AVAILABLE ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: 29th May
RUNNING TIME: 95/93 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Eddie Tor Swenson is a mild-mannered film editor with a wife, child, and a comfortable job editing art and drama films for a major studio. Following the suicide of their editor, heartless studio exec Sam Campbell transfers Ed to his department, the Splatter & Gore Department, to finish what the original editor was doing: editing the highly profitable but extremely violent Loose Limbs series of slashers. Sam allows Ed the use of his secluded country cottage so Ed can go about his work undisturbed, or so he thinks, but the loneliness and the constant exposure to the violent nature and content of the films he’s editing starts to drive Ed insane….
“So you like headbanging huh?” says our psycho to his next victim whose bonce he then proceeds to bash all over a room, after which the phone rings and Ed says: “It’s for you” – then bashing the poor guy’s face in with the receiver. Well it certainly made me chuckle, though sadly I didn’t find anything else as funny in the film. Existing somewhere both stylistically and in terms of quality between an early Peter Jackson film [good] and a Troma production [very bad], Evil Ed has garnered itself quite a cult reputation over the years and I was eager to see it ever since I heard that Arrow were releasing it in a restored ‘Special Ed-ition’. Sadly, while I was undeniably entertained for some of the first half of the movie at least, Evil Ed didn’t really come off. It’s one of those films that has a great basic idea full of potential [especially some commentary on the supposed effect some say that extreme material has on viewers], then fails to really develop it and spends much of the time attempting to go for laughs which are only occasionally funny, and parodies of other horror films. And, despite its reputation as a gore fest, the graphic stuff is mostly confined to the beginning and the ending, though this is something which is no doubt due to the tiny budget the filmmakers had to contend with.
The film begun life as a short film project which was a protest against the way that Swedish censors would heavily cut any film that had scenes of sex or violence, but very soon into pre-production writer/director Anders Jacobsson and co-writers Göran Lundström and Crister Ollhson hit upon the idea of turning it into a feature. After difficulties with their action film Highlight, the team set out to make Evil Ed guerrila style, and the lack of money meant that nobody was paid for doing it. The majority of filming took place over just four weeks in 1992, though two major scenes which didn’t occur in the two main locations were shot in 1993, and then in 1994 it was decided that the film was too slow, so many scenes between Ed and his wife Barbara were cut and a new action-filled final reel added. Rumour has it that scene Ed has to edit involving: “a girl who gets raped by a beaver and then shot in the head with a bazooka” was actually shot but then discarded. The film was shot entirely without sound, with every cast member dubbed except for Camela Leierth who plays Mel. Despite the fact that in the interim the Swedish censors changed their policy and released Brain Dead uncut, only four prints were made of Evil Ed for Swedish release and it consequently came and went, though elsewhere it was a different story as 60 countries bought the film at the Cannes Film Festival, making it the third highest Swedish export of the year. The ‘R’ rated US version lost three minutes, cutting some of the gore and violence and also losing an early scene from a film Ed is working on. For some reason, that scene remained missing from all the DVD releases outside of Sweden – well, until now. The initial British version was almost uncut though, only losing two seconds of blood on breasts, something which the BBFC used to believe incited rapists.
The film opens with the previous editor of the Loose Limbs films going mad, surrounded by reels of celluloid and stabbing a film can, before putting a hand grenade in his mouth and blowing himself up, after which producer/studio head/I’m not entirely sure Sam Campbell tells him he’s fired. Cut to Ed, currently working on a black and white Ingmar Bergman-esque picture [which is Swedish, yet we’re supposed to be in America] where a woman is trying to get through to her husband that she’s leaving him, but all he can do is stare out the window and complain that the weather reports are never right. I can relate. Ed is asked by Sam to move departments and edit his gruesome Loose Limbs films for theatrical release, though he laughably doesn’t really tell him any specifics. In the background is an old lady struggling to carry some reels of films, which is about as amusing as it gets for a while, but I did like the Halliwell’s Film Guide resting on Sam’s desk, because this is a film that the notoriously graphic horror-hating film writer would have hated, though I don’t know if this was thought of by Jacobson and his crew when they decided to put the book on the table. Ed tells his wife Mel that he’s having to cut down the beaver/bazooka scene I referred to earlier, though much of the supposed extreme stuff is just shown from the side and all blurry so you can’t really make it out, or in quick shots during a film-cutting montage. Of course we do see a bit of gory Loose Limbs footage, beginning with a man lopping off a woman’s arm. Ed later plays back the scene having removed nearly everything, and then I chuckled because it’s just like a baffling experience I had back in the day with House By The Cemetery where, because it was banned, I had an uncut video of terrible quality, bought it when it was legally re-released, and found that nearly every single shot containing blood was gone.
Ed begins to hallucinate strange things like a loaf of bread becoming that severed arm, or the elderly neighbour becoming a buxom blonde. This ‘what is real’ type stuff is quite well done and things are a little unsettling for a short while, peaking when Ed dreams of a tortured man telling him that: “They must be corrected, or die”, but afterwards it’s nearly all Ed killing people off, copies of things like Gremlins [though the puppet creature in the fridge is pretty cool] and Halloween. “I’m coming to get you Barbara” says Ed. How funny – well, not really – though I did like the various horror film posters popping up all over the place. Instead, it’s either an indication of how the creators have just ran out of ideas, or how unwilling they are to take their ideas and progress with them. There’s a bit of creeping around the house stuff which is reasonably tense, but the overall feeling is that we’re intended to laugh at it all – though that’s a difficult thing when the film is only occasionally funny. Ed’s supposed mission remains infuriatingly vague, and the whole movie refuses to really confront what it seems to really be about. At least the few splatter effects are well done, and the editing, by a guy seemingly just named Doc, sometimes does a good job of making you see more than you actually have.
“90 minutes of condensed sex and violence! Do you call that a great movie? Do you have the slightest idea what the moral and ethical principles are” screams Ed in one seemingly pivotal scene, and I don’t know if we’re intended to feel similarly or not. On the surface Evil Ed is indeed a cry for freedom from censorship, and a film which is mocking those moral guardians [those of us in the UK who are old enough still remember Mary Whitehouse with horror] and over zealous censors who are keen to protect us from anything they think is unsuitable for viewing, the film saying: “Is this really what you think sex and violence on the screen does to people? Look how ridiculous your ideas are”. However, from the clips that we see, these Loose Limbs films seem to be pretty dreadful pictures, of no real worth and not ones I would lose sleep over if they were banned or cut to shreds. This means that Jacobsson and co. kind of [perhaps inadvertently] shoot themselves in the foot with what they’re trying to say, and the frankly terrible acting [yes I know this is a micro budget movie, and using inexperienced performers can work okay, but not here] from many of the performers [Cecelia Lyjong as Ed’s wife Barbara especially], who seem to have been asked to either ham it up rotten or be incredibly stiff, doesn’t help. Johan Rudebeck as Ed is fine in some scenes, and is clearly having fun in the role, but never makes you scared of him, which leaves a gaping hole in the story.
We never believe that we’re in the US. Instead,we’re in some strange country where, for example, one character never uses a doorbell and instead just raps gently at the door – and Ed, inside doing his editing quite a few rooms away, actually hears him. I suppose things like this don’t really matter when you’re not supposed to take the film seriously, but because the chuckles are few, one is left with a highly unsatisfying work that is neither one or the other. Jacobsson does show a reasonable grasp of film craft, and in his role as cinematographer makes the unusual [well, back then, though it later became overused] decision to shoot both the exterior and interior of the house Ed is editing in with an emphasis on blue, which later begins to take over a hospital when Ed is at large there. Here and there are snatches of real inspiration, but overall Evil Ed got rather tiresome for this critic.
Arrow were only able to send me a screener of the first disc of their set, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because they were still working on disc three [disc two is the DVD] In any case, it means that I’m unable to comment on things like the three hour making of which is on the third, but this first disc is pretty packed anyway. The extended version of the film has the option of being introduced by Jacobsson and Doc, who keep laughing and having to do re-takes. They talk a little about the re-inserted material, . The film itself looks pretty amazing on Blu-ray considering its micro budget origins. Some blacks are a little blotchy and some softness is prevalent in the picture, but it’s nothing to really complain about. Some of the cast seem to be speaking English and the dubbing is quite good as these things go.
The special features kick off with an excellent 45 minute ‘making of’ called Keep ’Em Heads Rollin. I always find it rather uplifting when people make a film with minimal money and resources at their disposal, and I enjoyed seeing some of the cast and crew talk about it so much that I wished I liked the actual feature more. They couldn’t even afford a camera so Jacobsson sold two bottles of whisky for one. There are some nice stories from a shoot which was fun but exhausting and dangerous [listen out for the reason why Rudebeck’s acting while he’s shot is so convincing], and a bit of behind the scenes stuff. Before Ed is a short piece looking at the crew’s mostly horror-orientated early short work, beginning with a clip of a man pretending he’s being attacked by a flower. It’s silly and entertaining. After Ed has Jacobsson and co. talk about their two later films The Unknown and Insane, plus their pilot for a TV series Hunger that was never shown. They look similarly cheap and cheerful and I’d like to see them despite being disappointed with Evil Ed. Apparently Insane can’t get a DVD release but one year was number 45 in the list of most illegally downloaded films!
Now we move onto Reconstructing Ed which is a fascinating and quite in-depth piece following Jacobsson and Doc as they try to locate deleted footage to put in a special edition version of the film. Along the way we get to see some props, and learn a bit about movie editing. Great stuff. New scenes looks at the added footage and why it was cut in the first place. It’s two scenes – a montage and a confrontation betweed Ed and Barbara – though elsewhere an alternate opening is mentioned. As I haven’t seen the original cut I can’t confirm if it’s different. The Deleted scenes are mainly Ed and Barbara moments, replete with more of Lyjong’s dire ‘acting’, though there’s also two early versions of moments that were later reshot, including an alternate fridge monster! Some amusing bloopers, trailers and stills round off the disc.
What with the three hour documentary and other things apparently on disc three, this Blu-ray of Evil Ed is probably worth buying even if, like me, you weren’t too hot on the film but are interested in filmmaking, especially of the low budget kind. It’s an outstanding release, and if you’rev a fan of the movie then you may very well wet yourself at its delights.
3-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
*Two versions of the film!
*Original Stereo and 5.1 Audio Options
*Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
*Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
*Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by critic James Oliver
DISCS 1 & 2 (BLU-RAY + DVD) – THE SPECIAL ED-ITION CUT
*World premiere of the newly-extended version of the feature [95 min]
*Keep ’Em Heads Rollin’ – making-of documentary
*Reconstructing Ed – featurette on the creation of the Special EDition cut
*Teasers and Trailers
DISC 3 (BLU-RAY) – THE ORIGINAL CUT [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
*Original Cut [93 mins]
*Lost in Brainland – never-before-seen extended 3 hour version of the making-of documentary
PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!!!