by Truly Edison
horror-comedy legends Sam Raimi and the late George A. Romero - via Reddit
Sam Raimi has been one of my favorite directors since I was in high school, so I was really excited to finally sit down and watch The Evil Dead for the first time a couple of days ago. If this makes me sound like a poser, let me set the stage: when I was maybe seventeen years old and flirting with the idea of switching from pre-med to film, I stumbled across this interview he did on Youtube, probably related to some crappy WatchMojo video. In it, he was talking about The Evil Dead, which I’d heard of at the time, but never seen; my mom was a major horror buff in the 80s, so of course she’d talked about this great iconic horror comedy from when she was a teenager. I can’t actually find the link to this interview again, so hopefully I didn’t just spontaneously generate this somehow, but I remember it super clearly because Sam Raimi said that he really hadn’t intended for the first Evil Dead film to be funny at all. He was just as surprised to hear audiences laughing their heads off as were all of the Detroit citizens who had invested a total of $90,000 into the movie (and were more than a little angry with the results, having been promised a straight, bonafide horror movie).
So what does he do? He sits on that for a couple of years and then he makes Evil Dead 2. And Evil Dead 2 becomes revolutionary and genre-defining in the realm of horror-comedy—it becomes a horror-comedy on purpose, a redo.
Sam Raimi was nineteen when he directed The Evil Dead, the same age I am now. Maybe this is just me, but if I went to a screening of my first feature film (my very scary and genuine horror movie) and people started laughing at it, I’d probably burst into tears. I’d probably never want to make a movie--any movie—ever again. I think that there’s always something inherently vulnerable about making and sharing art; at the risk of sounding cliche, you’re sharing a part of yourself and offering it up for speculation and critique. Art is something that came out of you, that you produced, and even a cheesy genre film like The Evil Dead is art. But Sam Raimi didn’t burst into tears and swear off filmmaking forever—he took notes. He saw how people reacted to his film, he took that in, and he made Evil Dead 2.
To me there’s something very humble about that, that I have a lot of respect for. It speaks to a sort of awareness of the other truth about sharing art, one that’s a little harder to stomach: when you share art it stops being yours, even though it's something you created, a part of yourself. The version of The Evil Dead that exists in my head is different from the version of it that exists in Sam Raimi’s head, which is different from the version that exists in my mom’s head, which is different from the version that existed in Stephen King’s head when he wrote the 1982 review that got it a U.S distributor. When you share art you give up your control of it completely, and it takes on not just one life of its own but innumerable lives. Usually that’s not as dramatic as finding out you accidentally made a comedy, but it's still something any artist has to be able to live with, and which I think is a little harder to live with than anyone wants to admit to.
All of this is just my observation, of course, and my own feelings on the topic. But Spiderman trilogy or no Spiderman trilogy, Sam Raimi is one of those directors who has an unshakable place in the cultural atmosphere, and one that I think is well-deserved. I really admire him as an artist by virtue of how he seems to be able to reflect on how his own work is perceived, and how he seems to have come to terms with how little control he has over that perception. That kind of skill doesn’t always come naturally, and it's a skill I think is necessary for anyone dreaming of someday getting their work out there.