I was lucky enough to catch one of the first showings of the underground workshop production of Evil Dead 1 & 2 the Musical in 2003. This was very independent, a year prior to its off Broadway run in New York, it hadn't become known and trendy yet, which added to its sleazy charm. It was shown in the dingy basement of a theater in "The City", the seating a mish mash of folding, card, patio, and kitchen chairs. I was also lucky enough to sit in the front row, aptly named the Wet Zone, and got covered head to toe in the artificial grue and gore spraying from severed limbs and spinning chainsaw teeth. Its no different than the glee one derives from sitting in the front of the Zumba Flume water log ride. Except its red. Very, very red. And it doesn't wash out of cotton. And after this ride people on the street back away from you.
Prior to the show I noticed a very unassuming gentleman sitting by himself at a card table off to the side of the stage. I was sure I recognized him, and being the affable gent that I am I approached him. As I got closer I realized it was none other than Tom Sullivan, the man responsible for the make-up and visual effects of the Evil Dead Trilogy. I knew this for 2 reasons: 1) I am a huge geek, and in direct correlation to this, 2) I had met him a couple of years earlier at a convention. With a swig of my beer and a goofy grin I introduced myself, and stupidly reminded him we had met previously. He offered me a seat and then surprised me by remembering specifics of our previous conversation. Apparently I'd made him laugh. As he did not relate what specifically had caused this I became slightly self-conscious.
Then he asked me if I remembered the first time I'd seen Evil Dead.
And I did, because I saw it for the first time twice.
The first first time I saw it by myself, on videotape. It was 1982, maybe 83, March Break, both my parents were working, and my brother was out somewhere being an asshole. My mother is tightly religious and did not approve of my obviously satanic interest in all things horror, and therefore I was forbidden to watch anything other than Bela and Boris on the Saturday Creature Features, and this was allowed begrudgingly.
My father on the other hand, was thrilled that I wasn't playing with Barbies and was interested in normal boy things. Pops called me at home at lunch hour where I was probably pouring over the pages of a Famous Monsters Magazine, or doing some goofy kid stuff like designing my own Frankenstein's Monster using a Bic Four Color Retractable Ballpoint Pen, a legal sized pad of lined paper, and the latest obituaries. He directed me to go into the bottom drawer of his dresser and watch the videos that were hidden under his grossly oversized gitch.
I was nervous. First off, I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of rooting around in the old mans not-so-tighty-not-so-whities. Secondly, these unmarked cassettes had the dirty look about them of Something Taboo. This panicked me.
I popped the first tape in with some trepidation and waited for the FBI Warning to fade to black, a pillow clenched tightly to my chest. Let it be porn, don't let it be porn, no let it be porn, oh god...I was conflicted. When the title of The Evil Dead shimmered onto the grainy screen I exhaled violently, not realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time. All thoughts of random acts of celluloid coitus amongst housewives and tradesmen were quickly, albeit temporarily, dismissed. This was the Holy Grail for horrorhounds across the globe, only read about in the pages of Fangoria, banned in Europe as a Video Nasty, pimped by Stephen King!
I watched it alone, curtains drawn to ward off the harsh light of The Day, and laughed and gasped at how over the top it was, dizzied by the swooping camera. But I loved every second of it and grinned until my teeth hurt.
The second film was The Exorcist. I found myself chuckling at Pazuzu's exploits and proclivity for provocative and profane language. My mother would have shit a crucifix if she had known I was watching That Movie. Getting away with something I knew I wasn't supposed to do, but had absolute approval to do so made me giddy and sent mixed messages that had long become a staple of our family dynamic.
What a day! A quick check confirmed my suspicions that I indeed did now have a hair or two on my beanbags.
The second first time I saw The Evil Dead was a week later.
I smuggled the video contraband over to my friend Theodore's house for a sleep over. I'd been bravely talking this film up for 6 straight days, describing in detail the nastier scenes. The insanity and intensity of this masterpiece left no need to exaggerate. I was a hero for having done nothing more than Watch. But there is a difference in watching a horror movie at noon in the safety of your own home and watching it at midnight in unfamiliar territory.
As thumbs gouge out Scotty's eyeballs, trees rape Cheryl, and poor Ashley Williams has to decapitate his girlfriend, I realized that maybe my previous bravado had been a defense mechanism to stop my mind from cracking and my heart from stopping, a way for me to deal with the absolute fear my mind wasn't ready to interpret.
And maybe fear is contagious and Ted's wide-eyed horror was catching.
And maybe, just maybe, I got so scared on that second first viewing of The Evil Dead that I pissed my pants a little bit.