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, see here), 1979’s Alien (outlined in this TMT), and later, The Thing (1982, located here) were some of my 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.