Wednesday, October 05, 2005

David Lemiux reviews Evil Dead II

From USA Weekend:

DVD Insider
Grave situation

A Deadhead watches the cult horror classic "Evil Dead II."


The plot: Directed by Sam Raimi (of the "Spider-Man" movies), 1987's wonderfully schlocky "Evil Dead II" is one of the most beloved horror movies of all time. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend, Linda (Denise Bixler), stumble upon a remote cabin and accidentally conjure up demons using the ancient "Book of the Dead." After Linda becomes possessed, Ash must battle the evil forces using shovels, shotguns and plenty of chainsaws.

Insider's credentials: David Lemieux may be the world's most knowledgeable Grateful Dead fan. Since 1999, he has worked as the band's archivist, cataloging and releasing a literal vault full of live sound and video recordings. Lemieux has seen the Grateful Dead in concert 101 times.

Overview: "Evil Dead II was a fun movie. A friend said to me, 'Wow, you liked that movie?' Yeah, I did. It reminded me of something [former lead guitarist] Jerry Garcia said. Jerry was asked how he accounted for the band's popularity, and he said the Dead is a lot like black licorice. For people who like it, they love it. And those who don't, they really don't like it."

Scene 1: THE Book/Main Titles -- Viewers are introduced to the "Book of the Dead," a creepy tome inked in blood that curses anyone who encounters it.

"Fans talk that there's a curse surrounding the band's keyboardist. [Original member] Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan got sick and died. Keith Godchaux died a year after leaving the band. Brent Mydland died three days after returning from a show. And then there's this band, Darkstar Orchestra. They're a Dead tribute band, and their keyboardist died a couple months ago. So yeah, whenever a new keyboardist joined up [with the Dead], fans were like, 'Man, I wouldn't take that gig!' "

Scene 6: Dance Macabre -- After being possessed, then raised from the dead, Linda's body performs a grotesque dance.
"When Linda starts dancing, the first thing I'm thinking is, 'My gosh, that's a dancing skeleton.' One of the primary Dead art icons is the dancing skeleton. It comes from the band's name. Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse were the two big San Francisco poster artists back in the '60s. When the band changed their name from the Warlocks to the Grateful Dead, they needed some posters. So, they requested artwork from Kelly and Mouse, and what they came up with was a skull and roses. From that developed other skull and skeleton imagery."

Extra Feature: "Evil Dead II: Behind-the-Screams" -- A documentary reveals how the gore-heavy effects were created and that the movie, oddly, was filmed on a set built inside a rural middle school gym.

"The Grateful Dead played in school gyms plenty of times. Going back to 1965 in the Bay area, most of their shows were in high school gyms. Then, in 1970 and 1971, they did some tours where they hit colleges. The band was big enough to play arenas, but they wanted to get the young crowd, people who'd be listening to Dead music for 25 years. Where this movie was filmed was exactly the type of 4,000-seat place they'd play."

-- Reed Tucker

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