship board would find offensive, which ultimately turns him into a crazed, psycho killer. Call it a satire with severed heads.
After the original editor blows himself up with a hand grenade, the “Splatter and Gore” department of an American film company needs the mild-mannered Johan (Eddie Tor Swensen) to watch a gruesome horror series called “Loose Limbs” and edit out the most offensive moments so that it can get distribution in some European countries. At first, Johan unleashes his full mild-mannered-ness and edits out all the sex, nudity, and gore, but after a good screaming at (including the infamous line “Where the fuck is my beaver-rape scene?" - something we never do actually get to see) by his boss Sam (Olof Rhodin), he begins leaving in nothing but the obscenities.
All of this horror begins to have an effect on old Johan and he begins hallucinating all sorts of terrors. At first its just simple things like mistaking a loaf of bread for a severed arm and fighting a goofy little refrigerator monster but soon he’s seeing horrors at every turns and learns to fight them with a kitchen knife and a chainsaw.
Curiously, the film seems to be making the argument for the censors - that watching a constant stream of grotesques could have ill effects on the minds of the audience, but it's all so goofily thrown together it's hard to imagine anyone taking real offense.
Lundström and Jacobsson are clearly fans of '80s-horror films. Not only is the title a clear homage to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series (though Ed’s slapstick brand of gore-filled humor is more Evil Dead 2 than the original) but there are references to those films scattered (or should I say “splattered”?) throughout. From genre movie posters hanging on the walls to creature effects ripped straight out of Tom Savini’s play book to Sam Raimi’s shaky cam effects and John Carpenter’s fonts, it's like a blood-soaked game of Spot the Reference.
Interestingly, in the few years it took them to make the film, Sweden’s censorship board had all but disappeared. Still, Evil Ed was only shown in four theaters in its native country, but had some popularity in grindhouses across the globe. Having prepared for this possibility, the filmmakers had the good sense to not record any sounds while making the film and instead had American radio DJs dub in the vocals in English and created all the sound effects in post production.
By this point, you pretty much know whether Evil Ed will appeal to you. Fans of 1980s horror films will find plenty to love with its goofy sensibilities and low-budget splatter effects. For those who think the state ought to protect our children from offensive movies, please step to the side and Johan will be right with you.
In 2013, Evil Ed’s creators launched a crowd-funding project dubbed the “Special Ed-Ition “ which enabled them to add back a few minutes of gore and remaster the whole thing in HD. In this three-disk set, Arrow Video presents both versions of the film on Blu-ray plus a load of extras. It looks and sounds great for a low-budget horror film from the '90s.
Extras include a three-hour making-of documentary (which frankly is about two and a half hours too long unless you really love this movie) plus shorter features on the early endeavors of the filmmakers and what they’ve been up to since. There are deleted scenes, a closer look at the added scenes to the Special Ed-Ition, plus the usual color booklet with a nice essay on the film.