Films Directed by Sam Raimi
If you enjoy horror and the Three Stooges, Sam Raimi movies may be just what you’re looking for. That’s because the director has a love for violent and often terrifying subject matter, but he’s never afraid to inject a healthy dose of black humor.
However, unlike Kevin Smith, Rami isn’t a one trick pony. He’s helmed sports movies, supernatural thrillers, Westerns, and the successful Spider-Man trilogy. But no matter what film he’s working on, you can usually spot a Sam Raimi movie by looking for the following trademarks: the presence of actors Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi; the camera adopting a POV perspective as an object hurtles through the air; quick dolly shots; and Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88.
I’ve been a Sam Raimi fan ever since I saw Evil Dead in the heyday of Fangoria and VHS tapes. His willingness to fill the screen with blood, guts, and unpredictable camera angles has always been appreciated, as well as his ability to work in other, lighter genres. I can even boast of having seen every episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, where Raimi served as executive producer.
Sam Raimi Movies I’ve Seen
I’ve seen the majority of Sam Raimi movies, and here’s a list with my thoughts on each one:
The Evil Dead (1981) – The horror film that launched the careers of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert (who would marry Lucy Lawless), and composer Joseph LoDuca. The Coen Brothers would also begin a longtime association with Raimi when Joel served as an editor for the film. The simplistic story follows a group of friends as they journey to a cabin in the woods, accidentally unleash supernatural forces, and then struggle for survival against insane odds. Despite the primitive effects and low budget, Rami’s visual flair and Campbell’s charisma helped elevate the film.
Crimewave (1985) – A bizarre comedy that marked Raimi’s ascension to the big time (a studio film), it’s also an uneven mess that looks cheaper than its $3 million budget. Brion James, one of my favorite character actors co-stars, as does Bruce Campbell. I saw this one over 20 years ago, and I’ve never had the desire to watch it again.
Evil Dead II (1987) – Essentially a remake of the first movie, but with a bigger budget and more ambitious script. Bruce Campbell and his iconic chin work in slapstick comedy while going temporarily mad and getting covered in blood and other bizarre fluids. Ash replacing his severed hand with a chainsaw is especially cool, as is Rami’s over-the-top camerawork. Don’t call yourself a fan of horror movies until you’ve seen this one.
Darkman (1990) – Raimi wanted to adapt The Shadow, but he turned to his own superhero creation after failing to obtain the rights. Liam Neeson played the title role, and it did well enough to inspire a couple of straight-to-video sequels. I never saw it more than once, though, so it failed to make much of an impression on me.
Army of Darkness (1992) – My least favorite of the Evil Dead movies, primarily because Raimi abandoned the more terrifying elements and focused on the comedic. It’s still worth a look, though, as Ash (Bruce Campbell) is hurtled into the past and must team with knights from the Dark Ages to battle infernal forces.
The Quick and the Dead (1995) – Of all the Sam Raimi movies I’ve seen, this Western starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Leonardo DiCaprio remains my favorite. Stone plays a mysterious female gunfighter who rides into a dusty Old West town for a quick-draw competition, and she’s pitted against a bizarre cast of cutthroats, gentleman adventurers, and Swedish champions. I could quote this film for hours, and Raimi’s unique visual style helps to create a non-traditional genre film. It’s also a chance to see Crowe and DiCaprio before they were stars, and the fine supporting cast includes Keith David, Pat Hingle, Lance Henriksen, and Tobin Bell.
A Simple Plan (1998) – Think of this like a Coen Brothers movie, but without all the quirky characters and moments of dark humor. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton stars as a pair of brothers who find a bag filled with cash inside the wreckage of a plane, and, along with a friend, agree to keep quiet and later split the money. That plan doesn’t work at all, and soon the group is fighting with one another and digging a number of graves. The film’s gloomy tone was a bit unexpected, and I never felt the need to revisit the film after the initial viewing.
Spider-Man (2002) – The best beginning to any superhero franchise, Spider-Man features a likable cast, lively direction, and special effects that adequately capture the feel of the comic books. Willem Dafoe is appropriately menacing as the Green Goblin, although Kristen Dunst borders on annoying as the poor girl who ignores the nice guy (Peter Parker) in favor of rich dudes. Cliff Robertson was perfectly cast in the role of Uncle Ben, and the wrestling fan in me geeked out when Randy Savage popped up as Bonesaw McGraw (“Bonesaw is reeeeaaadddyyy!”). Far better than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films, none of which featured an upside-down kiss.
Spider-Man 2 (2004) – The first film remains my favorite, but the consensus seems to be that this one is the best of the series. Alfred Molina dons the cybernetic tentacles of Dr. Octopus, while Peter Parker pal Harry Osborn (James Franco) takes over his father‘s company and a bit of his madness. My favorite scene comes after Dr. Ock disables the brakes on an elevated train, and Spidey pushes himself to unconsciousness to halt its progress (finally being assisted by a hoard of stereotypically noble New Yorkers).
Spider-Man 3 (2007) – While it was still entertaining, Spider-Man 3 marked a major step down in the franchise. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) becomes evil, which inevitably leads to dancing. Mary Jane continues to act like a wishy-washy bitch, and enough villains pop up to start a convention. I wish Raimi would’ve come back for one more movie to redeem himself, but I doubt he felt he had anything to prove after the trilogy’s box office totals.
Drag Me to Hell (2009) – Sweet little Alison Lohman gets on the bad side of an elderly woman (Lorna Raver) with the power to curse people, and soon she’s counting the days until a malevolent spirit arrives to drag her to Hell. There are plenty of horrifying moments to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but Raimi also works in his trademark dashes of black humor (the séance scene with the goat comes to mind, as does the parking garage brawl between Lohman and her geriatric tormentor). If you’re searching for a horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, give Drag Me to Hell a try.
Sam Raimi Movies I’ve Missed
I’ve managed to see 11 Sam Raimi movies, but there are still a couple that I’ve overlooked (mainly because I didn’t realize he directed them until later). They include:
For Love of the Game (1999) – A friend of mine raves about this movie all the time, but I still haven’t got around to seeing it. There’s no ulterior motive, either, as I’m a huge Kevin Costner fan. Here he plays an aging pitcher reflecting on life and love while throwing a perfect game in perhaps his final career appearance. The next time I get on a sports movie kick, this one is going in my Netflix queue.
The Gift (2000) – I’m guessing that a lot of people haven’t heard of this film. That‘s at least my excuse for not having seen this supernatural thriller. Oddly enough, it’s based on the psychic experiences of Billy Bob Thornton’s mother (no kidding), The Gift features an all-star cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, and Greg Kinnear. The cast is tempting, but the subject matter sounds hokey.