It’s hard to overstate the impact Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead had on me. Seeing that for first time on a heavily cut VHS put out by a cheapo label in the early 90s, the screen flickering between colour and black and white, changed my life. My mind was blown by the gore and the sinister atmosphere and the sheer low-budget inventiveness. This would have been about 1992, and I was ten years old. Cut to:
1995. My friends and I had been making a series of home movies with a borrowed camcorder. The series was called Scottish Ninja, a spoof of the beloved American Ninja films starring Michael Dudikoff. However, horror elements had been there from the beginning. The baddie – known as The Master – wore a Jason Voorhess glow-in-the-dark hockey mask, and the violence was off-the-charts.
We had just completed part eight (shot in one Saturday afternoon in a local country park) and had to return the camera on Monday, which meant we could shoot another film on the Sunday. By this point we were, naturally, running low on ideas, so i figured what-the-hell – let’s remake The Evil Dead. Who cares if my friends hadn’t seen the film? I would just describe it to them, and we would make up the rest as we go.
And so SCOTTISH NINJA 9: THE UNHOLY DEAD was born, and for that, I sincerely apologise.
The film begins with the three of us arriving at our sinister location. With no woodland cabin on hand, we shot in my granny’s lovely house. To create the requisite spooky atmosphere, we wandered around coughing and talking about how dusty and ‘crummy’ the place was. Ah, the power of suggestion!
That’s me on the left by the way, with the Manchester United goalie top and unfortunate bowl haircut.
The advantage of shooting in the house of a sweet old lady was our ready access to such spine-tingling props as…THE BOOGIE WOOGIE POLKA SONGBOOK!
Costumes were limited, so when we killed off Duncan in the first few minutes…
…we created a new character, who looked very similar to Duncan but was wearing a hat, sunglasses and a chain around his neck.
See? Different person altogether. When that character died after a gruesome scalping…
…we brought him back as another new character, this time with a moustache and a different hat.
Has there ever been a better example of the magic of cinema? If nothing else, those trousers are a great example of the magic of 90s fashion.
I tried to stick to the plot of The Evil Dead as much as possible, so there’s a lengthy – some would say unwatchable – scene where I go on about Sumerian burial rites and Kandarian daggers and funerary incantations.
Guys, I was 13 years old. Horror bit me young, and it bit me hard. It’s tough to see, but for much of the film I’m wearing a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein t-shirt, a film I’ve still never actually gotten round to seeing.
Probably shite, anyway.
This shot was my attempt to pay homage to Steve Christie’s death in Friday the 13th, because that’s a healthy thing for a thirteen year old to do.
Luckily though, we knew how to have a good time, and the film ends with…
…an improvised song and dance number.
Isn’t this how all films are supposed to end?
I finally wrapped up the Scottish Ninja series in 2013, with a Swedish language black and white movie shot almost entirely in slow motion and starring my parents.
Sometimes, life can be just great.