American filmmaker Sam Raimi is a bonafide pioneer of the horror genre, known for his masterpieces such as Evil Dead and popular films including the Spider-Man trilogy. His works have influenced generations of younger directors and aspiring artists, including prominent auteurs such as the Coen Brothers, who learnt a lot while working with him.
In an interview, Raimi said: “I love that makers of the genre are finally being recognised as artists, and yet personally I like working as a filmmaker in disrespected genres – they are better places to hide out and practice my craft. Somehow it’s healthier making horror movies there in the darkness away from the sunlight, where things can fester and mould, decay.”
While Raimi was quick to acknowledge the brilliance of contemporary horror geniuses such as Jordan Peele, he referred back to an old master when probed about the horror film that terrified him the most. Coincidentally, it was also the first horror flick that Raimi had ever seen in his life.
“I was about nine years old, and my sister snuck me in because I wasn’t old enough,” he said while recalling the details of the event. “In Michigan [Raimi’s home state], we have tremendous winters, and so she had this long coat, and I was tiny enough that I could do this little shuffle walk underneath it and believe it or not sneak into the theatre.”
That day, the theatre was playing George A. Romero’s enigmatic 1968 masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, which stayed with Raimi throughout his life and filmmaking career. From that initial viewing, the future director was aware that he was watching something brilliant and transcendental, something which would influence him later on.
Raimi continued: “I really had never been so terrified in my life. I was screaming and shrieking, begging my sister to take me home, and she was trying to shut me up. I’d never experienced horror like that before. It felt so real, like a docu-horror. I had never seen a black-and-white movie in a movie theatre before; it looked like a documentary. There was nothing Hollywood about it — it was just unrelenting and complete madness and very upsetting for me.”
He even acknowledged that Evil Dead owed a lot to Romero’s seminal zombie film: “I think George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead had a giant influence on Evil Dead. You know, zombies and his cabin setting. It was so scary and intense. That really had a giant impact on me.”