The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Sam Raimi
Without a doubt, Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD series is a touchstone piece of cult cinema history for all us fanboys and girls. Small movies in their time, all three have gone on to achieve a kind of rabid cult status that's reserved only for the very good, or the very unusual. In this case, both of those adjectives apply. If Raimi had never directed anything outside of those three films, he'd still be an important genre icon. But, those movies were truly only the beginning of what's been an often dazzling career.
Arguably, Raimi's best known for the SPIDER-MAN series, with the gargantuan success of those films paving the way (for better or worse) for the superhero proliferation of genre cinema we see today. Like Richard Donner did with SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE, Raimi took the genre seriously, staying away from the overt stylization of the Tim Burton BATMAN's, or the camp approach taken by Joel Schumacher. While Bryan Singer arguably made the first truly modern superhero movie with X-MEN, it was Raimi's approach that set the mold.
Besides the EVIL DEAD and SPIDER-MAN franchises, Raimi made lots of other innovative flicks, including the dark A SIMPLE PLAN and THE GIFT, the surprisingly good revisionist western THE QUICK & THE DEAD (which gave co-star Russell Crowe one of his first big roles), the classic DARKMAN, and even a surprisingly straightforward Kevin Costner Baseball-flick, FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME. He's an interesting guy, and while his output has slowed a bit over recent years, Raimi's recent job on the Ash Vs Evil Dead pilot shows he hasn't lost a beat.
Of the three EVIL DEAD movies, I have a hard time deciding which one is the best. While the first is certainly the most innovative, and the second is probably the scariest, I can't help but give the edge to ARMY OF DARKNESS. While the first two were relatively legit horror films (with some big laughs), ARMY OF DARKNESS is pretty much a straight-up comedy/fantasy mash-up, with Bruce Campbell's iconic Ash turned into a kind of wise-cracking send-up of the type of alpha-male action heroes that were all the rage at the time this was made. Certainly, ARMY OF DARKNESS has all the best lines, including the iconic “this, is my BOOM-stick!”. And of course, “yo, she-bitch. Let's go.”
While I'm sure this will be a controversial choice given that I praised Raimi's direction in my opening paragraphs, I always felt the SPIDER-MAN movies were somewhat overrated. Yes, Raimi took the movies seriously, and yes, Tobey Maguire was an excellent choice to play Peter Parker. However, the first movie (if you watch it again) is pretty uneven, while the much-maligned third is an absolute mess (although – oddly – the one that feels the most like a Sam Raimi movie). The only one that really works (for me anyways) is SPIDER-MAN 2.
Raimi's done a few movies I'd call underrated, including his recent DRAG ME TO HELL (where has Alison Lohman gone?). However, the one that really gets the short-end-of-the-stick is A SIMPLE PLAN. While critically acclaimed, it's become one of Raimi's most obscure films, but it contains some of his best work. Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda are great in this pitch-black morality tale, where Paxton and Thornton discover millions in stolen drug money, and must resist the temptation to betray each other and spend the money without alerting the authorities or the men the money belongs to. The score by long-time Raimi collaborator Danny Elfman is one of his best.
It's hard to just pick one scene out of ARMY OF DARKNESS to call “the best” but for me one of Raimi's most manic and brilliantly directed sequences is the bit where Ash fights a bunch of tiny Ash's and then one big, “bad Ash”. Bruce Campbell's one-man Three Stooges shtick is classic. It's crazy this guy never became a megastar.
While Raimi doesn't have his next movie officially lined-up yet, he did find the time to help put together Ash Vs. Evil Dead (read my review!), with him being an EP, writer and the director of the first episode. The show premieres on Starz on Halloween, so don't miss it!
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...