Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

TMT: Ferocious Wasn’t the Half of It

This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Since this is still the Halloween season, the following chapter will again veer toward that specific and gentle category of cinema. Brian Solomon wrote a marvelous legacy post this week regarding a film that, as he puts it, “… was an integral part of my horror coming-of-age, helping to define the genre for me from a young age. It has been with me ever since, a dear old friend covered in gristle and viscera.” Me, too.

“We’re going to get you. We’re going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep.”


The Hastings Ranch 3:

[picture care of the Cinema Tour site]



April 18, 1983: All I needed to read was that now famous declaration attributed to a writer who repeatedly enthralled and terrified people (me included), Stephen King. Part of a movie review written by the author in 1982, it became the film’s tagline (which you can see in the original poster for the film above):

“The most ferociously original horror film of the year…”

Even the L.A. Times movie review I perused the day of its limited national opening had its film critic, by all appearances, a bit shaken from his screening with this one. In other words, the hook was set… I had to go and see this particular film. There are moments for us horror genre patrons that become truly formative, frightful movie theater experiences. We live for these, I guess. I know for a fact that Wes Craven’s Last House of the Left (1972) had my younger brother all aghast after seeing it with friends — I wouldn’t see it till many years later on VHS since he described it to me in such grim detail afterward. The Exorcist (1973), 1979’s Alien (outlined in this TMT), and later, The Thing (1982, TMT located here) were some of my such markers.

This little low-budget shocker was quickly added to that mental list once I took it in. The Evil Dead, I think, was one of the few films that actually had me squeezing down into the seat as I watched it. All by my lonesome in a forlorn little theater with only a handful of equally disturbed movie-goers for company. TED’s story was original, alright. Along with its combination of graphic and bloody make-up effects, frenetic pacing and violence, quirky camera work, and yes, humor (which, truth be told, did not lessen the dread one damn iota and somehow only enhanced the terror of the piece). It left me rattled and thrilled by the finale.

I ended up in the small cineplex that was once the Hastings Ranch 3 (now a Trader Joe’s, btw) in the heart of the Rose Parade capital of Pasadena, California because of one thing. The Evil Dead‘s dark rep preceded it (it opened in Michigan back in ’81) and was released to only 128 U.S. theaters in April of ’83. This triplex was one of the few here in L.A. to show it. Somehow, I had Monday off from work and I purchased a matinée ticket for that long ago screening. Nowadays, I drive by that location on occasion (I play golf near there fairly regular), and I can’t help but remember the experience I (and Ash) once had there.

The entire TMT series can be found here.

16 Responses to “TMT: Ferocious Wasn’t the Half of It”

  1. Christine McCann

    I am way too much of a horror film wuss. I’ve seen some, but it’s definitely not worth the money for me to go to a theater because I end up closing my eyes and covering my ears. I do better at home, with a little light in the room and a “pause” button available. ;) Or better yet, just catch snippets or read the highlights. (Hmmm, same could be said about me trying to view political debates…hehe. Sad but true.)

    That said, I know I’ve enjoyed several films that Sam Raimi has been involved with. And I know one of my sisters really liked the third Evil Dead installment, Army of Darkness(?).

    It’s still sad when an old theater is closed, but at least it’s “recycled” and not demolished. We have a place close to home called the Belle Mead Theater that has been repurposed a couple of different ways. I think the plan currently is making it a mixed residential/retail complex…I just hope they’ll always keep the facade. I’d miss the neon sign.

    Thanks for this, Michael!

    *checks On Demand for a scary flick for wusses…like Monsters Inc* ;p


    • le0pard13

      Great point, Christine :-).

      Did you catch Raimi’s most recent one? Drag Me to Hell was a great little horror film that I think you’d appreciate. Army of Darkness was likely the most approachable of the trilogy, while the The Evil Dead II was more a redux with a real budget. But, Bruce Campbell really rocks in them all!

      Funny you should mention Monsters, Inc. My daughter is pushing to re-screen that one soon! Thanks, my friend.


  2. John D

    As a Bruce Campbell fan, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t seen this movie or it’s first sequel, EVIL DEAD 2. I have seen ARMY OF DARKNESS and loved it. Looks like I’ll have to correct this cinematic oversight in the near future.


    • le0pard13

      Oh, yes. You must check these out, John. As I mentioned to Chris, TED II is pretty much a remake by Raimi where he expanded the original with better effects (and more humor), plus creating the opportunity to continue the story in Army of Darkness. Easily, though, The Evil Dead is the most ferocious. Thanks for the comment.


  3. Kevin (Col. Mortimer)

    Wow, I am impressed you saw this in theatrical release, it seemed to be one that most caught on VHS at the time. I remember seeing the poster for Evil Dead 2 at a cinema in 1987 (when I was 11) and being tantalized to watch the film, which I would eventually get to a few years later.

    I live not too far from Pasadena, it’s a shame there’s only three theatres remaining there, while obviously not the impressive structure that the Picwood was, I remember seeing a lot of films in small theatres like this in my day and have an appreciation for them.


    • le0pard13

      This one did make an impression at the movie theater, and I was lucky to give it a chance back then. And I can see why TED II’s poster would catch your eye (it’s a great one). These films do make for great memories, don’t they? I hear you about those movie structures. Their ability to hold the experiences of their patrons is very special indeed, which makes their loss doubly sad. Thanks, Kevin.


    • le0pard13

      This one does stand the test of time, Julian. It remains pretty fierce.

      Oh, I’ve been around your fine blog, my friend :-). I read all you posts — I just may not comment on each one. I’m a serious lurker.

      Thank you very much, Julian.


  4. rtm

    I just recommended this to a friend of mine who’s in love w/ Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice. He’s sooo young in this and though horror isn’t my forte, this one is quite funny. Interesting that Sam Raimi ends up creating one of the most successful superhero movies later on. Nice post Michael!



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