Creator of Creatures, Monsters and Demons.

Why I love the Evil Dead!

Star Wars and Evil Dead are the two movies that I will always remember seeing for the first time. They have had such a massive influence on me. 

 

I’ll leave Star Wars for another day.

Let me tell you the tale of The Evil Dead.

Circa 1983.

Friday 4.00 pm, after school.

Two Kids jump in the car with their Dad.

They Drive to Frank’s Video Store.

As they open the door, excited for the evening’s choice of entertainment, they are confronted with a green and red poster for a new horror movie.

The ultimate experience in gruelling terror.

Dan is transfixed….

I love the Evil Dead. I love every gory, daft minute of it. I love all the other stuff that has followed, even the remake. It may not have the fun element as the original, but it’s still a great horror movie for a modern audience. Throw rancid meat at me if you wish, but there you go.

I always loved horror movies. My parents as well. They would always let us stay up late on a Friday to watch the horror double bill on BBC2 ( Tales from The Crypt, Hammer Movies, etc). We used to pick up copies of House of Hammer,  2000ad, and random US comics from particular newsagents when we went into the main town with my parents. Sometimes copies of Fangoria would appear on the shelves, though not very often. It was full of fantastic monsters and gore-ridden images that I was transfixed by. I never really thought I would get the chance to see any of them as I was wayyyyy too young and most never got distribution in the UK.   

When VHS rental shops opened in the UK, it was a dream come true for my genre movie-loving family. We would go to Franks Video store with my mum and dad and peruse the myriad of choices. Especially the horror sci-fi and fantasy covers. Some with incredible artwork, some with pretty dreadful pre photoshop designs but they still managed to grab us. Those early days were like the Wild West for distributors. The video recording act had not reared its ugly head yet so it was a free-for-all all concerning the content. We would pick up titles like The Exterminator, Death Wish, The Bogeyman, Warriors of the Year 3000, Rome 2014, Sword and The Sorcerer. Zombie Flesh Eaters, Ghoulies, and god knows how many I can’t even remember now. 

At the tender age of 13, it was an absolute hoot! My parents were pretty laid back, thank gawd. I filled my boots every weekend.  

The Evil Dead was eventually banned in the UK, but luckily, I managed to see it in all its glory before the dreadful Mary Whitehouse and her gang at the NVLA got it on the infamous  Video Nasty banned list!!! 

The poster blew me away when I walked into the store. I dived among the shelves looking for a copy.  I will always remember the Palace Pictures Logo on the spine of the garish wonderfully illustrated cover. I was to Discover the artist Graham Humphries some years later. The cover image was so different from anything else on the shelves. I think it struck a chord as I was obsessed with horror and sci-fi art. Both myself and my brother always picked up art books from publishers such as  Paper Tiger and we always got some for birthdays and Christmas.  I was obsessed with the Frank Frazetta stuff. That’s a whole other story for another time. 

Back to the movie. I’m not going to go into the plot or the making of it. If you’re reading this and know my work, you will already know all that stuff!

I’m still not 100% sure why it had such an effect on me and still has. As a kid, I had always wanted to get involved in Special and Makeup effects. Especially The Special Makeup effects. However, everything you needed seemed inaccessible or only from America. 

Evil Dead’s effects gave me a whole new view. The Zombies looked horrific and nasty but with weird comic book horror black and blue colour. The ending just blew my mind. Plasticine?? Stop motion?? Gore?? Something I had been using in my model making, but never thought I would see it used for anything else other than Morph ( UK readers of a certain age will get this reference!) 

I rewatched it over the weekend ( Frank had a 3 movie rental deal for the weekend) as much as I could. It was such a frenetic, mad, blood-splattered roller coaster ride I could not get enough of.   I tried to figure out how they had done everything. I drew those deadites at every opportunity. I started making gorey appliances using plasticine and tissue paper.

I became obsessed with Special Makeup effects after seeing it, making anything and everything with plasticine, tissue paper, and PVA glue. I even took a deadite severed head to school for a talk about hobbies. It spat blood out of a tube I stole from my dad’s beer-making kit. I loved every minute of it.

Alas, a career in this field was not to be. There was not much of a horror movie industry in the UK and even less of a  chance of getting a job in that field in the North of England. America was far, far away to 13 years old and so, seemingly, was London.  

Why the Evil Dead? Who knows!!!. For whatever reason, it was just the right movie at the right time for me. The story, the imagery, the fun, and the black shiny VHS case with its luminescent artwork just give me such a nostalgic hit, reminding me of great times and fun nonsense. Considering how bad it was in the UK at the time! 

Even as the Franchise got more money and upped the gore ( Evil Dead 2) or the stop motion ( Army of Darkness) and everything that followed, that original movie seemed to have buried its nonsense deep into my brain. I insisted that my kids watch it( they all love it!) but my ever-wonderful spouse has not. ( she does not like horror movies, especially gory ones. However, she does like Star Wars!)

Still, I continue to create my horror-based images of monsters and creeping dead things. The Graham Humphries poster hangs directly in front of my drawing desk. Some Ash and Deadite figures stare at me from the shelves. I have both of Bruce Campbell’s biographies.  I’ll have a brew with the Book of the Dead illustrated mug my eldest daughter made me several years ago. It’s a bit worn and knackered now ( like me).  

I watch it at least a couple of times a year. It’s a great way to get my head back in the game if I’m struggling for inspiration. It’s always my go-to film if I’m feeling unwell (Covid!!!) 

If you have not watched it for a while, I urge you to get a copy, or grab the one you probably have on the shelf, and do so. It will remind you of a time when horror movies were fun and not all based on high-concept jump scares. Also, I think it will remind you that if you put your mind to it and a bit of good luck, anything is possible.

So, go create something and have fun!

Bill Warren’s Book The Evil Dead Companion is a great read if you want to know more about how this bunch of misfits made this gem.

Here’s a link to a documentary: Making the Evil Dead

There is a great article on the Books of The Dead site about Palace pictures. 

Finally, if you want to get a feel of the 1980s Video Nasty Age in the UK, I heartily recommend reading Dead Leaves by Andrew David Barker. It concerns a kid’s search for an illegal copy of The Evil Dead after it was banned. A great snapshot of life at the time ( a lot was happening in the Thatcher Years ) and the obsession people had trying to get banned horror movies! Andrew is also a massive Evil Dead Fan!

You can here my podcast on this on my Patreon here page or on spotify here

,