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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Evil Dead (1981)

It is impossible to overstate how fond I am of this film and its subsequent franchise. One of the proudest entries in my costume design resume is Evil Dead: the Musical! I have a Very Large Army of Darkness poster that I got at GenCon (when it was still in Milwaukee) that hangs on the wall of my office at the university. I have several Evil Dead shirts. I've made myself an Ash costume for Halloween. And so much more.


I grew up on Bruce Campbell via syndication. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr was a mainstay in our house. Then I found out he was on Hercules: the Legendary Journies so I started watching that. And then Xena. Jack of All Trades. All of it. Then I got to college and someone in my new group of nerd friends had an Evil Dead 2 t-shirt and I gasped and pointed and yelled "IS THAT BRUCE CAMPBELL?!" And after taking a moment to be amused that I knew Bruce but not his biggest claim to fame, my friends introduced me to a Whole New World.


Army of Darkness is my favorite of the trilogy because it is so very my sense of humor. And while I recognize Evil Dead 2 is the best film... The Evil Dead is the film that I cherish. It is a through and through labor of love. A bunch of movie nerds had a lot of good ideas and they wanted to make a horror movie so by god they made a horror movie. I've read If Chins Could Kill, Bruce Campbell's autobiography multiple times and so I am very aware of the struggles of filming this flick. It makes me think of the stupid lengths I've gone to to get a show off the ground. It makes me think of my students biting off WAY MORE than they can chew. It makes me think of the long hours Ben puts into planning our D&D games. And I adore that. Creativity is like a religion to me at this point and the best way to observe that faith is to work at it and, frankly, to fail at it. Or, rather, to feel like you're failing. Teaching has taught me that we learn best from stumbling, but our fuck ups are rarely as bad as they feel. Success right out the gate is just luck. And Evil Dead is so much falling short (said in the most loving way possible). The pacing is off, it doesn't realize it needs to be a comedy, Ash is too stupid to survive, but there is love in every frame and ingenuity and courage so I love every second of it (with the exception of the attack on Cheryl... which I grow less comfortable with every time I see it...).



I pride myself on being the gore queen of my tiny theater market and I learned so much from this movie. (I also spent hours and hours studying it frame by frame when I designed the musical so I have a deep appreciation for those effects that they pulled off with way less technology at their disposal than I had.) The gore is honestly the thing Evil Dead does most confidently (okay, second to beating the crap out of Bruce Campbell). It's disgusting and the pacing of it does a terrific job of pushing the audience back and forth between horror and uncomfortable guffawing. A tough balance! I'm forever in awe of the ideas they had and that they figured out how to accomplish them. The stop motion makeup on Linda's pencil wound is just one of the coolest things I've ever seen.


Block print. Ink on paper.


Takeaways:

-It's honestly hardest when I come away from completing a piece only feeling "meh" about it. Love, awesome. Hate, there's learning to be done. But Meh? Just tough to deal with.

-Not that this is bad. It's not. I took a BIG swing with trying to do the lights and shadows in one block. I asked a lot of myself and am mostly thrilled with how it turned out. It just lost something when I added the blood, which of course is what this movie is all about.

-I'm also thrilled with accomplishing this in a week that has been A Lot. Most nights after work, all I wanted to do was work on this but I had work stuff to deal with at home.

-If I were to do it again, I would do everything but the blood as a reduction print so I could do layers of grey in there. But that's about it. This is the most detailed block I've done to date and I'm mostly chuffed.


Next week, quintessential horror film, Scream. There's already a tentative plan in place for this one and I'm so excited for it!


Until then, I hope you get to feel really alive. Love, laughter, scaring yourself silly and then laughing yourself silly. It'll be okay.




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