Despite his wide-ranging directorial efforts taking on the western, superhero and crime genres, Sam Raimi has been, and probably always will be, best known for his contribution to the horror genre. Out of all our Masters of Horror, Raimi is the director with the smallest number of horror flicks to their name. But this makes him no less significant nor important than his peers, in fact, perhaps quite the opposite.
Like many of his fellow Masters of Horror, Sam Raimi began making short films from a very early age with his father's 8mm camera. To those who know his work it is perhaps not surprising to learn that his first early efforts were not horror-themed, but more in line with something you might expect from The Three Stooges. This slapstick style of physical comedy is something that would make its way into almost all of Raimi's movies in some shape or form. But, before we get into that, we must talk about that little movie he made at the tender age of just nineteen called Evil Dead (1981).
With his childhood friends (including longtime collaborator Bruce Campbell of course) Raimi set out to make his first feature-length movie. Starting with a short horror film as a means to secure funding, Raimi and co. started putting together one of the horror genre's most loved films. Initially met with a less-than-enthusiastic response on his home turf, Raimi took the film to Europe where it received a much warmer reception. Ironically its reputation was boosted thanks to the stuffy British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) banning the movie outright in the UK during the video nasties scare. Finally, after proving its worth in Europe, the film found a distributor in the US and was released to critical and commercial acclaim.
For any aspiring horror filmmakers out there, the story behind how Raimi and his cohorts financed and made Evil Dead (1981) is probably one of the most interesting, inspiring and motivating stories in horror movie history. Watching these young men put their heart and soul into something like this and succeeding is incredibly empowering - we challenge you to watch the making-of and not feel like you can go out and make your own horror movie the next afternoon.
Sam Raimi's next foray into the horror genre was with the seminal Evil Dead II (1987). A soft-reboot of the original with added slapstick, better effects and an overall more professional and polished finish, Evil Dead II took everything great from the first movie and just made it greater. It is often hailed as one of the few examples of where a sequel actually improves on its predecessor. Both critically and commercially a success, the movie demonstrated a unique, visionary young director at their absolute creative zenith. Raimi let loose with innovative camera work and direction, another trait that he would carry with him throughout his movie career; just watch the Dr. Octopus scene in Spiderman 2 without thinking of Evil Dead.
Next we have the critically divisive but cult favorite Army of Darkness (1992). The final movie in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead Trilogy (renamed to distance itself from the controversy of its predecessors) takes a completely different direction by sending our hapless hero Ash back in time and mixing fantasy with the guts, gore and slapstick we’ve come to know and love from the franchise. Upon release it received fairly positive reviews but nothing compared to the first two installments. But since then it has become a massive cult favorite. Make sure you check out the alternate ending for this too.
With a highly-anticipated and much celebrated return to the horror genre, Sam Raimi reminded us all why he is one of our favorite Masters of Horror with the visceral, hilarious and brilliant Drag Me to Hell (2009). With the trademark camerawork, effective scares and plenty of gore, Drag Me to Hell is everything we love about Sam Raimi and his unique take on horror.
Aside from his contributions to the superb Ash vs Evil Dead series, Raimi has been away from the horror genre way too long as far as HorrorRated is concerned. We get the occasional tease that something may happen - there were discussions in 2013 about a fourth installment to the Evil Dead series with Sam Raimi positing a direct sequel to Army of Darkness. More rumors resurfaced shortly after this that Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead 2013) and Sam Raimi were in discussions about another installment involving Ash and Mia (the heroine from Alvarez' excellent remake). Sadly nothing has come of this yet. It's okay, we've got Ash vs Evil Dead to keep us going which is more than enough. But we’re sure HorrorRated aren’t the only ones pining for Raimi's return to horror.
Sam Raimi Horror Movies
The Evil Dead
Released: 15 Apr 1983 |
Director: Sam Raimi
Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.