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Mad, Bad and Bloody Films: When Crazy Becomes Sheer Brilliance
Some films are mad. They wouldn't know plot if they were holding a dictionary in their hands. Each new scene gives another twisting wrench to your poor bewildered brain and afterwards you're not quite sure if you actually watched a movie or had some kind of lucid cheese-induced nightmare.
Some films are bad. It's unfortunate, but some just are. Especially if they lack the budget (although that is not to say that there haven't been some masterpieces made on very little money) to have success in all that they attempt. Or they feature actors who spend much of the film alternating between two different facial expressions and delivering lines in a monotone.
Then there are films that combine the mad, the bad, and a liberal mix of prothestics, animatronics, stop-motion and barrels of fake blood -- and it's a delicate mix, a balance that only some achieve -- to transcend the parts into a whole that is sheer brilliance.
This a brief look at some of the films that fall into this elusive place, including: the 1988 version of The Blob, an 80s animatronics body-horror fest; the cult-classic The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II that made the chainsaw-shotgun combo infamous; Peter Jackson's (yes, that's right, Lord of the Rings, King Kong Jackson) asbolutely bonkers, blood-soaked Braindead, or Dead Alive as it is also known; and finally, Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky. More on this final film shortly.
The Blob Summary
- Mad: Most definitely
- Bad: Ambitious animatronics and a decently scoped film in all.
- Bloody: People literally being dissolved by goo.
- Overall Crazy Rating: 7
Say the words "The Blob" to anyone and there are probably few who don't immediately think of that amorphous ball of pink goo, oozing and squeezing through cracks and submerging people into its gelatinous insides. As far as horror figures go, it is fairly iconic (and certainly recognisable). It first appeared on the silver screen in 1958, battling against Steve McQueen in his debut leading role.
In 1988 the film was remade, following a similar storyline to the original. The big difference between this is and its predecessor is that this film has an awesome amount of 80s animatronics and body horror.
Side note: Body horror was especially big during the 70s and 80s. It refers to the destruction, mutilation, or mutation of body parts. It can also refer to the changing of body parts in monsters and creatures. Think of John Carpenter's The Thing, or Alien).
This film is much bloodier and much more grotesque than the original. The reason it has secured a place on this list is because of one scene in particular, involving a fully grown man and the narrow space of a garbage disposal chute. Enter a long scene of the former being pulled into the latter. The Blob in this version also has the tendancy to dissolve people, which can lead to the breaking off of limbs or the discovering of half-consumed bodies. The amount of effort involved to create such things should always be considered in these kinds of films. The burns one character sustains, for example, took seven hours to apply on the actor playing him. The creation of the crazy animatronic monstrosities and its dissolved victims must have taken even longer. It is a lurid and gruesome film and will be certainly enjoyable for anyone with a soft spot for 80s style effects and blob-related horror.
The Evil Dead Summary
- Mad: Bonkers. Laughing deer head.
- Bad: First film rather budget; with the second, more money = more blood, more stop-animation Deadites.
- Bloody: Fountains of blood gushing out of the wall.
- Overall Crazy Rating: 8
The Evil Dead was first released in 1981, a somewhat small, budget film, having only a modest $400,000 spent on it. Written and directed by Sam Raimi (whose later credits include the Spiderman films), it followed the simple but always effective plot of college teenagers stuck in an isolated cabin with the forces of evil. Gore, terror and graphic violence follows; so much so that the film faced major opposition in the U.S, being saved by a European Company that brought it to the Cannes Film Festival market.
This first furore into the Evil Dead is, yes, silly and somewhat over the top at times, and for a generation raised primarily on CGI effects, the claymation dissolving of Deadites towards the end can seem laughable (but for anyone who's a fan of Ray Harryhausen's creations, it's a treat). But at the same time this film has genuinely scary moments, with Deadites popping up suddenly and some nice tension-creating scenes as the human to Deadite ratio becomes ever more one sided. Creeping around shadowy huts is bad enough; creeping around demon-infected cellars under said huts is even worse. Also, depending on which version one watches, there is also a harrowing scene involving a perverted forest.
Six years later, Evil Dead II was released.
One immediate difference to the first film is that Evil Dead II is classed as a comedy horror film. And it is damn hilarious at times (and again, quite scary at others). In the first ten minutes, the film pretty much rewrites and re-covers the entire first movie entirely. Ash Williams -- played by the legend that is Bruce Campbell -- was the sole, kick-ass survivor of the previous film. Here, it restarts again prior to the death of his girlfriend Linda; she was also present previously, but unfortunately was Deadite-d. Ash and Linda are this time the only ones to go to the cabin, rather than the group of five college friends. Things go wrong in a similar fashion to before, with Linda getting possessed and Ash having to deal with his demonised girlfriend. Cue the first hilarious scenes where she dances around outside the cabin, her severed head just about keeping up with her twirling body.
Although he manages to dispatch his Deadite lover, he does unfortunately sustain a bite to his hand, which leads into the next hilarious section where he's forced to battle with his own possessed body part, ultimately having to cut it off. In a completely bonkers scene, he and his animate hand engage in some total Tom and Jerry-esque incidents, only with much more blood.
Eventually a new set of characters turn up to the cabin, interrupting Ash's spiraling maddness but also mistaking him as a crazed murderer (although you can't really blame them) and throwing him into the cellar with quite frankly horrifying old woman Deadite. With more people back in the cabin, it's not long before more demons, violence and death ensue.
This second film is much less serious than the first, very tongue-in-cheek at times and as such is definitely the more enjoyable. But the first paved the way for everything that makes the entire Evil Dead trilogy insanely brilliant (the 1992 Army of Darkness is the third film, and changes pace quite a lot from the previous two films, more of a -- entirely bizarre --medieval adventure and still very much worth a viewing) and is for everyone who enjoys their horror with a large slice of barmy.
- Mad: Completely off its head. Just when you think you've said "What?!" enough times, the next scene happens.
- Bad: Bad?! This film exudes awesome prothestics!
- Bloody: Generally considered the goriest film out. Regardless whether this is true or not, there's a lot of blood. Mind-blowing amounts.
- Overall Crazy Rating: 9
If the previous two films at least make some attempt at seriousness, Braindead is a film that says to hell with all that. For starters, the thing that starts off the zombie virus, for what of a description, is the disgusting offspring of monkeys raped by plague rats on a far off island. Anyone who has seen even a handful of zombie films knows that there are different kinds that involve different ways of killing them. Braindead's undead is the most tenacious of the lot -- if you don't completely pulverise them, they'll just keep coming. You might find yourself fighting an angry pair of lungs and intestines. Seriously.
As with most films, this one follows the start of an outbreak of zombie-ism and its inevitable spread. Our protognist Lionel lives with his overbearing mother who begins to get jealous about his developing relationship with a local shop girl. She follows them to the zoo, and there she receives the fateful -- and fatal -- bite from the Rat-Monkey.
Lionel, being the faithful son, tries to look after his mother as she literally falls to pieces, through methods every good child would use: glueing skin back onto her face and keeping her docile with animal injections. If you're already thinking "What?!", the film has barely started with the madness yet. As other people are turned, Lionel desperately tries to keep them hidden from the rest of the townsfolk, even creeping back to his mother's grave after her 'funeral' to keep giving her the injections. It is here that he meets perhaps the most ass-kicking vicar ever to appear in a film.
The film climaxes in a party being staged at Lionel's house, where every single guest except for him and his female friend are turned into zombies. Prepare for, as mentioned, an animate pair of lungs, legs running around by themselves, partial heads sliding around the floor and a zombie baby bursting through people's face. And Lionel's inventive use of a lawnmower which results in the bloodiest scene you're likely to ever see.
This all sounds quite gruesome, but it is created in such a way that only adds to the comic feel of the film. It is often replusive, often grotesque; it is a film that postively revels in prothestics and make-up, but in a delightfully hyperbolic way. And if none of this has made you want to watch it, it has the strangest ending imaginable. One that would make Freud beam with pride.
- Mad: It barely knows what a plot is. Everything that happens is absolutely, completely baffling...and awesome.
- Bad: So bad that it may be the most brilliant film ever created.
- Bloody: Not as liberal with the blood, but certainly...creative.
- Overall Crazy Rating: There isn't a number yet invented.
This section will be brief. Otherwise, once it starts, it may never stop.
Some highlights from this film:
- A man punching through someone's stomach.
- A man strangling someone else with their own intestines.
- Someone tying their own arm tendons back together.
- Someone randomly and arbitrarily turning into...some kind of...giant...demon...thing.
- A man leaping out of the ground and crushing an innocent by-stander's head with his bare hands. Just for fun, it would seem.
- Someone keeping mints on them for suitable occasions -- in their fake eyeball.
These may sound like horrible things to witness. They are not. They are some of the poorest special effects you are likely to see, even if one is casually browsing through the homiest of home-made videos on YouTube.
Add to this the poor, poor dubbing and subbing, which often don't meet up. The dubbing sounds like one man doing voices for every single character.
This film is so bad. It is entirely mad. It is bloody and violent and graphic in the poorest way possible. Which makes it the singular most entertaining film ever created.
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