Tag Archives: Scott Spiegel

Stryker’s War (1980, Josh Becker)

Stryker’s War runs just over forty-five minutes. The first fifteen to twenty minutes are all about how twenty-two year-old lead Bruce Campbell can both do anything and make everything feel legit. The film opens in Vietnam (as shot in East Michigan) with Campbell taking his squad out on a mission after being promoted to lieutenant. It shouldn’t work at all. But it does, because Campbell. When Campbell gets wounded and shipped back home where he lives in a remote cabin trying to drink himself to death, it also works. Director Becker has a nice style with the actors, so when Campbell’s bantering with the kindly grocery store owner—played by Campbell’s dad, Charlie—it maintains a certain bit of seriousness, but also a lot of appreciation for the scene being able to work. War never does victory laps, but it’s full of confidence in itself (knowingly thanks to Campbell).

Turns out the kindly grocery store owner—who delivers microwave dinners and liquor to Campbell—has a pretty granddaughter who just might give Campbell the will to live. When she shows up–played by Cheryl Guttridge—the short leans heavy on the absurd; it’s love at first sight, complete with accompanying, sweeping melodramatic music and longing gazes from the lovebirds. She’ll be back the next day with more food for Campbell, giving him an excuse to shave and get dressed up.

Concurrent to Campbell’s burgeoning romance are radio reports of Manson Family-style killings in the Detroit area. They’ll be important in a bit, but first the short’s got to introduce Campbell’s Marine buddies—Scott Spiegel, David M. Goodman, and Don Campbell. None of them are good, occasionally they’re kind of bad, but Becker directs their scenes so well it doesn’t matter. That extended suspension of disbelief he’s set up with the romance carries over to the Marines being on a weekend pass from Japan to… East Michigan. They’re looking for something to do so they decide to visit Campbell in his remote cabin. They find him waiting for Guttridge, who hasn’t shown up, so like any red-blooded American males they get really drunk at nine in the morning and go outside to shoot things.

That night, when Campbell’s dog goes missing and they go out looking for him, they discover the Manson-esque cult is in the nearby woods and they’ve got Guttridge.

Sam Raimi plays the cult leader.

The last fifteen or so minutes of War is Campbell and his pals taking on the cult in the woods, set to familiar music borrowed from other films. There’s some great Bernard Herrmann in there for Campbell and Raimi—the film pairs off the good guys and the bad guys—and I wish I could recall the main chase theme for the rest of them. There’s a lot of running through the woods, some great action gore money shots, and an excellent pace.

War doesn’t aim too high—it’s ever conscious of its limitations—but it’s a great showcase for Campbell and a decent one for Becker. Becker seems like he’d rather get more stylized with the direction but doesn’t have the opportunity, but every once in a while there’s an excellent, complex shot.

It’s very impressive. Especially whoever cut all the music together; the editing’s quite good, but the music editing is outstanding.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Josh Becker; produced by Bruce Campbell and Becker.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Stryker), Scott Spiegel (Marine #1), David M. Goodman (Marine #2), Don Campbell (Marine #3), Cheryl Guttridge (Sally), Charlie Campbell (Otis), and Sam Raimi (Head Crazy).


Evil Dead II (1987, Sam Raimi)

Instead of establishing Evil Dead II’s tone at the start of the film, director Raimi waits a while, veering between horror and comedy–pushing each to their absurdist extremes–until they meet. And, by then, the viewer is fully comfortable in the world of Evil Dead II. Bruce Campbell can be simultaneously sympathetic, hilarious, horrifying.

Campbell spends a good portion of the first third alone. He’s either running from an unseen evil, fighting–usually in a ludicrous fashion–the evil or he’s just going crazier and crazier. Something strange about Raimi and Scott Spiegel’s script is how it frequently invites consideration from the viewer. Not so much about the back story of the unseen evil, though there’s some very genre sympathetic exposition, but in the reality of the characters’ experiences.

The film is so unbelievable in its horrors, as the characters contend with possessed and disremembered mothers and significant others, the viewer sympathizes and imagines being in the characters’ shoes. Raimi and Campbell are so committed, just watching the film commits the viewer as well.

There’s a lot of good filmmaking going on too. Raimi expertly combines various special effects–make-up, stop motion, projection screens–with he and cinematographer Peter Deming’s tilted, distorted camera angles. Even when Evil Dead II is obvious, it works; Raimi wants to show how important his execution of the film is to the experience of viewing the film.

Excellent score from Joseph LoDuca, great performance from Campbell.

It’s crazy, silly, gross and smart.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Raimi; written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel; director of photography, Peter Deming; edited by Kaye Davis; music by Joseph LoDuca; produced by Robert G. Tapert; released by Rosebud Releasing Corporation.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Ashley ‘Ash’ J. Williams), Sarah Berry (Annie Knowby), Dan Hicks (Jake), Kassie Wesley DePaiva (Bobby Joe), Denise Bixler (Linda), Richard Domeier (Ed Getley), John Peakes (Professor Raymond Knowby), Lou Hancock (Henrietta Knowby) and Ted Raimi (Possessed Henrietta).


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Within the Woods (1978, Sam Raimi)

While Within the Woods is well-known as a precursor to The Evil Dead—Raimi has a number of sequences he uses again, once he’s got a budget—it’s more significant for its differences. First, it’s a monster movie. While gory, it has more in common with an old Universal horror picture than it does Evil Dead. Second (and related to the first), it’s Raimi’s only film for many years with a female protagonist. Bruce Campbell’s not the lead here, it’s Ellen Sandweiss.

As a director, some of Raimi’s shots work and some don’t. Once he gets to the horror sequences, he’s more in his element, but he does have some strong material before.

Sandweiss is excellent—even if her last ten minutes is constant screaming—as is Campbell. Mary Valenti’s good, Scott Spiegel isn’t.

It’s an interesting, moderately successful film. It deserves a real release, for Sandweiss’s performance alone.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Tim Philo; produced by Robert G. Talpert.

Starring Bruce Campbell (Bruce), Ellen Sandweiss (Ellen), Mary Valenti (Shelly) and Scott Spiegel (Scotty).


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