Evil Ed (1995)
Studio: Arrow Video
Release date: May 30th, 2017
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
Every hero has foe or foil they’re destined to do battle with in perpetuity: Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has The Joker, the X-Men have Magneto. Likewise, horror movies have been locked in an endless battle with moral crusaders practically since their inception, an eternal war that has taken on many forms across several different landscapes. American provocateurs have faced down the Hays Code, the Catholic League of Decency, and the MPAA throughout the years, while Britain’s moral panic inspired the outright ban of dozens of films. German’s censorship was so oppressive that Andreas Schnaas lashed out with a movie literally titled Violent Shit in response. Even Sweden instituted a notoriously set of standards that weren’t abolished until 1996, a year after Anders Jacobsson skewered it with Evil Ed, a farcical satire looking to expose the absurdity of this particular crusade.
Taking a blunt force approach, it can barely even be considered to be a satire or allegory, not when it’s so thinly-veiled. Meek editor Edward (Johan Rudebeck) toils away for a European distribution company, where he’s accustomed to cutting weighty, airless dramas. One day, however, his boss calls him into the office with an unusual request: the company has just sold Loose Limbs, its cash cow splatter movie franchise, for international distribution. Given the stringent restrictions in some marks, edits are in order, so Ed is charged with plowing through the series in order to cut out the more offensive bits. Soon enough, the task begins to weigh heavily, as the constant images of sex and gore begin to warp his mind and send him on a murder spree.
That’s the joke, you see: a pretty obvious piss take on the insistence that violent films inevitably lead to moral decay. Nobody would ever accuse Jacobsson of being subtle here (hell, the movie opens with another, unrelated editor’s head exploding), as his thesis is made patently obvious, underlined by every meat cleaver swipe and bolded with every drop of karo syrup. Ed’s spree is framed with such absurd, screwball theatrics that it can’t be considered a measured, ruminative exploration of a psyche that’s been seared by violence. I mean, just look at the premise: it’s about an overzealous censor going batty because of all the gruesome stuff passing before his wild, bug eyes. There’s perhaps a bit of insight in the implication that repressing these horrors is what ultimately drives Ed insane—he’s even visited by a demonic figure that implores him to cut the immorality out of the various “degenerates” he encounters (a group that comes to include his own wife and young daughter, in case you’re wondering just how much he loses it).
Thematically speaking, Evil Ed is pretty shallow, but Jacobsson is rightfully aware that he’s preaching to the choir, so at least he’s channeling these juvenile provocations at exactly the right audience. Despite targeting his country’s repressive censorship standards, it’s pretty clear the film is aimed at appeasing those hardcore gorehounds who bemoaned those standards right alongside him. He’s doing so with a palpable enthusiasm to boot, as Evil Ed revels in being a fucked-up delight. Blood is shed by the buckets, and, yes, the fictional Loose Limbs movies more than live up to their title. Viewers are treated to their most pertinent snippets as Ed toils away at editing them, allowing Jacobsson to stuff in even more gratuitous nudity and violence. Following the plot of these films-within-the-film is basically impossible (they seem to involve a mad, pun-spitting doctor), yet my main takeaway is that I would most certainly like to live in a world where there were basically 8 Dr. Giggles movies.
It goes without saying all of this gore is gloriously practical, too. Above all, Evil Ed functions as an exemplary splatter showcase, one that mixes in gore gags with cool, rubbery creatures during some of Ed’s more vivid hallucinations, like one that has a Gremlin knock-off invading his fridge. Every frame featuring any kind of effects work—which would be most of them—is a total blast aimed right at the heart of splatter fiends. While there’s obviously something confrontational in it since Jacobsson is essentially shoving it right into critics’ faces, it’s done so more out of joy than spite. He’s clearly having fun, and his considerable filmmaking chops give Evil Ed a raucous vibe that keeps it from feeling like an exhausting chore like so many gore films.
By channeling the spirit of Sam Raimi and early Peter Jackson (just check out that awesome POV shot from a decapitated head!), Jacobsson has crafted a film that’s more than just empty, juvenile provocation. It’s a hoot that overcomes its one-note, thinly-stretched premise since it doubles as an infectious call to arms. Sure, the third act—which sees Ed facing off against a swat team in a hospital—feels like a bit of a tacked on swerve to give the narrative some kind of shape, but it provides an excuse to spread around even more gore. Plus, the late turn of events firmly positions a gorehound surrogate as the film’s hero, Throughout Evil Ed, the title character encounters Nick (Per Lofberg), a horror fanatic who works as an errand boy at the distribution studio, mostly so he has easy access to a screening room and the Loose Limbs prints. Mostly existing as the ultimate audience surrogate, he emerges in the third act, very much “one of us” in his quest to put down this deranged editor and save his girlfriend.
At this point, Evil Ed is clearly less an angry screed and more a celebration of a genre so often treated as a black sheep. Jacobsson has an obvious affinity for it, as evidenced by the iconic posters that are strewn throughout Ed’s workplace. In many ways, it’s a more over-the-top riff on Fade to Black, another film that mines the intersection of film violence with a damaged brain to engage in slasher movie theatrics. That film boasts a bit more substance and character work to it, but Evil Ed is a worthy successor loaded with torrents of carnage and a tremendously unhinged performance by Rudebeck. And while its raison d'être is now obsolete and a touch dated in the wake of Sweden abolishing its censorship board, it’s no less entertaining 20 years later, and it features one of the strangest, pensive final moments I’ve ever seen in a movie where a dude’s head is blown clean off.
Predictably enough, Evil Ed gained notoriety before it was ever released, and, in an absurd turn of events, was actually released in a hacked-up edited form when it hit VHS in the United States. This cut persisted well into the DVD era, but Arrow Video has swooped in to restore it for its Blu-ray debut. Bowing on the format in a lavish 3-disc collector’s edition, Evil Ed boasts 2 separate, fully unrated cuts: one is Jacobsson’s newer “Director’s Ed-ition,” while the other preserves the original theatrical cut. Both cuts are restored in pristine HD and give viewers an option between 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-MA tracks.
A host of supplements are also spread out over the discs, including an introduction by Jacobsson, three separate featurettes with the cast and crew detailing the film’s production and legacy, deleted scenes, two glimpses at the process of creating the new director’s cut, bloopers, trailers, teasers, and an image gallery. And if that weren’t enough, an entire 3-hour making-of documentary awaits, making this not only a definitive release for Evil Ed but also among the most impressive, comprehensive genre releases in recent memory. Fans that have been waiting to witness this film in all of its uncut glory won’t be disappointed. Here’s to the delivery of yet another holy grail from Arrow, whose releases continue to be among the most exciting and fulfilling during this recent home video renaissance. comments powered by Disqus Ratings: