By C. J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi
Gosh, I love movies! You don’t even wanna know how much I do, seriously. It’s almost corny how much I love movies. I just figure that a guy who loves movies half as much as I do, ought to write about movies. Either I write about them or I make them – me? I figure I do both. Ha!
Now, as most upcoming directors, I have a long list of directors whom I admire, and those whose works I follow with fervency as well as with all scrutiny. Yes, scrutiny, I’m not like one of those fans who follow a dude just for following sake, like a frigging mindless zombie – not me! I tend to think for myself, and I try to understand what the hell is going on in the mind of a director, and why the hell he chose to do something the way he did it in a movie. A lot of people think film directors are eccentric madmen. No, they’re not. They just need a little bit of love and understanding like everybody else, huh…who the hell am I kidding? LOL.
Hey! Just before I start, I don’t want anyone to get any wrong ideas like I’m gonna give a frigging autobiography (or in this case, videography) on these directors, no way! If you want that kinda boring stuff, go to IMDb.com (no spite intended); but if you want the really cool yarn about film directors, with a nice spin to it; as well as a reliable recommendation (based on years of expertise in the field) on movies that you’ve got to see – well, fellas, you have come to the right place.
The Great Sam Raimi (also a producer, writer and actor)
This guy is my man, for real. I watched Evil Dead as a kid, and there and then I decided that I was gonna make movies. Why? Because the movie scared me so damn much then, and I wanted to scare other people the same way I was scared. It was that black and white for me then. Of course, I didn’t know who Sam Raimi was till years later, but one thing I knew was that I wanted his job badly.
Sam Raimi likes humour, however dark. He could be playing a Charlie Chaplin-like kind of score in the background, while someone is being beaten to death with a shovel. He likes provocative violent shots (like any good horror director should); and uses blood and gore make-up effects a bit too extravagantly. But it works for him.
My favourite Sam Raimi movies are the Evil Dead trilogy (naturally), The Quick and the Dead, Darkman, Spider-Man 1, 2, 3 and Drag Me to Hell.
The Evil Dead Trilogy (Horror)
Evil Dead (1981) was about Raimi’s fourth directorial project, but it was huge. It did pretty well at the box office too. And you wouldn’t believe it; the movie was made with a budget of $50,000!
What made Evil Dead so special for most fans of the horror genre was its rawness. It wasn’t synthetic at all. The movie had virtually no visual effects in it, yet it was still scary. Evil Dead is a great example that a horror flick can be done without visual effects and still make it scary as hell (I’m sure the makers of The Blair Witch Project learnt a lot from there). Another great thing about Evil Dead is that, unlike most horror movies, you never really get to see any monster or creature perpetrating the evil; but you sure as hell see the effects of the Evil. In the entire movie, all you see is the screen chasing the victim, as they run for their lives, while looking back each time. That stuff killed me. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) and Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness (1992) featured that screen stuff too. Evil Dead 2 was pretty scary too, but you could see that they had pumped up their budget with better visual and make-up effects. Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness was completely out of the box, and was set in medieval times. This effort was more in the lines of the horror-comedy genre. Of course, Sam Raimi has always been known to spice up his tales with a bit of dark comedy. I mean, you really have to have a great sense of humour to laugh at stuff from a Sam Raimi movie, no kidding. Like check this, the scene in Evil Dead 2 where the lead character played by Bruce Campbell got fed up with all the horrors going on in the cabin house that he just went bonkers, and started laughing like a madman! As he laughed, even the damn decorations on the wall started laughing with him. That bit knocked me out big time!
The crazy thing about Evil Dead is that everything starts from a book. The Necronomicon (translated to mean the Book of the Dead), a book supposedly written ages ago (the concept was popularised by H.P. Lovecraft, the master of terror) by the Dark One (being the Devil) himself; the book was supposed to serve as a passageway to the evil world beyond. It was written so long ago that the seas of the world ran red with blood, and it was this blood that was used to ink the Necronomicon; but sometime in the year 1300 AD, the book disappeared. Eerie, huh! This year is when we find Evil Dead 3 take off from, as Bruce Campbell is sucked into a vortex created by the book into medieval times.
The Evil Dead trilogy remains classic in my book. And wherever a history on horror is documented, you can be sure that a nice section will be dedicated to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead.
Darkman (1990) (Horror, Sci-Fi)
Liam Neeson stars in this movie as a Scientist whose lab is blown up with him in it due to some big-time corporate scheme manoeuvred to take him out of the scene. He doesn’t die, but instead has his skin totally burnt up. He loses his lab, his girlfriend, everything. So what else is a guy going to do, but seek revenge, huh? Fortunately for him, he’s smart as hell; so he utilises his scientific skill to create facial masks of all the people that killed him…Hey, I’m not doing any spoilers, but just giving you a background of the whole thing.
The thing that was special to me about Darkman apart from the fact the Liam Neeson totally killed that role – awesome actor – was the manner in which Sam Raimi created a depth for the guy’s pain and suffering. Not only was this guy physically scarred, but was mentally messed up as well. You would even find yourself cheering the guy on as he goes on his revenge-killing spree, no kidding.
My best part in the movie is the part where he creates this facial mask of his face, so he can go on a date with his girlfriend at a Carnival. But the thing with the mask is that he has barely minutes, before the art melts over his face; so all the while he’s with his chick, he keeps checking the time on his watch. So his girl keeps asking him why he is so fidgety every time he’s with her. Anyway, fast forward…
There comes a part where he decides to play a game where you win one of those stuffed animals. You know, he wants to give it to his girl and all. Then he starts playing and wins, but here’s what happens. The guy in charge wouldn’t give him his stuffed animal. He asks the guy for his stuffed animal again and again, but the guy is as calm as the evening breeze in his resistance, and even goes as far as poking my man on his chest. Can you believe that? Anyway, my homeboy blows a fuse and snaps the guy’s daring finger. I mean, he just breaks it. The dude is horrified, not to mention in pain. My homeboy’s girlfriend is horrified as well; and to make matters worse, his face is peeling like hard wall paint, so he scrambles the off! I love that part.
The thing that killed me the most about it was before he blew his lid off, the camera sort of panned into Liam Neeson’s face; and behind him instead of the crowd and the entire carnival was fire. If that isn’t great directing, NOTHING IS! You gotta see that movie, if you haven’t.
The Quick and the Dead (1995) (Western)
I’m truly crazy about this movie. I’m really not into cowboy movies – with the exception of classics like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; and of course, Young Guns.
A lot of people thought it was a bit weird giving Sam Raimi a western movie to direct, but he proved them wrong. In fact, Sam Raimi recreated the Western movie genre in the The Quick and the Dead. No kidding. Not only did it have a superb cast – Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio – but the movie is full of shoot ‘em up action, and cool gun-slinging moves, just like you would expect from any good cowboy movie.
Gosh, you’ve got to see Sharon Stone in this movie. Not like you’ve seen her before. She’s this gun-slinging cowgirl out to revenge the town sheriff (Gene Hackman) for the death of her father. Her performance in the movie is something that ought to be seen. Russell Crowe plays an old-time badass, who becomes a priest to escape his bloody past, but is forced by the town Sheriff to take part in the gun-duelling contest. Crowe, as expected, doesn’t disappoint as well. You know, the Sheriff believes Crowe is the only real competition he has. DiCaprio is the Sheriff’s son, who has long been living under his father’s shadow, trying to impress his old man with his shooting skills.
One thing I really like about this movie is how different cowboy characters are introduced in the movie. Every cowboy in the movie thinks he’s a badass and believes he’ll be the last man standing. As the contest begins, you actually find yourself picking your favourite shooters. It’s a fun movie, no doubt. Sam Raimi totally killed it!
Spider-Man 1, 2, 3 (Sci-Fi, Fantasy)
“With great power comes great responsibility.” A great line from a great movie.
Who doesn’t like the friendly neighbourhood Spidie, Slinging webs from his wrists all through the skyscrapers of Manhattan?
Just think about it, after over a decade, they finally had the technology and the know-how to make a befitting Spiderman movie, and who did they think of as director? In all of Hollywood, they picked my man, Sam Raimi! What an honour! What recognition of skill, yea what acknowledgement of ability!
I think they made a great choice too, and to let him come back to do all the sequels shows that he did something right. I think Sam Raimi’s directing of Spiderman (2002) was the final proof of his proficiency and dynamism as a director. But we still find that in developing the persona of the villains in the movie, he surreptitiously delves back to his horror roots. Like for instance, the manner in which the spirit of Norman Osborn (Green Goblin) taking possession of his son, Harry in Spiderman 2 (2004). That stuff is more horror-like than superhero-like. Or in Spiderman 3 (2007) when the Venom is introduced; we see Sam Raimi utilising prolific shots to depict possession by the Venom, as it alters Peter Parker’s personality, from the nice guy he was, to an egocentric douche bag.
I love Sam Raimi’s cinematographic vision; his ability not just to make great action sequences, but to create depth for the characters of a movie, and put you in their shoes. He even makes you sympathize with the bad guys in his movies. You almost always understand where they are coming from. If that isn’t great directing, NOTHING IS!
C.J. Obasi (also known as “Fiery”) was born and raised in small town, Owerri, Nigeria. C.J. grew up watching Hammer House of Horror films and reading Stephen King novels. As a child, he developed a knack for drawing and selling comics based on all his favourite movies and superheroes at the time.
C.J. set up his company “Fiery Film” in 2012. Soon after, his friend Benjamin Stockton, a screenwriter and movie aficionado fromCalifornia came on board to help run the company. The no-budget horror thriller feature film “Ojuju”, written, directed and edited by C.J. premiered at AFRIFF where it won the award for Best Nigerian movie.
C.J. won the Trailblazer award at the 2015 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards in March.
C.J. is currently working on “O-Town”, a crime thriller epic piece, which C.J. calls his “Western in an Eastern land” and describes as “His exploration into genre-film making”. O-Town won the Restless Pitch at the Africa International Film Festival.