McGee's Retro Ramblings#2
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McGee’s Retro Ramblings #2

“You’ll Swallow My What??!!”

EVIL DEAD. See how easily that rolls off the tongue? EVIL DEAD.  EEEEEEEEEVIL…..DEAD. By any other name, almost 30 years later, It is still one of the greatest, most influential horror flicks ever made. By the time it started making the rounds on home video back in the early 1980s and became a cult classic long before I think that term was even coined, it rewrote the book on not only inventive and manic directing style, but did for college kids trapped in a secluded cabin in the woods out in the middle of nowhere fighting off demons what HALLOWEEN had done for faceless, unstoppable babysitter killers and “Sex = Death while the virgin always

lives” movies the decade before it.

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We all know the influences it carries with it - not only on an indie but also on a Hollywood level.  We know how Sam Raimi eventually stepped away from horror and became a gazillionaire by spending the better part of the first decade of the 21st Century making movies about a certain love-struck, web-slinging, spandex-

clad comic book superhero while the wise and mighty Bruce “The Chin” Campbell never really attained that leading man status that he so richly deserves.  We also know the effect the movie had on all of us as rabid fans back then. Flawed by today’s SFX standards,  but still nothing less than a true classic in every sense of the word, no doubt about that at all. But there’s a movie, a certain sequel, that I like even better. So I’m  not here today to talk about Evil Dead. Nope, not here to talk about that at all…

 

Back in the Spring of 1987 when I was 16 years old, my biggest  priority was getting laid. Like any other boy my age, anywhere else on this planet, it was all I could think about. Other than working as hard as I could at my job of pumping gas, changing oil, washing cars, and fixing tires at our local full-service gas station to make as much money as I could to dump back into car stereo equipment that was worth way more than my actual car, every waking moment (and many, many sleeping moments) was spent thinking about who, what, where, and when. I definitely knew the why, but in retrospect, I’m not even sure the “who” aspect of it was that important to me at the time, just so long as it happened, and happened soon, and happened frequently. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but….ok, it’s actually more pathetic than brag-worthy anyway. Statistically speaking, I’d say that 3% of the time, my plan worked every time. Yeah.

 

Thanks to the greatest magazine ever published – Fangoria – I knew that there was an Evil Dead sequel in the works. And every Sunday morning, I’d walk across the highway to the local Jiffy Mart and buy every newspaper they carried there from every town that had any kind of theater at  all – scanning the entertainment sections – looking for that damned movie.  Finally, in early March, there it was…that big, evil skull smirking at me in black and white newsprint, telling me to “Kiss my nerves goodbye”, and that “There’s only one movie scarier than Evil Dead”…yep, there it was – Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn!!! The closest that it was coming to me upon its release was a theater down in Tulsa, 75 miles away, the following Thursday. That left me three full days to not only find a fill-in at work, somehow getting out of school the next day since I really didn’t

want to drive back that night, and most important of all, find someone to “accompany” me, as this endeavor almost guaranteed an overnight stay at a hotel after the movie – wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!

 

Finding a fill-in at work was easy – I just told the Boss Lady when I went in that day that I was going to be out of town later in the week, and needed Thursday night off. Getting out of school for Friday so that I wouldn’t have to drive back that night was almost as easy as getting out of work. I tried something with my mother that very few kids I knew then (and especially now, for that matter) would ever dream of trying – it

was basically a forbidden tactic to use as a teenager, but what I thought I lacked in common sense at the time, I more than made up for with testicular fortitude. What was my brash and insane tactic, you ask? Honesty. I know, right? Mom was never one to shy away from encouraging me to go after my dreams though, and knowing that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up – especially a horror writer – if I was that passionate about something, even seeing a movie and possibly missing school and definitely missing work, she wasn’t going to stand in my way.

 

Now, all I needed was my company. To be honest, as quickly as the other two elements fell into place for me and cemented the fact that I now knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that this trip was my destiny, I wasn’t as concerned about finding company to go with me so I could get laid as much as I just wanted to share the experience of a theatrical Evil Dead sequel experience with as many folks as I could. My female friends that I wanted to nail, I asked first. But none of them would take a day out of school, so that was out. My female friends who were very good friends and nothing more, I asked next. But I was greeted with a loud and continuously unanimous, “Horror movie? EEEWW!! Like, NO!” So apparently, that was out as well. From there I went to buddies, none of whom could get out of school even though they wanted to. My best friend Shawn, who was like a brother to me (and still is), really really REALLY wanted to go, but could not either. Why? He was to be my fill-in at work. Whoops…

 

So, like many of my other excursions into the pursuit of following my dreams both then and now, I became a One-Man Wolf Pack, and that fateful Thursday after school with overnight bag already packed and in the trunk of my car, I loaded up on Marlboros and Mountain Dew and became Tulsa- bound!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll spare you my fanboy gushing (in this column, anyway) when it comes to not only his tenure in Black Sabbath, but also his incredible solo work as well, but I will say this….I only carried a few cassette tapes with me at a time when traveling, and for that trip down to Tulsa for my first-ever viewing of DEAD BY DAWN, there were only two tapes that alternated back and forth doing time in my car’s cassette player for that entire round trip – THE LAST IN LINE, and HOLY DIVER, both by Dio. So for me, for that reason alone, Dio always has been and always will be associated with EVIL DEAD 2. R.I.P. Ronnie – you are definitely missed.

Those demons got nothin’ on The Dio

 

McGee on a weekend date night

My trip down there was largely uneventful with the exception of gorging myself at Whataburger: still one of the greatest burger joints ever, and one that I largely took for granted back then since I lived so close to one. Nowadays I drool over the thought of the place constantly as I’m over three hours from the nearest one and those bastards at Corporate don’t seem to think that us hicks in Northeast Kansas need to be part of their chain. Assholes.

 

Anyway, as I pulled up to the theater and parked, psyching myself up for the greatness that I knew was surely on its way, I realized how wired I was…couldn’t tell if it was anticipation, all the caffeine, or both. Probably both, but for the purpose of this story, it was pure anticipation. I bounced across the street, bought my ticket, got my Super Duper Nachos (with jalapenos) and yes, yet even more Mountain Dew.

 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the next 83 minutes –

 

I cringed a couple of times, laughed harder than I had laughed at any so- called theatrical “comedy” released so far that year, and had nothing short of the time of my life. From the intro recapping the first flick; to the mirror image grabbing Ash through the mirror and reminding him that “We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound FINE??” to Henrietta finding out the hard way that she was NOT under any circumstances going to swallow Ash’s soul, to the final time-warping battle to dispatch the demon presence in the woods once and for all before it could take over

our world; to the ending that of course pulled the old P.T. Barnum trick on me and definitely left me clamoring for more.

 

Clamoring so much was I, that I did a very rare thing for me in those days – or at least rare for me to do in the very same night – I went right back out front to the ticket booth and bought another ticket for the late showing and sat through it twice in a row, drinking up every bit of it that I could. Had they been showing that fucker a third time that night, I would have bought yet another ticket and made it a hat-trick night, but alas, it was not meant to be.

 

But as I’m sure you can tell, I loved that movie with every fiber of my twisted being, and I think that today I’d have to say I love it even more than I did then. It’s still in my Top Ten of all-time favorite movies of any genre, and I still watch it religiously whenever there’s time. I’m in a creative slump, in goes Evil Dead 2. I’m feeling down about something, pop it in the player. I’m in a great mood, hey – time to watch it again! It never fails to brighten my mood, and it’s one of the few sequels out there that has ever, in this announcer’s humble opinion, surpassed the original, and I love it with all my cold, black heart.

 

Now, I could easily lie to you in explicit detail and tell you that I walked a block over from the theater, got myself a lady of the night, and whisked her away to the nearest Motel 6 to accomplish my final goal of that trip, right? That would be taking the easy way out. In a true testament to my Horror Movie Geekdom, I will instead tell you the complete and far less sexually explicit and interesting truth, fellow fright fans. The truth is, I was so damned excited by what I’d just sat through (twice) and still high on caffeine and ED2 goodness that I drove straight back to the nearest Whataburger, stocked up on a Double Cheese Whataburger, Whatachick’n, Whatafries, and a huge steaming cup of Whatacoffee (okay, that’s overkill, sorry) and started the seventy-some mile trek back home.

 

I slept for about 45 minutes in my nice soft & cozy bed in my own bedroom as opposed to a mite-infested seedy cheap motel bed, took a quick shower, snagged a Jolt Cola out of the fridge and polished off the remaining burger from the night before for breakfast, and decided that since I was home anyway and didn’t feel like waiting that I would go ahead and go to school to tell my story. So out the door I went to relay the tales of the night before with my friends - many of whom told me how much I sucked for Being such a spoiled brat and getting to do whatever I wanted (hey, I worked hard for my money back then, so I figured I earned it, and they can all suck it); while others were more than a little repulsed by the tales of some of the key gore points that I chose to let slip; while still others couldn’t help themselves but to relay their envy to me and how they wished they could have gotten away to go with me and if they’d known I’d be back for school the next day, they would have.

 

Then there’s Shawn – my brother in arms (literally – he makes Burt Gummer seem unprepared), the Moe to my Curly, my best friend in the world (that I’m not married to, anyway) both then and now, and probably a bigger fan of the exploits of Ashley J. Williams that I know of out there besides myself. The man who sacrificed sitting shotgun and being my co-pilot for that trip so that I could indulge myself on the newest horror movie by filling in for me at the gas station - he just stood there with that sideways smile, waiting for me to finish my stories. I thanked him for working for me, and that very second I made him a promise – a promise that I kept as soon as I could fulfill it, since it never did come to a theater that was really anywhere near us.

 

So as soon as that sucker hit VHS, I didn’t just rent it – aw hell naw, Uncle Phil…in a day and age where videotaped movies cost more than a DVD player itself does now, I special-ordered Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn from our local video store as soon as it became available, paid way too much for that gorgeous, oversized plastic-covered gem, and invited Shawn over to my house for a special private screening.

 

So many memories can be brought back in a flourish just by hearing part of a song, or someone quoting a line of dialogue from a favorite movie. That’s exactly what happened a short time ago when Shawn and I got together again – unfortunately under sad circumstances that time – but nonetheless it brought us back together again sooner than we’d planned. As I listened to his son talk about wanting to play the FISTFUL

OF BOOMSTICK game on his PS2 while we sat outside, drank beer, and talked, it reminded me of that trip from way back in 1987 and the good times associated with it. I brought that up and it made him smile – the first time during that long, very tough day for him that I’d actually really seen him do that.

 

As we said our goodbyes a few hours later and I left his house around midnight to begin my two-hour drive back to my house, I started up the car and what did I hear immediately blaring through the speakers courtesy of the local radio station? HOLY DIVER, by Dio, and the first thing that hit my brain was that this was way too big of a happenstance to be considered mere coincidence and that I absolutely, positively, had to share this formerly-fuzzed-over-in-the-back-of-my-brain story with all of you. Funny how inspiration can strike sometimes…

 

 

Craig McGee

Resident Guy Who Would Get Killed First in a Real Horror Flick

(You know, because of all the drinking and sex)