Horror Ten Spot: Sam Raimi's Best Horror Moments
Although he's gravitated away from the genre in the last decade or so, Sam Raimi will always be a horror legend. In 1981 the man personified ingenuity by channeling the brio and bravado of anarchic youth into a low-budget horror classic, THE EVIL DEAD. Dude immediately upped the ante with EVIL DEAD II, a gorily cartoonish delight, then outdid himself 5 years later with ARMY OF DARKNESS. Of course, we all know Raimi would go on to helm the SPIDER-MAN franchise, but entries along the way including DARKMAN, A SMIPLE PLAN, THE GIFT and his latest horror effort, DRAG ME TO HELL, prove where the man's heart truly is. In the macabre! So, as we lament the off-course endeavor that is OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (seriously Sam, wtf!), let's have some damn fun by reliving some of Raimi's best horror moments. Ladies and gents, here are 10 of the best (near) deaths found in Sam Raimi's films! Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
A recurring descriptor you'll find in this ten spot to describe Sam Raimi's style is cartoonish, and never has there been a better example of that than his 1985 movie CRIMEWAVE...a movie you must see if you've not already. It's literally a live-action cartoon, about a pair of wacky rodent exterminators. The film was co-written by Raimi's longtime pals Joel and Ethan Coen (Joel helped edit the original EVIL DEAD), and shares much of the dark humor the brothers feature in almost all of their flicks. One standout scene involving great dread and suspense is late in the film when the exterminators run the main chick off the road...her car goes halfway off a bridge, dangling, cliffhanging off the edge. A fight on the hood of the car breaks out, bolts on the bridge begin to snap, the chassis eventually goes over and plunges into the water...on top of a bad guy no less!
"Get your filthy pig-knuckle off my desk!" Such a hysterical line kicks off one of Raimi's most absurdly comedic, yet realistic and terrifying scenes...this one coming in his latest horror effort, DRAG ME TO HELL. At work, Ali Lohman tries to train Stu in the ropes of banking. Only she becomes possessed by a vision, and mistakes Stu for the ominous gypsy witch Ms. Ganesh. And after causing a scene by blurting out the aforementioned line, a drip of blood begins pouring out of Ali's nose. Soon, boss-man David Paymer steps into the frame, alerting the young lady about her bloody discharge...but before you know it...WHAM...a river of blood disembogues from her nostrils, more or less painting Paymer's entire body, to which he feebly retorts, "did I get any in my mouth?" Classic Raimi!
Not only one of the best onscreen horror movie deaths, the nasty double eye-gouging in THE EVIL DEAD has to rank highly among the all time ocular annihilations as well. No doubt, Raimi's making Fulci proud as punch with this one! What I dig is how the over the top nature of the special effect has protected it from outdated ridicule. In other words, it's just as silly now as it was then, which has made the sequence timeless in a way. You know the deal, when Ash is lifted into the air by his armpits, he quickly crams his thumbs into the peepholes of a demonic ghoul...the thick pinkish Preggo sauce consistency oozing out and coating the ghoul's entire face in blood. Good thing Ash isn't a germaphobe. Yikes!
Poor Ali Lohman, she wasn't simply dragged to hell, the adorable lass was pulled through every corner of it in Sam Raimi's 2009 return to the genre. Despite a nearly decade long absence, DRAG ME TO HELL surely didn't disappoint Raimi fanatics, which was a pleasant semi-surprise given how long he'd been away doing superhero tentpoles. And one scene of about three or four that screams vintage Raimi is the penultimate graveyard scene involving Ali and the cursed gypsy witch Ms. Ganesh. Both terrifying and hilarious at once, Ali shoves the deed into Ganesh's dead maw, kicks it shut and shouts "Choke on it bitch!" Then once she makes a heroic exit, she falls back into the grave, torrential mud rising, Ganesh's body floating over her before both get struck by the fallen headstone.
One of the great standout sequences in ARMY OF DARKNESS is when Ash unceremoniously descends into the grimy Pit of Death. The scene has everything we love about the Raimi/Campbell marriage: the zany energy, the wacky setting, the kinetic camera movement, the claustrophobia, the memorably nasty foes, the chainsaw, and of course, Ash breaking mofos off like a Kit-Kat...king-size. Granted, the tone of the entire movie has gone from hardened horror to comedic silliness, but Raimi's trademark style has never been so fully formed. Dude seems at his most confident. As onlookers marvel from above, Ash squares off with a gaggle of grotesque deadite bastards, ultimately slaying each one before triumphantly climbing back up the well. Campbell's facials always sell it!
Okay okay, I know A SIMPLE PLAN isn't a horror film per se, but I truly believe, from top to bottom, it's Raimi's finest film. As a longtime friend of the Coen brothers, it's essentially Sam's answer to FARGO, and it's damn near as masterful. In fact, one might argue that the ending of Raimi's flick is more powerful. For those who've not seen the flick, I urge you to stop reading here and watch it this instant! For those who have seen it, you know what a heartbreaking conclusion A SIMPLE PLAN entails. It's a morality play testing the bonds of brotherhood, and although it's nowhere near as fun as the rest of Raimi's horror violence, when Jacob meets his ultimate demise, it's more emotional affecting than anything Raimi's done. I remember seeing it in theaters at 15. F*cked me up!
Peter Jackson can thank Mr. Raimi for clearly inspiring the zero-to-a-hundred kineticism of stuff like DEAD ALIVE...directly attributable to the scene in EVIL DEAD II where the hick in overalls gets comically, violently sucked under the trapdoor. How this will be handled in the remake will be fun to see (the fingernails make a trailer appearance), but the original did it so well that it'll be hard to top. Once dude's body is subsumed, geysers upon geysers of blood come spraying out, enough fluid for three living bodies, damn near washing every square inch of poor Annie's body in gore. It's like a goddamned sewer erupting...even after she closes the trapdoor. Delicious piece of business!
I can damn near cite the whole of EVIL DEAD II as Raimi's finest horror hour, but one obvious standout comes in the form of the headless zombie's chainsaw wielding self-mutilation. Over 25 years later the FX holds up extremely well, as the demonic bitch's head clamped in a vice-grip watches her animated body burst through the door with Ash's trusty chainsaw. But once Ash blocks an attack with saw, the revving blade plunges right into the headless neck of the corpse, splaying dark blood everywhere before Ash tackles it to the ground. Then, not to be outdone, Ash grabs the chainsaw and, in silhouette across the shed door, saws the demonic bitch's face in half...blood spitting over a hanging light bulb. Gruesome, cartoonish, capital f*cking AWESOME!
I could have just as easily gone with the exorbitant chainsaw finale in EVIL DEAD II, or the stint where Ash axes the ever-loving green blood out of an entire room, but every time I watch Ash defeat that nasty snake-headed creature thingy, I stand up and pump an inspired fist! You know what I'm talking about, when that little f*cker keeps chanting "I'll swallow your soul," Ash steps on the thing's neck, cocks the shotty, points it in the thing's face and utters, "Swallow This!" before unloading both shotgun barrels and exploding its dome to smithereens. That shite is pure gold! But that's just how the sequence ends...what about the lead up, where Ash is forced to dismember the many limbs of the shape-shifting demon, hacking off arms, then it's head, before stepping on its neck and opening fire. Girsly shite!
Although I usually detest remakes, I am glad to see that Fede Alvarez is keeping the famed tree rape sequence intact with the EVIL DEAD redo, out this April. From the trailer, the homage looks f*ckin' gnarly, but will it surpass the sheer manic energy of the original? Always a tough proposition with such an iconic piece of movie lore, but if film technology has advanced enough in the last 30 years or so, then this is the time to prove it. Not that I favor CGI to practical FX work, but I simply cannot see outdoing Raimi's original construct without bringing something new to the fold. Actually, the cartoonish nature of Raimi's visuals would seem to lend perfectly to CG augmentation, as long as it's just that, augmentation...not entirely fake or phony to begin with. Ah hell, who am I to grouse, as the long as the tree uncorks a large wad of sap all over the girl's tits, I'm sold!