Rebellious young Judy (Marta Alicia of Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure) is rebelling against Infinisynth, the mind-control company that provides her family with virtual-reality escapism via a data port in the back of their necks. She’s chastised by the Systems Operator for invading her mom’s dreams and soon expelled into the wastelands outside their cushy VR-fueled apartment building, where she’s discovered and protected by post-apocalyptic survivalist Bruce Campbell and threatened by a cult of underground mutants led by Angus Scrimm.

Angus displays his ID card:

Bruce displays a possum:

So it’s Ash vs. The Tall Man in a post-apocalyptic virtual-reality sci-fi/horror… in HD. But it’s poorly made, dingy looking and dull, all those promising ideas and cast members wasted on a movie that doesn’t quite work. At least it continues to get weirder, Angus having his mutants comb through the ruins of civilization for useful junk, occasionally sacrificing a mutant via his person-juicing-machine. He reveals that he’s Judy’s father and reveals his plan to repopulate the earth with her in the same scene. Bruce proves an ineffective protector, is fed to pirahnas. Then Angus says it was all a test, that he’s the SysOp of the VR universe and he wants his daughter to take over. Then that was all a dream – then that was all a dream. The Matrix and Existenz would use similar ideas with improved cinematography.

Judy’s mutant army:

Sleep pods from Je t’aime, je t’aime:

SysOp Guy Fieri:

Produced by the short-lived Fangoria Films, who at least attracted good casts, with Oliver Reed and Karen Black in their other early-90’s movies. From the director of Scanner Cop II and Hollywood Boulevard II (no way), written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (Terminator 3 and 4, The Net). At least something good came out of this movie – Bruce Campbell married the costume designer. Also, it appears to have invented the roomba.

Nice intro to the upcoming Alamo Drafthouse, a free outdoor double-feature at the nearby Sokol Ampitheater. I’ve seen these a bunch of times, but not lately.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Still more horror than comedy, but some over-the-top punishment and gore got chuckles from the crowd. Screened in its original 4:3 (I hadn’t realized there’s aspect-ratio controversy, but apparently Raimi advocates a cropped widescreen version). Don’t think I’d noticed before how great the music and sound is on this movie.

Cheryl is attacked by trees then possessed by demons and locked in the cellar. Shelly’s possessed next, dismembered by Scott. Linda gets possessed and finally she and Scott and Cheryl are all tormenting Ash, who takes no meaningful action until about the last 15 minutes when he beheads one of them and tosses the Necronomicon in the fire, causing the rest to decompose.

Evil Dead II (1987)

I love how ten minutes into the movie there’s only one living character and he’s possessed by demons. Fortunately two archaeologists and two local rednecks soon show up in order to get possessed and torment Ash some more… and of course Henrietta is discovered in the cellar. I wish this hadn’t been screened with singalong subtitles over the scenes that somebody found quotable, but it wasn’t too distracting. Bobbie Jo starred in the recent We Are What We Are remake and Ash’s girlfriend Linda married Steve Guttenberg.

The first Evil Dead came out the same year as The Howling, Scanners and Possession, though sequel-mania had already hit the genre, with Friday the 13th 2 and Omen 3 and Halloween 2. Raimi made the disappointing Crimewave before joining the sequel craze with Evil Dead II in 1987, which was my Year Zero of horror, with Hellraiser, The Gate, House II, Elm Street 3 and The Lost Boys.

Cowriter Scott Spiegel later made Intruder (“gore galore” says the IMDB review). Appropriately, Evil Dead II cinematographer Peter Deming shot Cabin in the Woods (and Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway!). Looks like Raimi hasn’t made anything since Drag Me to Hell, and those rumors of an Evil Dead remake and TV series never came to pass.

I suppose this was probably just as bad as Man With The Screaming Brain, but for that one I was in the theater, forced to contemplate its obvious, unfunny crappiness on the big, big screen surrounded by unquestioning fans who just came to get an autograph. This one I could half-pay attention to while searching the internet for Silkworm bootlegs, a much better idea.

image

Not even half as good as Maniac Cop, which kinda sucked, this stars Bruce as the cult version of himself (washed-up loser asshole with huge ego). He’s kidnapped from the set of his latest awful horror sequel by an obsessed fan who wants Bruce to save his small town from a resurrected Chinese warrior demon, which he sorta does, even though the kid awoke the thing himself by stealing some stone that he doesn’t think to just put back. Bruce is an anti-hero throughout, killing townsfolk with his cowardice and incompetence.

Ted Raimi plays a bunch of characters, including a couple offensive stereotypes:
image

Directed, of course, by Mr. Campbell, along with the writer of Time Cop, producer of Barb Wire, and cinematographer of Command & Conquer (the videogame series!), and a bunch of actors whose secret hopes that this would be their big break into the movies were surely dashed when they saw the premiere.

I was hoping for another inventive cult-classic a la Brain Damage or writer Larry Cohen’s The Stuff, but I got your standard, straightforward, low-budget horror-thriller with no invention or visual flair whatsoever.

There’s even nothing special about the performances, which is a real crime considering it stars Bruce Campbell (between Evil Deads 2 and 3), Tom Atkins (the cop in Night of the Creeps!), Richard Roundtree (Shaft!) and, um, Laurene Landon (It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive). Robert (“oh, z’no!”) Z’Dar is the titular cop and Sheree North (starred in Frank Tashlin’s The Lieutenant Wore Skirts 30 years earlier) is his crazy caretaker.

A maniac cop is terrorizing the city! Cop Bruce Campbell is cheating on his wife with a fellow cop, but surprisingly this is okay with the movie and Bruce’s wife is killed instead, the killer (actually his smarter mother-figure who works at police headquarters and tells him what to do) attempting to pin the murders on Bruce. There’s a making-of-the-monster backstory, lots more people are killed, then Bruce busts out of jail and chases the maniac cop, who accidentally kills himself… but is he really dead??? Spoiler alert: no.

Bruce Campbell didn’t do it, nobody saw him do it, you can’t prove anything
image

Tom Atkins’ gun is a tiny film projector
image

Sam Raimi, reporter
image

The only novelty death: man’s face shoved in wet concrete
image

This was huge-faced Z’Dar’s big break, landing him the highly desirable role of Joe Estevez’s sidekick in Soultaker two years later
image