Strangely, the first Sam Raimi film I ever saw was the third in his Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness. This was shortly before the release of Spider-Man, and my father had enthused about Army of Darkness – in fact, it was and still is one of his favourite films. The film’s camp and cheese appealed to him greatly, and it’s easy to see why. Army of Darkness is great fun, which goes for most of Raimi’s career.
Raimi’s Spider-Man films stand out in his filmography, surrounded by comedy-horror and dramas like A Simple Plan. However, his unique touch is easily distinguishable, particularly through how cheesy so much of them are. It explains misguided efforts like Peter Parker’s emo-tinged dance stroll in Spider-Man 3, but also hilarious moments like, “Punch me, I bleed,” in Spider-Man 2. Watching the series now, it really feels as if Raimi was not taking it too seriously, which is a compliment. He knows how to play cheese straight, but you sense the smirk hiding underneath.
After that, Raimi returned to his roots, so to speak, with Drag Me to Hell, an equally fun and frightening horror that played off his strength of mixing tension and fear with laughs and gross-out moments. In my mind, Raimi is a king of the B-movie, and he works best inside this comfort zone, as opposed to dull dramas like For Love of the Game. Or whatever Oz the Great and Powerful was, since I didn’t bother seeing it as I had other things to do like edge ever closer to death.
Earlier this year, Raimi and Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell announced that they are working on Army of Darkness 2. However it ends up, I know my dad will be there in line, waiting to laugh and be frightened in equal measure.
Watch Evil Dead II on Netflix.