Monthly Archives: August 2015

On Pakula’s Paranoia Trilogy


Not unlike Polanski’s unofficial Apartment Trilogy, Alan J. Pakula’s “Paranoia” Trilogy finds its three films united through a similar sense of mood and theme rather than a serialized story. Starting with 1971’s Klute, then The Parallax View in 1974, and concluding in 1976 with All The President’s Men, the trio of films weave a palpable atmosphere of unease—often through the prism of political underpinnings—while following a protagonist’s dangerous journey through an realm of suspense and intrigue. Although Klute situates itself firmly within the detective genre, the following films would inhabit specific arenas within the political thriller—escalating in scope each time—that address themes of grand conspiracy while suffocating the viewer in an atmosphere of dread.



1971’s Klute marks the first film in this Paranoia Trilogy—starring Donald Sutherland as the eponymous P.I. and Jane Fonda as the prostitute at the crux of his case. Following the disappearance of executive Tom Gruneman, the police reveal a series of disturbing, explicit letters from him to a prostitute named Bree Daniels in New York. Though the police are unable to ascertain any other real clues, family friend Peter Cable hires Klute to investigate.

Upon his arrival in New York, Klute begins a complex relationship with Bree that toes the line between business and pleasure for both parties. However, Bree also presents a portrait of the prostitute with more depth than the archetype usually allows: a woman on the verge of wanting more, spending considerable time in poignant psychiatric sessions, charged by a variety of emotions, and with a distinctive personality brought to life from the marriage of the writing and Fonda’s indelible performance.

Nonetheless, as Klute’s able to ascertain some details regarding a john that violently attacked her in the past, the two become subject to a number of incidents that hint toward her being stalked—escalating the sense of paranoia already present in the narrative. When she and Klute also realize that the other prostitutes who committed “suicide” were actually murdered by the same man likely responsible for Gruneman’s disappearance, her life becomes further endangered unless Klute can stop the killer.

More than anything else, and despite the character of the title, the film offers an exceptional character study through the character of Fonda’s prostitute—Bree Daniels. Both Fonda’s performance and the writing compose a character so unlike most prostitutes in film—neither the manic pixy dream girl with a heart of gold, nor a tragic nymphomaniac, nor any of the other typical prostitute portrayals in fiction—but instead, a depiction of a very rounded woman full of flaws, humor, and recognizable humanity.

From her opening manipulation of a customer, to her manipulating Klute, to her own admission of a needing control, Bree Daniels encapsulates an all-too-rare example of a female character with specific depth and writing that respects a character found on such fringes of society by detailing her life with these distinctive personality details. The constant conflict between her need for control, and her inability to control the danger around her, also adds a layer of complexity that allows for this compelling characterization to drive much of the surface level plot. Her use of sex as a means of control might remind viewers of the femme fatales from film noir’s past, but her deep insecurities and visible humanity illuminated through Fonda’s performance elevate this character into a unique persona that defies normal genre function.


In contrast, Sutherland’s Klute typifies the brooding figure of detective mystery, yet his complex relationship with Bree—the continual resistance mixed with magnetized attraction—causes considerable intrigue to be added aside from the central mystery of the case. Sutherland’s face and stern eyes are able to imbue a specific feeling far more than most actors are capable through long dialogue exchanges, and his commendable restraint in ever breaking character in favor of a flashier performance deserves special praise.

Moreover, Pakula continually frames the two characters as just out danger’s reach in order to heighten the atmospheric feeling of claustrophobia within the sprawling New York setting. Point-of-view shots of Bree from the killer’s perspective constantly remind the audience that this woman able to deftly manipulate so many men remains firmly under the watch of this dangerous figure from her past.

Additionally, Pakula uses sound to maximum effect in order to continually disorient the audience’s sense of comfort. With taped recordings of Bree’s promiscuous phone calls, to the sound of footsteps on a roof, to the quiet corridors of a factory, this unnerving feeling of imminent danger always feels just at the edge of each scene—no scene more indicative and haunting of this power than that of the climax.

After Cable has been revealed as the betrayer to Gruneman and the killer of the other call girls, he finally manages to trap Bree at a garment factory. There, the menacing figure begins to taunt her—finally forcing her to listen to an audio recording of his killing a fellow call girl—in an unforgettably disturbing scene constructed through the use of a recording and Fonda’s face of horror. The recording of this man murdering a woman and her pitiful shriek as life escapes demands for the audience to imagine this gruesome scenario within their own imagination, and through this device, creates an atmosphere of horror that other films often aspire toward but through lesser means (e.g. cheap special effects/shock gore). Fonda’s silent, captivating performance in this climactic moment—as a woman paralyzed by her captor and now being psychologically tortured to the point of uncontrolled tears—only serves as further evidence for her well-deserved Oscar win.

Klute remains my favorite film in Pakula’s filmography, and a remarkable crime thriller that conjures a feeling of paranoia only paralleled by those films found in the very different genre of Polanski’s horror. Both performances stand out as career highlights for both actors, and the nuanced writing allows these distinctive characters to lend considerable depth to an already intriguing plot by examining this strange relationship between two figures on either side of the law.



Pakula’s follow up to this first film in his unofficial trilogy can be found in 1974’s The Parallax View. Here, Warren Beatty stars as dogged reporter Joe Frady—one of several witnesses to a shocking opening scene of a senator’s assassination atop the structure of Seattle’s Space Needle. Cutting to three years, several witnesses—including his ex-girlfriend—are being murdered in “accidental deaths” that demand his investigation into some wider conspiracy linking the murders.

This investigation leads to his uncovering of a mysterious group known as The Parallax Corporation. Going rogue and off-grid, Frady poses as a potential employee for The Parallax Corporation—only to learn that the Corporation employs anti-social personalities and others that do not conform to society in order to enact their political agendas through assassinations or terrorist attacks.

In comparing The Parallax View directly against its predecessor, certain structural parallels emerge that are worthy of consideration. In both cases, the main protagonist works as a detective—Klute explicitly as a P.I., but Frady also acting as an investigator vis-à-vis his job as a reporter—and then embroiling themselves in a case which they are pledged to solve before slowly transforming into a figure forced to face aspects of their identity previously considered resolute.

Though Klute’s transformation occurs on a much more introspective level, The Parallax View weaves Frady’s journey into the actual plot itself—and therefore, the viewer’s journey. Frady’s initial skepticism of any connection between these “accidental” murders, which he continually attempts to rationalize, finally dissolves when a Sheriff attempts to murder him in the sleepy town of Salmontail. His further induction into this secret society confirms his suspicions and incites his urgency in exposing this corrupt corporation operating behind the scenes of these political attacks reshaping the country.

These scenes of Frady’s covert investigations into the Parallax Corporation work as the best scenes in the film—ensuring that the audience remains in arrested suspense and drowned in dramatic irony. Specifically, his first training sequence, wherein Frady—and the audience—are subjected to a montage of historical photos juxtaposed against various words of ideals like “ me”, “country”, and “love” stands as the most memorable and thought-provoking scene in the film. This montage works like a piece of experimental art suddenly spliced into the middle of the film—instantly recapturing the audience’s attention and delivering an exhilarating sequence that returns the audience to a mood of vulnerability and surprise.

As the plot plods forward and Frady’s involvement with this mysterious corporation escalates into one with serious consequences for both his life and the country, the paranoia of the trilogy’s title kicks into high gear and allows for a gripping climax and ambiguous finale that challenges the audience in a way that the best films of this era were capable. Gordon Willis’ cinematography in this climactic scene deserves special attention. As Frady attempts to stop another assassination, he hides in the darkened rafters above the ground floor of the spacious convention floor, and the suspenseful editing between the shadows of the rafters above and this brightly illumined setting below works to spellbinding effect.

Still, The Parallax View stands as the weakest of the three. Unlike the other two films, The Parallax View contains certain sequence of fat that dilute the streamlined narrative. The first example of this occurs in Frady’s fist-fight brawl with the Deputy in the town of Salmontail that would not be out of place in a fifties Western. The fight goes on for an almost comical amount of time, and though the Sheriff has some humorous remarks in the aftermath, it’s an example of noticeable fat on the running-time that is absent from either of the other films. Another example of this occurs in the form of an oddly placed car-chase between Frady and the police that feels like it belongs in a different genre altogether. There are other smaller instances of this type of padding in this film, and these small criticisms add up in a way that causes this film to slag—remarkable and commendable as it is in other areas of craft—to feel like the lesser of the three in terms of storytelling and tone.

Despite these criticisms, the film still deserves its ranking as one of the most intriguing of the seventies. It stands as another laudable entry in this distinct genre of the paranoid thriller pioneered by Pakula, but when laid in direct comparison to the other two films, these glaring shortcomings described above stand in sharp contrast to the streamlined focus and authority of atmosphere found more successfully in the former and the latter.



Pakula’s conclusion to this unofficial trilogy in 1976 resulted in arguably his most critically acclaimed film to date as a director—All The President’s Men. An adaptation of the book written years after by the movie’s two main character’s, the film follows young Washington post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they relentless pursue answers to the break-in at Watergate Hotel—only to uncover the notorious scandal that would culminate in the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

A plot summary seems unnecessary for this third entry, as it almost exclusively concerns the laser-focused investigation of Woodward and Bernstein in the aftermath of the perplexing Watergate break-in. Not unlike Frady, the two again take on the role of detectives (with the poster’s tagline claiming: “The most devastating detective story of this century”) in order to collect evidence and information on this grand conspiracy with profound consequences for the narrative of America and a climax that places both their lives and the concept of American authorities at stake.

The film neatly summarizes and manages to make compelling the enormously complicated pieces at play—from the testimony of secretaries, to the infamous Deep Throat, to various committee members all with unmemorable names—the script somehow always makes sure that the flow of information never becomes too overwhelming or lost in the shuffle of the rapid-paced storytelling. As the two reporters are constantly put in the difficult position of prying information from reticent, guilty members who often want to do the right thing but are also aware of the enormous ramifications in doing so, these exchanges never falter in finding ways to imbue a sense of simultaneous triumph and defeat.

Each source, clue, or admission found by the reporters always allows for the reporters to keep their heads above water in the face of immense opposition —from colleagues, from the public, to the White House itself—and every little victory helps in reminding just what underdogs these two reporters were when tasked with writing such an impossible story.


Redford and Hoffman’s performance help convey this range of emotions—from desperation, to stolid determinism, to unenviable publicity, to momentary defeat to absolute triumph—but always in relation to the fluctuations of the case. Because of this laser-focus in hoping to move the story forward without drowning in exposition, the character themselves are only given the briefest personality details (e.g. Bernstein’s chain-smoking) but again, the performances help lend a depth to the emotions and humanizing of both men beyond that of functionary characters by demonstrating their desperation, frustration, and sense of camaraderie in every scene which they share.

Hal Holbrook’s performance as the infamous Deep Throat source serves as an almost literal manifestation of the paranoid feelings so perceptible in Pakula’s vision: a mysterious figure cloaked in shadow, who speaks in riddles, and charges each scene with a captivating sense of ominous power. These scenes between Deep Throat and Woodward are captured once again by familiar Pakula collaborator and “Prince of Darkness” Gordon Willis to astounding effect—always finding a perfect composition between shadow, darkness, and cigarette glow to cast Holbrook as some kind of sinister wraith at the center of this nightmarish scandal.

Famed screenwriter William Goldman deserves similar credit for synthesizing so many disparate elements and never losing the thread of what is at stake for every character entangled in this web—not just Woodward and Bernstein, but those lost in the mix of Nixon’s committee, secretaries fearful of their lives, and the employees of The Washington Post concerned about the reputation of their own careers. Moreover, his sense of pacing perfectly complement the atmospheric paranoia of Pakula’s interest—and the latter third helps raise the sense of paranoia to noticeable effect once Deep Throat confesses to Woodward that their lives are now at stake. From clicking phones, to having to communicate over written messages, to anonymous men that seem to be following them, Goldman incorporates a range of devices to expand this nightmarish feeling to new heights in comparison to the former films.

At last, the final scene—a juxtaposition of Nixon’s televised Presidential oath against dissolves of the reporters typing the story that would cause his resignation—works to tremendous, subtle effect and serves as a perfect visual image for the film’s thesis on display: two reporters who used the power of the press to bring down the most powerful man in the country.

Like the other two films, All The President’s Men revels in an atmosphere of tension and palpable sense of paranoia that find its strength in the taut storytelling on display and through characters determined to find answers within a cryptic maze of suspicion. Starting with Klute, then expanded in The Parallax View, and culminating in All The President’s Men, Pakula’s strong command of tone always keeps the audience in a state of suspense and unease—positioning their point-of-view directly in line with the protagonist attempting to navigate this unfamiliar realm of darkness to find some sense of truth, and then only for those answers to challenge the core ideals. In all aspects of his Paranoia Trilogy, Pakula provides more thought-provoking questions than he does answers—challenging the viewer to examine their own ideas of identity, country, and authority at large.



The Evil Dead Series: A Case Study in Genre and Tone


In the summer of 1979, a then-twenty-year-old Sam Raimi—along with friends Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert—began production on the film intended to initiate his career which would later be titled The Evil Dead. Although having previously made short comedies, the filmmakers were inspired by the success of cheap horror movies found at the local drive-ins and endeavored to make a film found in the same genre. However, the filmmakers did not merely regurgitate the same clichés and tropes that often populated these predictable pictures; but instead, they amplified those conventions to new genre extremes and produced a remarkably distinguished first film as a result.

More surprising and noteworthy, however, lies in the gradual phenomena of this first The Evil Dead movie that would spawn a sequel, a trilogy, a remake, a musical, comic books, videogames, and an upcoming TV show—a truly bizarre franchise built from the foundations of its own bizarre style and tone. For although the first film remained rooted in the horror films from which it was inspired, the successive sequels would never return exactly to that same tone and style. Instead, each film moved just left of center—with each consecutive entry adopting different genre and tonal elements that would separate every film from its predecessor—while still managing to playfully expand upon those larger, recognizable icons of the series that attracted initial audiences.

maxresdefaultAs mentioned, the debut film sets itself squarely within the realm of the horror genre—only to magnify certain genre conventions to the extreme while also managing to establish some new ones. Having just arrived after the birth of the teen slasher, (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th), The Evil Dead isolates these college students in a remote cabin surrounded by woods, marshes, and a thick atmosphere of menace that seems to saturate every scene. More importantly, it is their exploration of the cabin’s subterranean cellar that the five find the taped recordings of the Naturom Demonto (Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in later films)—the Sumerian grimoire capable of unleashing supernatural entities that lie somewhere between the demonically possessed and a zombie—called Deadites.

From this point forward, the premise essentially serves as a vehicle for Raimi and his cohorts to employ every conceivable gag fueled by their imagination and able to be materialized by their shoestring budget. More impressively, and to similar effect as the nonfunctioning shark of Spielberg’s Jaws, these budgetary limitations were often responsible for some of the film’s most creative moments. For instance, the filmmakers conceived of a camera effect that simulates the effect of a rapidly “whooshing” spirit accelerating toward the cabin that still works to this day—and which would become a hallmark of the series.

And while these small hints of horror help raise tension, it does not take long for these supernatural spirits to turn truly mean and nasty. In the series’ most infamous moments, Cheryl chases a menacing spirit into the surrounding woods, where a tree paralyzes, attacks, then rapes her. As ridiculous as such an idea sounds in print, the execution of the scene leaves the audience in genuine discomfort—as the visualization of this metaphorical horror of rape situates the audience squarely within the position of being a woman under the control of a cruel and relentless entity beyond her power to overcome.

Although the rules remain a bit fuzzy throughout the series as to who becomes infected by the deadites, when, why, etc., the chaotic nature of not having a clearly defined mythology also allows for a unique sense of surprise to be a weapon always within the filmmakers’ grasp—one to be deployed quite often. For following Cheryl’s attack, she becomes the first full-fledged deadite to appear—revealing a gruesomely deformed face, eerie voice, and supernatural powers—though the group manages to lock and chain her in the cellar, where she serves as another element of suspense just outside the edge of frame.

For a film with this budget, the effects are beyond commendable. They offer not just a repeat of the Romero zombies, nor a cheap imitation of Reagan from The Exorcist, but a very peculiar visual presentation of these Evil Dead. Raimi’s decision to continually employ POV shots from beneath the cellar works as an especially creative effect—one that would become a favorite choice of the filmmaker throughout the rest of his career.

A number of other noteworthy moments occur within this first film. The possession of Ash’s girlfriend—Shelly—stand out as particular highlight, along with the many, many ways the filmmakers figure for buckets of blood, gore, and other gross-out moments to proliferate on-screen. But more than even these admirable moments of inventive craft put forth by the young filmmakers, it’s the specific tone of this first film that demands particular attention.

There’s a very fine line between horror and comic absurdity in which this film—and much of Raimi’s filmography—thrives. While the second veers more definitely toward a horror/comedy, and the third would inhabit a singular genre somewhere between fantasy, horror, and comedy—the first wears a very clear coat of horror, though elements of both the comedic and the absurd still find ways to sneak through the cracks.

Moreover, the first film can be classified most definitely within the horror genre for an atmosphere of dread that hangs over the majority of the running time. There are slow-building sequences meant to evoke a clear sense of terror and imminent doom that is absent from later sequels. In doing so, the film retains an inimitable tone that allows this distinct genre quality to remain evident to this day, despite the deluge of imitators that have followed in its wake. Moreover, this unique quality is mostly manifested through the series’ main character:



While instances like Cheryl’s rape and her subsequent imprisonment through the cellar (along with the famous “What’s wrong with her eyes” line) transmit the feeling of unnerving supernatural horror at the story’s premise, the filmmakers are also able to recognizable the similar, absurd nature of the supernatural. Bruce Campbell’s character of Ash serves as perhaps the best vehicle for this idea. While other characters (and any rational human being placed into these gruesome circumstances) would no doubt react with some form of shock or adrenaline-filled survival instincts, Ash reacts with an attitude of someone seemingly born with the destiny of killing Deadites (an idea that would be conceived literally in later sequels). Despite seeing his sister, his girlfriend, and his friend undergo these monstrous perversities from the dead, Ash appears to almost revel—and thrive—within these circumstances.

In doing so, he transfers some of this glee to the audience. What begins as the slow stalking of five friends within an isolated cabin transforms into something closer to a carnival show—though one that still retains an atmosphere of dread. While this veil of dread that hangs over much of the first film would be considerably reduced in the sequels, the original film remains so inimitable and relevant for being able to so expertly straddle within this distinct territory.

Still, this is not a criticism of the later films—just an observation of the stark differences that separate each entry. For when the filmmakers returned for the sequel in Evil Dead II, they opted not to return to that same realm which they had successfully conquered in the original. Instead, the filmmakers retained the most recognizable elements and moved in favor of focusing on an absurdist comedy with horror elements, rather than a horror with elements of absurd—as seen in the original.


Again, Ash serves as perhaps the best embodiment of the film’s tone. From the start, the sequel abandons the atmosphere of dread that crept over the first film, and instead, it chooses to embrace a tone closer to the slapstick of The Three Stooges somehow mixed with those horror elements introduced in its predecessor. Ash’s initial fight with his Deadite-girlfriend, his battle against his own hand that results in his chopping off the appendage then replacing it with a chainsaw, the Looney Toones-like appearance of the bridge that cuts off the cabin from the mainland—all representative of the adoration for absurdist comedy roots that the sequel so warmly embraces.

In some ways, the film may represent an aspect of Raimi that the rest of his filmography has yet to find compare. A film that manages to merge all his genre obsessions: horror, slapstick, excellent sense of rapid-pace editing, and larger-than-life storytelling that are all so idealized within this sequel. Whether one prefers that atmosphere of dread in the original, or this gleeful amalgamation of comedy and horror that so defines the sequel, Raimi’s command of craft and clear ability to modulate both genre and tone in service of his vision remain without debate.

And yet, despite these successes in both genre arenas, the filmmakers shifted for another—much, much more radical shift in tone—with the series’ third entry: Army of Darkness. With the conclusion of Evil Dead II having exiled Ash through a time portal and into the medieval past, the film now adopts a tone that retains some of the tongue-in-cheek/slapstick comedy of the second, the recognizable horror elements of the first, and fully embraces an entirely new realm for these former hallmarks to play: Fantasy.


Outside the most surface-level horror qualities (skeletons, gore, the Necronomicon, blood, etc.)—the atmospheric horror of dread that so saturated the first film and still seeped itself into the sequel—that horror has been overhauled in favor of a more fantastic arena for Ash’s continual battle with the Evil Dead. Again, this is not necessarily a criticism, as a point of comparison for the series’ continual genre expansion.

Instead, Army of Darkness maneuvers its comedic touchstones into some of the series’ most iconic one-liners, while also allowing the slowly evolving action hero of Ash to fulfill his status in the most literal way. Ash’s fights against his alter-ego—Evil Ash—with his shotgun and chainsaw as weapons against an army of skeletons—plays out with all the fun and adventure of a Frank Frazetta painting brought to life then filtered through Raimi’s imagination. Campbell, as well, has been afforded his first true vehicle to shine as a charismatic action star (even more so than II which still had bits of an ensemble) and both delivers beyond expectations while also helping carry some of the film’s weaker moments. His tongue-in-cheek confrontations with the medieval knights, his methods of crowd control through the demonstration of his boomstick, and his refusal to ever correctly recalls the right words to the Necronomicon all play to hilarious effect.

Finally, after more than a twenty-year-lapse, the franchise found itself resurrected in a remake that dropped the “the” and simply presented itself as Evil Dead. With Raimi on board as a producer rather than as a director for the first time in franchise history, the remake returns to the horror roots of the series’ past. However, the remake is a curious beast. On the one hand, it’s admirable that they committed to telling their own premise—of helping a young woman named Mia go cold turkey and isolating her in the cabin in the woods to do so. With the genre trope of teenagers merely retreating to an isolated cabin for a vacation being so worn out and spoofed in the decades since the original’s debut, this interesting spin works as an intriguing twist on a now-worn-out premise.


Moreover, in terms of genre, newcomer Fede Alvarez refuses to hold back in delivering a brutal, explicitly gory version of the Evil Dead into this reinvention. The remake retains the series’ hallmarks—sometimes to clunky effect—such as the Necronomicon, the chainsaw, a possessed hand, trapping someone in the cellar—and though some of these franchise staples are able to be organically weaved into this new premise, there are some moments that feel like awkward fan-servicing.

Still, following the original and its sequel, this remake would probably rank just above Army of Darkness. The gory horror of this go-around can be effective at times—there are some truly squirm-inducing moments that viewers are unlike to forget. Although some ideas like the supernatural witch of the cold opening or merging the Mia character into both the Ash/Cheryl role are interesting, these updates never explore the full potential of their concepts or figure out a way to seamlessly merge their mythology with that of the original. Though the cold-turkey-drug-addiction idea is an intriguing one, this too feels like wasted potential in the race to service all the iconic scenes of the series’ past.

In terms of tone and genre, however, there are two absences that are most responsible for the biggest differences between the remake and its original. The first lies in the choice to pursue a type of horror more focused on the shock of gore than the atmospheric horror found in the first. Due to both the budget and the decision to pursue a mood of terror, The Evil Dead offers a type of horror than leans more toward one of disturbing the viewer than one of pure shock value. Both Cheryl’s rape and locking her in the cellar—continuing to taunt from beneath with her unnerving voice—serving as perhaps the best examples of this.

In the remake, the scares lean much heavier on the shock and vividness of the gore, rather than an imbuing a sense of atmosphere. Many of the sequences are executed without a sense of escalation; instead, the gore just tends to “happen” before the narrative transitions to the next sequence. This is not necessarily a criticism, as the filmmakers are committed to executing their gory take on the series and succeed in this effort—as the gore is truly commendable and capable of creating some of the best contributions in this specific regard to the horror genre for the post-2000 period.

The second most obvious and noteworthy differences lies in the absence of Ash. Knowing that the series’ icon only exists when embodied by Campbell, the filmmakers were wise to reroute the story in the form of a new character: Mia. Again, her twist on the tale as a drug addict attempting to go clean is interesting, and the decision to anchor her character at the forefront works for the most part—especially in regard to the ending. The cost of losing Campbell’s Ash, however, results in arguably the most crucial ingredient for translating the specific tone of the series to the audience.


As mentioned, Ash’s reactions to the supernatural horrors around him are responsible for the blend of true horror and absurd comedy that is so emblematic of the series. With Mia’s possession, the tone turns into one of a more typical horror film. Again, though the remake works well for the most part—and has some spectacular gore effects that deserve praise—it’s the loss of this quality of tone that remains the most significant difference between the remake and the work of Raimi.

For although those aspects of terror found in most horror films are found within Evil Dead—e.g. teenagers in the woods picked off one-by-one, gross-out moments of gore—Bruce Campbell’s Ash character stands as the iconic element that delineates between the weird mix of horror and gleeful absurdity that separate The Evil Dead from more typical horror films. Indeed, Ash’s role in each film helps orient the viewer into the specific tone found in each: whether it’s the more atmospheric horror of the first, the mix of slapstick/absurdist comedy horror in the second, or the action-hero in a world of fantasy found in the third—Ash’s character has evolved into the ultimate icon for defining each entry.

While the remake works effectively, and serves as an interesting exercise in gaining insight into how the series functions, Ash’s involvement seems more integral to the series’ future than that of the Deadites or the other more recognizable horror elements that have been imitated by other films since the original’s debut. Still, besides it’s iconic character, what seems to separate this series and allowed its continued interest over the decades for fans both old and new, can be found in its choice of continued genre expansion.

Each entry refuses to retreat into delivering something that has been seen previously, and whether it succeeds as successfully or not, the decision to always push the series toward new genre territories should be celebrated and applauded. Additionally, with the series now having been translated into a variety of mediums—from a musical, to comic books, video games, and a new TV series on the way—audience interest in all-things Evil Dead remains as relevant as ever with no signs of decline. One hopes that those responsible will continue the legacy of delivering the most recognizable elements that audiences love while also honoring the tradition of pushing the series toward new genre grounds that has come to be the most defining features found in the bizarre series that is The Evil Dead.