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Cat's Cradle: Reflecting on Raimi

The release of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness to Disney+ marks an opportunity to see the film from the comfort of your home and a chance to dissect Sam Raimi’s most recent feature. 

A nearly forty-year career, Raimi began with The Evil Dead, a low-budget gore-fest with surprising effects and dynamic camera work praised by Stephen King as a must-watch horror film. While Raimi is well known for his work on the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, he is more than a superhero director. 

The cinematic language in Spider-Man, such as POVS, montages, frenetic camera work and cameos by Bruce Campbell and Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 started long before Raimi was attached to direct the web-slinger. 

Raimi established a style in The Evil Dead that he expanded upon in Evil Dead II. The sequel acts as a soft reboot of the first film. Retelling the events of the first film in twenty minutes, it follows the main character, Ash, in his eternal fight against the forces of the undead. The film is an SFX extravaganza with similar effects to those developed for the Spider-Man films. 

Raimi perfected his editing from the first film, making scenes feel more direct. Rather than filming in a medium wide shotcharacters act around objects in a second-person view, similar to a DIY construction video. The editing defined Raimi’s style and was the inspiration for other directors, including Edgar Wright.

Raimi’s blend of horror and humor defined the next section of his career with the film Army of Darkness and his first Hollywood film Darkman. The latter was proof that Raimi could direct his own superhero film. 

Raimi’s next big feature was The Quick and The Dead, which follows several gunslingers as they attend the “Western Olympics,” a duel for a substantial cash prize. This is his only Western feature but it stands out in the genre because of its distinctive montages and tense duels.

The film stands out over most of his ‘90s features because Raimi created a visual language that carried on to his Spider-Man trilogy. He created a fully fleshed-out cast of characters and incorporated his signature montage style.

Closing out the decade is the often-overlooked A Simple Plan. Starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton as two brothers who discover a plane full of money, what develops is a drama driven by greed. The furthest from Raimi’s style of frenetic cameras, gothic violence, and dark humor, A Simple Plan stands out in Raimi’s works as a taught crime thriller. 

These elements underline Raimi’s Spider-Man films. Special effects, editing, montage and drama form the root of the Spider-Man films and superhero cinema in general. Raimi’s vision of the superhero origin has been replicated and guided future films. 

This includes the Kevin Feige produced Marvel films, since Feige drew inspiration from his time on the Raimi trilogy. Raimi’s return for Doctor Strange is not only a return of a director but an homage to their legacy.

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him be425014@ohio.edu.

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