Content Warning: scenes mentioned include references to rape, suicide, beastiality, bloody violence, nudity, and a disdained view on 80’s era horror movies.
Wrapped in film tape, locked from the inside and out, McClane is an employee of a fictional horror movie studio who is having a mental breakdown. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”, demands his boss, after storming into the editing room. McClane, in his last words before killing himself; “Me? I’m just another chunk of meat…lost in brainland.” And from there, we never see him again. Cue title-card.
This is the first 2 and half minutes of my time with 1995’s Evil Ed. Yet for all its ridiculousness, I was intrigued from the start. I should explain how this movie was not recommended to me, but merely found on Amazon’s video offerings as most of my horror discoveries are found when bored and exhausted. After watching the movie, I later found out it was supposed to be a comedy in addition to being in the horror genre. A review by Steven Gaydos, put it best:
What starts as a promising spoof of the vast chasm between Europe’s art film past and the corruption of cinema as practiced by U.S. splatter pic specialists like Sam Raimi, John Carpenter and their ilk, slowly runs out of creative gas and becomes victim to the excesses of the gore genre.
Steven was very correct on his assessments. The plot concerns a man named Edward Svensson, who has been promoted to a new role in the “Splatter & Gore Department.” Evil Dead 2 posters surround the office of Ed’s boss, Sam Campbell, the same last name of Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell. “It’s molesting time!”, yells out a man from a movie playing in the background in the Loose Limbs series. Even the title “Evil Ed” is a play on Evil Dead. But twenty five years later, I found something more intriguing than a simple failed attempt at lambasting the horror genre.
Evil Ed, for all its ridiculousness and over exaggerated actors, hides a message about labor exploitation in the film industry and how one’s mental health can be seriously affected on the job. The movie takes it to the extreme where Ed starts killing people. He doesn’t want to continue the promotion at first, and even mentions how it is too bloody and violent for him. He wants his old job back. Sam has no remorse for how Ed feels, as the footage for Loose Limbs 7 needs to be ready for European distributors as soon as possible. The scene that plays after begins Ed’s journey into madness, as he starts to see the characters in the film he’s editing. The first half of the movie contains scenes where a random small creature pillages his fridge and calls Ed a nazi. Sam manifests as a demon due to Ed’s delusions. He chases Ed from his basement to a series of underground tunnels. He threatens him with a sexual act he must perform for eternity in hell that is seen as the bare minimum in today’s world. Then, the movie throws that all away to turn into a generic slasher film, with Ed ultimately killing Sam by snapping his neck. But the labor messages hidden in the cracks of the script still held my interest, as someone who has finished their first term leading alongside a labor union for freelance media workers as of this writing.
There was a documentary by Scott Leberecht about the studio, Rhythm and Hues, who was in charge of visual effects for Life of Pie. It was called Life After Pie. It was about the studio that did the VFX for Life of Pi, Rhythm ‘N Hues Studios, and how it won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects 11 days after closing. It also delved into what is fundamentally wrong with the vfx industry that provides outsourced and exploited labor for such studios such as Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros, and more. I think back on the story from last year on NetherRealm studios, creators of Mortal Kombat and Injustice, on how developers and contractors hired faced 90 to 100 hour work weeks, view and then be desensitized by violent imagery both real and in-game.
An employee spoked to GamesIndustry.Biz about their experience anonymously. “It’s emotionally draining,” a current employee said. “It’s physically draining. You feel like you wake up, go to work, go home and sleep. There’s no time for family, no time for friends or socializing or any work at home. It’s just work. That’s what you do for that portion of your life. And it feels shitty. You feel bad after you do it, physically and emotionally.”
I looked back on these and other stories of labor abuse in games, movies, television, and comics when watching Ed try to get through a day of work. The scene that really sold my thesis was when Sam comes over to Ed’s house and asks one simple question. The question, in all of its ridiculousness and absurdity, brought home the message about bad bosses perfectly.
“Where in the fuck is my beaver rape scene? There was no sexually explicit footage in that scene. No tits, no cocks, no pussy, no obscene body movements. Beaver rape clip stays in the film.”
Ed fights him on it, calling it a disgusting scene and the reason for why he removed it. But Sam is having none of it. From there, the heart of the movie lays bare for all to see. Ed, who always reminded me of comedian, writer, and acquaintance Josh Gondelman in looks alone, is the VFX artist whose work is outsourced in order to get a movie for distribution as soon as possible. Ed is the game developer who faces crunch, never gets to celebrate holidays with his family, and goes home when he wants to. Ed is a generic white man, and the movie takes his madness to killing anyone he sees or is colleagues with to an extreme. But if there’s anything to take away from a movie that portrays mental illness in a horrible light near the end, it is that filmmakers Anders Jacobsson and Goran Lundstorm had something they didn’t fully develop.
Instead of providing commentary on labor in 90’s era Hollywood, they aimed for low hanging fruit and tried to make a case for horror movies being…….a waste of time. I guess? It never fully gets into what it has to say on horror besides referencing the Evil Dead series, and then DeNiro in Taxi Driver for some reason. But if there was a remake of this today, it will lose the spirit of the 90’s but gain a refreshing take on an issue that is not slowing down anytime soon. Especially as more and more people in entertainment work from home.