Release Date: May 2, 1997 (Sweden)
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Director: Anders Jacobsson
Writers: Anders Jacobsson , Göran Lundström, Christer Ohlsson
Starring: Johan Rudebeck, Olof Rhodin, Camela Leierth, Per Lofberg
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
When I think of countries that have produced horror films, the most notable ones that come up besides the United States are Japan and Italy. There are so many notable films in the horror genre that birthed from these countries. Of course, that’s not to say that foreign horror films are limited to these countries. There have been films shot in Spain (1982’s Pieces), Australia (2005’s Wolf Creek) and Romania (Subspecies movies from the 90s) just to name a few. A couple years ago when I was getting back into the world of exploitation films thanks to the hit Shudder series “The Last Drive In” featuring my all-time favorite critic, Joe Bob Briggs I was looking for titles that were lesser known, but had a cult following. One of those movies I discovered through the streaming app Tubi was a 1997 Swedish slasher film which premise caught my attention. Within the first viewing I was hooked on it and ended up buying the Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition which featured three versions of the film. That film which is this week’s “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” review is Evil Ed!
Directed by Anders Jacobsson, who also wrote the script with Göran Lundström and Christer Ohlsson, Evil Ed stars Johan Rudebeck as Edward ‘Eddie’ Tor Swenson, an editor for the film company European Distributors, who gets assigned to the “Splatter & Gore Department,” which is the horror movie line to complete the unfinished edits of the company’s biggest franchise, the Loose Limbs films. The head of the department Sam Campbell (Olof Rhodin) allows Eddie to use his private cottage in the Swedish countryside to complete the films. Alone in the cottage and viewing these films for the first time Eddie is exposed to the blood, gore, violence, and craziness of the series as he has never seen a horror film in his life. Working late hours and watching every entry to edit them due to each European country’s different censor laws, Eddie develops hallucinations and sees anyone checking up on him as a monster to the point where he develops insanity and kills them.
The writers of Evil Ed created this movie as a political statement to the harsh censorship laws of Sweden. At the time, the country did not allow films to feature blood, gore, sex, or excessive violence. Eventually the country eased up on their restrictions which allowed Anders Jacobsson to proceed with making of this film. The film took five years to finish. It’s original intention was to be a short film, but ended up turning into a full length feature. The production went through some troubled times. The film was made using discarded equipment and there were constant re-shoots in order to get it to look the way it ends up on the film. When it was finished, Evil Ed was shown in only four theaters in Sweden. However, the great reviews of the movie created a buzz and ended up selling the distribution to over sixty countries.
There is so much I enjoyed about Evil Ed. The first thing I praise is its originality. I’ve never seen a film up to that point about a film editor who goes completely mad while performing his job. When you think about it, film editing is just a typical job. It can get frustrating, and you must work long hours in order to get the cut that the Director wants. It’s his vision, after all. The character of Eddie reminds us of ourselves as how we would react to something that we see for the first time and don’t know how to compute it. This could be anything from seeing your first horror movie to perhaps seeing a naked body for the first time and not knowing how to process it in your brain or you watch something traumatic that you don’t know how to react, and stays bottled up with you inside. Jacobsson does a great job exploring these feelings throughout the lead character which in turn is performed great by Johan Rudebeck. You see how innocent and mild mannered he is and then you slowly watch as his morality and clean soul is polluted by what he sees on the monitor. Rudebeck’s Eddie goes through the moods like changes of the season. He goes from innocent to scared to humorous in a dark tone to outright madness which doesn’t end well.
There’s not much of a supporting cast other than the principal actors. I found Olof Rhodin’s portrayal of Sam Campbell to be hilarious and he acts just how an executive would act. He doesn’t care about the concerns Eddie brings up to him. All he cares about is the job getting done so his distribution deal can be signed and delivered. That’s the name of the game in the film industry. The art aspect is gone, and films are seen as products being sold to the highest bidder. Before I go any further into the performances I should point out since that the film is Swedesh, the characters were dubbed by English speaking actors. The dubbed actors played it straight. You don’t have to worry about it being too goofy or over the top with the exception of some of the monsters that Eddie sees when he takes his periodic breaks in between his editing jobs.
Evil Ed has the right balance of horror and comedy not to take it too seriously. Each scene fits appropriately to the situation that is unfolding. Many fan reviews compare the humor and horror to that of the Evil Dead movies. That’s a fair statement to make. I found myself laughing at the littlest moments. The ample amount of blood and gore is right on the level of Evil Dead and will keep not only those fans, but gore fans hungry for more. It didn’t occur to me until I started doing research on this movie is that the filmmakers were obviously influenced by Sam Raimi’s classic horror trilogy and the character name of Sam Campbell didn’t resonate in my head until I realized he took Sam Raimi’s first name and Bruce Campbell’s last name. I can be naive to those minute details.
I loved the cinematography of the film. Evil Ed was shot in 16MM and most of the film takes place at night with a cold blue light that surrounds the scenes to give it a very eerie tone. The makeup effects for the characters were top notch with a few frightening moments including a hag looking monster who screams at Eddie, which happens to be my favorite part in the movie (I have an Audio Clip as proof). There’s even a scene where the monster is reminiscent of Tim Curry’s Darkness character from Ridley Scott’s Legend. The short clips shown of the Loose Limbs films are full of blood and slapstick as an homage to the popular slasher films of the 80s.
The only gripe I really have about the movie is the pacing and the third act. Things start to slow down during the third act and get very silly. I won’t go into too many details to avoid spoilers, but I felt that the writers could’ve taken the time to finish the story in a different way. My impressions from the final act was that they were struggling to come up with a satisfactory ending so they decided to rush one through with something common. It tarnishes from the rest of the film’s originality.
Evil Ed is a fun and frightening flick that is great to watch on a Friday or Saturday evening. It falls in the category of my favorite underrated and underappreciated horror films. Evil Ed put Sweden on the horror movie map. I’ll need to I would love to see it get “The Last Drive In” treatment someday. This is the perfect movie to watch with your friends while Joe Bob provides insightful information about the movie and what the actors, writers and filmmakers are doing these days. I’m not sure if it’s available to watch on Tubi, but if it is definitely reserve a night to watch and if you like it, pick up the Collector’s Edition which features the Director’s Cut.
TRIVIA (Per IMDB)
- It took five years to make this movie which started as a short film project. All the trailers and “films-in-the-film”-scenes was the first sequences to be filmed.
- The title is an obvious play on The Evil Dead (1981). The character name Sam Campbell is another reference to that movie: the director of The Evil Dead (1981) is Sam Raimi, and the star is Bruce Campbell.
- Only four theaters in Sweden wanted to see this film. It was later sold to over 60 countries.
- All the dubbed voices were performed by American actors at Bandit Radio, an English-speaking radio station in Stockholm.
- Although his part is unspecified in the credits, Bill Moseley provides the voice for the killer in the “Loose Limbs” films.
- When Ed throws the head of the crackhead out of the window, it bounces off the hood of a car. The man driving the car is Director Anders Jacobsson.
- The movie originally ended with Barbara shooting Edward and him being taken away to hospital. Then the camera goes into the house and up the stairs into Edward’s editing room. The shot ends with a zoom into the editing screen as we see the trailer to “Loose Limbs 8”. The filmmakers realized that the movie was too short and wasn’t exciting enough. So a new ending had to be shot.
- When it was completed, the filmmakers changed the the camera used in the film was an archived 16mm camera owned by Sveriges Television, the Swedish state TV-station. The producers acquired the camera from an elderly janitor for a bottle of whiskey.