Sunday, 3 September 2017

Land of the Deadites (4 Stars)

This is a fan-made documentary about the Evil Dead trilogy (1983-1992), with an introduction by the ultra-fanboy Joe Bob Briggs. (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him that). It shows how these groundbreaking films have influenced filmmakers, actors, artists and musicians over the last 30 years. Most of the footage seems to have been filmed at horror conventions or on site in Morristown, Tennessee, the location where the first film was made.

I'm a dedicated fan of the films, so a lot of what was said in the documentary wasn't new to me. I was late on board. If I remember correctly, I first saw "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2" in 1999 "Army of Darkness" a few years later. "Army of Darkness" was the first ever DVD I bought in 2003. I added "Evil Dead 2" to my collection shortly afterwards, but "Evil Dead" itself was out of print at the time, so I had to rely on a videotape recording from the television for a couple of years.

What was new to me was the information about Morristown. I knew the name of the town, but it meant nothing to me. To someone living in Europe all small American towns look the same. The documentary states that the original cabin used in the first film burnt down, but it doesn't say when it happened, so I had to do a little online research. It burnt down in 1982, which is before almost anyone had seen it. The film premiered in 1981, but it wasn't given a general release until 1983, which is the year most commonly attributed to the film.

The Evil Dead cabin in 1979.
The Evil Dead cabin today.
The land where the remains of the cabin stand are now fenced off with No Trespassing signs, but that doesn't deter faithful pilgrims from visiting the site. Unfortunately, the destruction is continuing. The not-so-faithful pilgrims have been removing bricks from the surviving fireplace. I feel like a hypocrite. I criticise them, but if I were there I would probably pocket a small brick as well. Maybe it's the right thing to do. Does the property owner have any feeling towards this site? If not, he may decide to build a hunting lodge and simply throw away the remaining bricks to make room.

The land owner's connection to "Evil Dead" may be in doubt, but the same can't be said of Morristown itself. The sporadic tourism by film buffs is good for the town's economy. With some amusement a fan stated that a church in the town has a notice board with the words "Join Us". This is far removed from the days of the English decency campaigner, who called "Evil Dead" the most evil film ever made. Today even Christians give a sly wink when they criticise it.

The documentary is well-made and informative, but too short, running only 39 minutes plus final credits. A subject of this importance deserves more coverage.

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