I wanted to start Evil Dead Month off with a bang and I figured there’d be no better way to do that than to lay my cards out on the table and rank the films in my order of preference. And I’ll say it – I fully expect some of you to hate me after this, because I make one choice that I’m sure 99% of you won’t be down with.
But it all comes from a place of love. You see, I legitimately love this series and this includes the “weaker” installments as well. When I first saw Army Of Darkness in theaters, I had no idea that it was part of a franchise (let alone the one whose Evil Dead 2 print ad scared the hell out of me whenever I opened the paper in grade school). I just went because the TV ads looked cool, and I suppose I should thank the guy at the box office now – because there’s no way my friends and I looked old enough to get in.
Needless to say we loved Army, put two and two together that it was a sequel, and rented Evil Dead 2. That was a revelation. It was like the movies we were trying to make in our backyards, full of energy, weird camera shots and an idiosyncratic tone all its own. The only difference? Evil Dead 2 was amazing and our movies were terrible! Still, I remember the high that I got from watching it. That film connected with me on a level that few films had up until that pint.
So, with that bit of history and context, head inside for my Evil Dead Rankings!!!
4: ARMY OF DARKNESS
I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Army Of Darkness, but I have to admit that I find it to be the weakest of these films. Not that it’s bad, mind you. It isn’t. In fact, for the first couple of reels it’s downright great. It starts off every bit as funny and exciting as some of the best parts of Evil Dead 2 and it handles the wider scope with aplomb. But it always starts to deflate for me at the 27 minute mark, around the time Ash enters the mill. I can’t stand the “little Ashes” for some reason, and even though the idea of a “bad Ash” is interesting in a thematic sense, it’s not explored deeply enough to justify extending this sequence to the 6 or 7 minute mark.
While Army Of Darkness regains its footing towards the end with its massive battle, it never fully learns how to make the medieval setting engage Ash in an interesting way beyond its initial “fish out of water” conceit. Again, I’m not slamming the movie. I’m just saying that what starts out as an “A+” effort eventually ends up as more of a “B-“.
3: DRAG ME TO HELL – HONORARY FRANCHISE MEMBER
Ok, this is where I lose a lot of you guys. You may even hate me for it – but hear me out first. I pretty much consider Drag Me To Hell to be an Evil Dead film. Sure it doesn’t have Ash (nether does the remake, of course) nor does it take place in a cabin (or in a rural environment for that matter). Oh, and it’s PG-13, which automatically makes it suck, right? Not so. This is one of the best horror movies of the last 10 years and it’s certainly one of the most fun. It manages to capture so much of the Evil Dead tone and spirit that it deserves its place as an honorary member of the franchise. Sure, it might not be as fun to watch poor Alison Lohman be tortured as it is to see Bruce Campbell get put through the ringer, but it’s close!
I’d feel guilty about further explaining my feelings on this without quoting Devin Faraci – who made the point first in his review, “You can stop asking Sam Raimi when he’s going to make Evil Dead 4. He’s already done it… once you see a psychic’s assistant get possessed and do that familiar Deadite dance, you’ll know that this film takes place in the same universe where the Necronomicon Ex Mortiis can open the portal between the living and the dead or send a hapless hero back in time. And that universe is the madness inside Sam Raimi’s imagination.”
I agree with every word of that. How about you?
2: THE EVIL DEAD
While it’s not as comedic by any stretch, much of what works in The Evil Dead made its way into Evil Dead 2. It has the same charm, stemming largely from the fact that it’s constructed by a bunch of early 20-somethings who just wanted to make something. A lot of the most inspired music comes from people who didn’t read the instruction manuals for their instruments, and the same could be said for what happened here. Raimi wasn’t a film student, but an English major with an itch. He’d been shooting Super 8 films since childhood and here you get the playful sense of someone operating on gut instinct. While this film’s ability to scare has diminished somewhat with age, it’s never less than a blast to watch.
1: EVIL DEAD 2
The one that made the biggest impression on me as a youth still holds up today. Not only is it a remarkable film but, more often than not, it’s what people have in mind when they refer to the Evil Dead franchise. It has an inspired sense of lunacy that threatens to careen off the rails at any moment, and yet it’s 100% cinematic. While it’s largely a comedy, it has plenty of gore and even manages to raise the stakes for its supporting characters – you actually feel for the likes of Bobby Joe. After making Crimewave, Sam Raimi returned to the franchise with chops to spare. And, of course, there’s Bruce Campbell giving one of the most physically inspired (and surely exhausting) performances in the history of horror.
What about you? How would you rank the Evil Dead films?