Maybe it was just the lack of rationality that comes with driving 700 miles in two days, or just plain glaikitness, but I watched Evil Dead II a couple nights back. I had read on an Internet site (probably already a warning) that it was very scary, but I’ve been a slave to logic for many years. Supposing this to be a sequel, I was confused when the first few minutes replayed the plot from the first movie with just two characters instead of the original five. Budget cuts (literally, as I later learned) meant leaving out characters and supposing that the viewers would catch on. In the first Evil Dead, the catalyst of the evil spirits in the woods was “Sumerian” spells recorded by an ill-fated professor in the cabin in the forest. Playing the recording (still in the first film), the kids release the evil spirits and one-by-one become possessed until Ash has to kill off all his companions. The campiness in both films tends to ameliorate the over-the-top violence and blood, and you know that the film isn’t taking itself at all seriously.
Once I figured that out (it was, after all, a very long drive), I settled in to watch a familiar story unfold. New characters are added in the form of the professor’s daughter, and traveling company, who show up with more pages from the Book of the Dead that will help to dispel the evil. When the characters encounter a ghost of the dead professor, he says something that may be the point of this blog post. He urges his daughter to seek salvation in the pages of the book. So here was a distinctly Judeo-Christ-Islamic theme playing out: salvation comes through obeying a book. It is an example of what I would have called “the Bible as a magical book” back in my teaching days. Movies, both good and bad, tend to portray “Bibles” as books that have the ability to affect the world around them in beneficial ways. Demons are cast out, illnesses are healed, lives are restored.
My fondness for B movies, in the end, is all that redeemed this domestic cinematic experience. I have spent many nights in the woods and I have read and reread sacred books. The two, however, seem to be worlds apart. Nature often feels like a redemptive experience. After many weeks of experiencing the outdoors only in the guise of New York City, a truth that can only be called sacred occurs—people are creatures of nature and nature can still feel sacred to us. Here is a simple reason that environmental integrity must be maintained against those who would exploit the earth for fossil fuels, timber, or drainage of lakes for irrigation. Nature may be our last chance to find something truly sacred. Once one person, company, or government destroys it, it will be gone for a lifetime or more, for everyone. That, in my book, is evil.