The Film That Made Me would have to be Rosemary's Baby. That movie is REAL, scary, gets under your skin, but is also ridiculous and SURREAL. Before Rosemary's Baby I thought all horror movies were schlock (I love schlock by the way). After Rosemary's Baby I sought out all things Polanski, including Repulsion, which has to be The Second Film that Made Me, followed by Freaks, and then that whole wave starting with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Back in the day there were no video stores, no internet, no cable. If you wanted to see a film you had to actually go to a theatre! To see something like all of Ingmar Bergman's films or all of Fellini's films or Bunuel's, you had to go to a lot of work and be a real nut…which I was. Those three were the true greats at telling stories that incorporate both the conscious and subconscious. I still watch their films regularly and I'd put Polanski right up with them.
Fifth grade. Heather’s sleepover birthday party. I was a book nerd and surprised I’d been invited. This may have still been in the years of my giant, pink-framed glasses. Maybe it was sixth grade. I don’t remember before yesterday’s lunch-o-guacamole and coffee (sucks to that assmar of a combo), let alone uber specifics on prepubescent parties. What you need to know is that Heather’s parents totally let her rent HORROR MOVIES.
A basement tween squall was quieted by Heather holding up a black VHS case that featured a skull with EYEBALLS. The movie was Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and it changed my brain.....
A gaggle of girls sat down for a scare. When next I looked up, no one was there.
No one gave a shit about Evil Dead 2. Fifteen minutes into the movie, ladies started leaving. Snacks were to be had, nails to be glitterized, there was probably a Ouija board somewhere, and oh my GAWD did you know Heather had a hottie older brother in high school who wore his jeans sagged off his ass and spiked his hair? ::MEGA BLUSH:: All of these things – I cared about them when I was 10, but I cared more that this movie…this Evil Dead 2…it was something my dad would’ve never allowed me to watch.
A brief, incomplete list of what my dad would’ve hated about Evil Dead 2:
A chainsaw hand
A head in a vice
A bulbous-eyed cellar ghoul
A maniacally laughing deer head
Blood filling a light bulb
No. He would’ve been more pissed about the blood ENDLESSLY GUSHING from a wall that a disembodied hand scampered behind.
I didn’t love Evil Dead 2 because my dad would’ve hated it. I mean, that didn’t hurt, but I loved it because it made horror – a genre I had formerly been taught was AWFUL and for BAD PEOPLE – and made it hilarious, relatable, and so violent that the brutality became surreal camp. Dave Kehr, of the Chicago Tribune, said in his ’87 review that Evil Dead 2 is “…a ghoulish splatter comedy that uses wildly excessive gore to provoke the kind of shock that lies between a laugh and a scream.” To continue and paraphrase through Roger Ebert, some folks (like my dad) would think that the movie is in bad taste. Others know it is about bad taste.
What horror movie had the most influence over my writing? The Exorcist? Beetlejuice? The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? Nothing But Trouble? The Thing? I dunno, but Evil Dead 2 was the first horror movie I can remember watching and I felt changed. Rewired. Suddenly, I had Dark, Obscure Knowledge and the world felt Bigger and Full of Weirdoes Like Me.
I salute you, Evil Dead 2. You are one of the main reasons I am drawn to camp, filth, excess, inside jokes, the outrageous, and art that stylistically pushes boundaries.
P.S. – Holy crap. Have you seen Lee Hardcastle’s claymation Evil Dead 2 homage starring cats? It is frikkin fabulous. <3
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Author Bio: PATTY TEMPLETON is roughly 25 apples tall and 11,000 cups of coffee into her life. She wears red sequins and stomping boots while writing, then hits up back-alley dance bars and honky tonks. Her stories are full of ghosts, freaks, fools, underdogs, blue collar heroes, and never giving up, even when life is giving you shit. She won the first-ever Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award and has been a runner-up for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. Her first novel, There Is No Lovely End, was recently released.
Say hi to her over at her site, Tumblr, or Twitter.