Evil Ed (1995)

JUNE 7, 2017

GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL, SPLATTER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (REVIEW SCREENER)

I remember reading about Evil Ed in Fangoria back in the 90s at some point, making a note to see it as soon as possible because it sounded so much in my wheelhouse. Alas, the VHS version that was released in the US was cut, and I was too snobby to settle for such a thing, so I opted to wait until I found an uncut one. And then I just forgot about it, apparently, because I'm sure I could have found one by now thanks to having money and the know-how to import discs and such. Well, 22 years later, I've finally seen the movie thanks to Arrow's new Blu-ray, which is more uncut than ever, featuring a few extra minutes of (non-gory) footage and, of course, given a high-def/widescreen transfer to boot - it's as if I was meant to wait more than half my life to get around to seeing the damn thing.

Ironically, if I had to distill my thoughts on the film down to one word, it would be "dated", and so even with all the gore chopped out I probably would have enjoyed the movie more had I seen it in the 90s. The plot, for those uninitiated, concerns a mild-mannered editor who is used to working on art-house dramas tasked with censoring a series of slasher movies titled Loose Limbs, bringing them up to the standards required by the local ratings board. At first he wearily works on the films as "just another job", but then overexposure to all of the violent imagery starts warping his mind, resulting in a series of hallucinations and then murders as he goes more and more insane. Lots of old-school Peter Jackson-y splatter ensues. The filmmakers were taking shots at Sweden's censorship board, which was at the time one of the most strict in the world; interestingly enough the practice of cutting films was relaxed the following year, though I doubt Evil Ed was a factor in the decision.

But that just adds to the feeling that it's a bit past its time - censorship now isn't as big of a problem for horror and its fans. With more and more films going out unrated entirely (and the MPAA being more lenient in general), it feels like the time to take a stand against slicing the gory bits out of a slasher movie has long since expired (correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time they made a big stink about a horror movie was Hatchet II, seven years ago). This isn't a critique on the film's existence; just more of an observation, that I almost wish I was seeing the film now in "revisit" mode, as opposed to seeing it for the first time. There are some great gags that haven't dated at all - such as when Ed smiles proudly at a cut he made that renders a gore scene completely incoherent - but overall it felt like kicking a dead horse as opposed to standing up against some ongoing injustice.

(Note - if you are a filmmaker who has recently battled with the MPAA or any other ratings board, feel free to counterpoint, but please note I'm speaking in general terms. I do not doubt that there is still a problem with filmmakers being forced to hack up their films to appease a bunch of people who wouldn't see it anyway - it's just not something that makes the news as often as it did in the 80s and 90s when they were targeting Wes Craven and the Friday the 13th sequels seemingly out of spite. And, again, going out without a rating isn't as crippling as it used to be since newspaper ads aren't how these films get promoted.)

So without that niche appeal, it's just another "guy goes crazy and starts killing people around him" movie, albeit one with a more humorous and whacked-out slant than the average Shining wannabe. Ed's hallucinations aren't just of his friends/loved ones saying things that are only in his head - no, he sees possessed nurses, devils, and even a thing that I could best describe as a goblin version of one of the characters from ABC's 90's show Dinosaurs. His hallucinations START normally - he sees an old lady neighbor as a hot lady coming on to him early on - but they go full blown gonzo by the midpoint, which was a fine surprise. Not only is it obviously more interesting to look at, but it also showcases more of this next-to-no-budget film's surprisingly strong FX and makeup work, which more than makes up for the time capsule-y feeling. Let's not forget that by this point in the 90s, CGI was already starting to take over even in lower-budgeted horror films (1995 was the year of Hideaway and Lord of Illusions, among others), so it was already time to start appreciating the films that were still doing it the right way.

But it also feels like they didn't have quite enough for a feature with their initial concept, so the film takes an odd detour for its climax, as Ed rampages around a hospital while a bunch of SWAT type guys try to take him out. This allows for a lot of bonus gore, but also feels like you're suddenly watching a sequel to the movie you watched for the first hour or so. And not just any sequel, but one made by a new creative team, as the whole "horror movies drove him crazy" focus feels like it's no longer even relevant. It's entertaining in its own right, no doubt about it, but as a whole the movie feels a bit cobbled together from a bunch of ideas as opposed to something more cohesive. As a result I felt kind of exhausted and ready to move on, which is a bummer when being presented with top notch prosthetic work (and a very game performance from Johan Rudebeck as the title character, who reminded me of an older Toby from The Office).

Arrow's blu-ray is, naturally, aimed more at folks who already loved the movie (and were likely aware of its narrative shortcomings), and I can't imagine a scenario where they will be disappointed. In addition to two cuts of the film, there are two extensive documentaries (one running over three hours) and lots of new interviews with director Anders Jacobsson and the simply named Doc, who edited the film. Apparently they've been working on putting together this special edition for over six years now, so it's clearly a labor of love and it shows - I particularly liked the footage of them hunting around for deleted scenes (and a quick bit where Doc almost accidentally cuts up the film's negative!). I actually learned how to use a flatbed editor back in college and it gave me a world of appreciation for those who cut full films on it since doing a 5 minute short was hard enough, so seeing it in action (both here in the bonus features and in the film) gave me pleasant memories of the simpler days of being in college. Some additional deleted scenes and other outtake type material is also present, though as it was all in Swedish (with subtitles) and extensive I didn't get through it all, since I would have to keep my eyes glued to the screen instead of just listening to the interviews while I worked as I normally would. Multitasking is the only way I survive, really.

I'm happy I finally saw the film, and would happily keep it in my collection if I had a regular copy of it (I only got a screener disc in a blank plastic sleeve, i.e. nothing I would put on my shelf), as it'd be a fun one to throw on at parties given the extensive makeup and gore highlights. Arrow's set does it a justice it's never been afforded for over 20 years, and I'm happy for Jacobsson (who has only directed one film since, sadly) and his crew as they clearly worked hard to get it out there both in the '90s when it was made, and now where it can be properly seen for the first time. I wish I liked it a bit more, but not as much as I wish I was finally owning a proper copy of an old favorite that would have blown my mind when I was 15. Oh well.

What say you?

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