Below you'll some biographical information which covers who I am, when and how I first saw The Evil Dead, and the big effect it had and still has on my life, Along with my The Evil Dead: A Superfan's Odyssey Documentary, and a number of other photos & videos.
The Evil Dead: A Superfan's Odyssey Documentary
Below you can watch a personally made extensive & detailed 58 minute documentary, covering the vast majorty of my life in terms of Evil Dead.
This documentary chronicles my journey as a British Evil Dead superfan. How seeing it changed my life, sparking an interest in making my own short films and experimenting with gore effects, leading me onto a career in special effects in film & TV.
From 1992 to 2015, this is my journey so far . . .
When I started working on this documentary around the beginning of October 2015, it was only intended to be a few brief shots of my Evil Dead collection display, along with a bit of commentary over the top, which I shot myself for the Canadian Hail To The Deadites documentary.
Once I started editing my own footage to get an idea of how Steve (HTTD Director) could cut the material together, then and filming & adding in new bits here and there over a few weeks, it got way longer than could ever reasonably be included in the few minutes allocated in his project, as well as including some material which wouldn't entirely fit with that either. I thought that there would be people out there who would be interested to see a standalone documentary. Not just Evil Dead fans, but also people interested in special effects and low budget film-making in general.
I shot over seven hours of entirely new footage, not including all my pre-existing video and photographic material, which was all edited down to the final documentary running at 58mins. It contains a lot of material which people will not have seen before, along with elaborating & expanding on some things people will, all in 1080p. If anyone is interested in a higher quality physical Blu-Ray disc version, shoot me over an email. I won't be selling this as I've used a couple of little clips of footage to which I don't own the copyright, but I'm sure a like-for-like trade can be worked out.
Growing up in the UK, The Evil Dead was really my first proper horror experience. I saw it in 1992 when I was 12, along with two other films, Evil Dead II & Return Of The Living Dead, all shown to me by a good friend. I didn't own a VCR, and nor did he (a pile of horror tapes had been given to him by his dad), so we watched them on a family friend's VCR he had access to while they were on holiday. Being brought up in a church going household, I always had to be quite careful about things being 'found out', maybe this is why horror held such a forbidden allure to me. All three films were cut & BBFC certified, but they still scared the hell out me, and had a big effect on the path my life would take.
Back while still at school, I started a full time summer holiday job doing landscape gardening through a family friend. During this period, for a few weeks I worked with a guy who was heavily into horror films. After a couple of long conversations about horror films, many of which I hadn't seen at that point, he promised to get me uncut bootleg copies of a couple of decent movies. A few months later (and a long after he stopped working at that job) he finally dropped over two VHS tapes, one containing laserdisc transfers of Zombie Flesh Eaters & The Evil Dead (which had Japanese subtitles) and the other with Cannibal Ferox & Cannibal Holocaust. Only having previously owned the BBFC certified version of The Evil Dead, this was the first point at which I had seen it fully uncut, and it didn't disappoint!
An Evil Dead II cabin replica made during my final GCSE year at school in 1995
Horror, combined with my lifelong love of illusions & magic tricks, lead me to start experimenting with my own crude special effects; fake blood, wounds, squibs and such, all poorly fashioned from ill suited household items. In the last years of school and into college life, I found common cause with a school friend. He wanted to make serious drama productions, and I wanted to make gory horror, not a match made in heaven, but it was better than nothing, and he owned a Hi-8 camcorder. Over a few years we worked in various capacities on each others productions, although his productions were technically superior, and he managed to get more people to help out, assembling a team about twenty cast & crew for his final collaboration with me, made over a week of shooting. Among the productions I directed, two of note were; From Within The Woods, an Evil Dead style chase sequence made in 1996 (shot long before I'd seen the actual Within The Woods), and my final collaboration with him in 1998, a gory short called Sugar Coated Razor Blades. With no real plot, or even speech. It was really just a number of bloody special & make-up effects sequences strung together.
Upon leaving school at 16, I started a two-year BTEC 3D design course, chosen simply because I was unsure about where to go next, and my brother had done the exact same course. Two years later I was deciding upon my choice of HND. 3D design again beckoned, when a college lecturer mentioned there was special effects related course at the college, and I immediately applied. The course was far broader than just Special Effects, covering various roles in the theatre, TV & film worlds, maybe too broad, but it did give me some general life skills and a firm understanding of how the industry worked, and I was able to concentrate more on special effects in the student-specific tailored projects of the second year.
A quick 3rd degree burn make-up
It was around this time I was drawn in to darker & more extreme horror; real 'caught on camera' death shows like Banned From TV, and Japanese Category III material like the Guinea Pig series, much of which I was able to get as imported US bootleg NTSC VHS tapes or retail DVD. More recently my tastes have mellowed somewhat, and I'd have trouble watching that sort of thing now. I'm happy to stick to lighter 'fun' horror films. One such consignment of six tapes was intercepted by UK Customs & Excise officers; Faces Of Death 6, Guinea Pig 1 & 2, and the making of episode, a Night Of The Living Dead 90 workprint, a Sam Raimi Super-8 Short Collection tape, A George Romero rare material compilation tape, and Tom Savini's special effects camcorder footage from Killing Zone & Necronomicon. I received a letter stating that the package had been checked and two of the tapes were considered to be obscene, therefore everything in the package was liable for seizure. I decided to push my luck and appeal, even though that posed the risk that they may take a greater interest in me and what other films I might own, or even take me to court. I wrote back stating somewhat disingenuously that I was using the tapes as research material for my course, and set out a number of examples comparing the contents of the tapes to films passed uncut by the BBFC. After another letter requesting evidence that I was using the tapes for 'research' (their quotes), I photocopied a pile of my work and posted it back to them on a shot to nothing. Surprisingly, I received all the tapes a few weeks later, and heard nothing more from them. For anyone interested in reading it, I've scanned & uploaded the full letter exchange as a PDF Here. Having read about Within The Woods in Cinefantastique magazine, this was the first time I'd had a chance to see it.
Another amusing incident which occurred during that second HND year, happened when I bought a plastic Airsoft M16-A2 carbine machine gun. I really wanted the larger A1 (the same model used in Dawn Of The Dead) but couldn't find this so decided to get the A2 instead, and convert it myself at college. I owned an SLR camera and was in the habit of snapping photos of projects as I went, and this was no different. To finish the roll of film I snapped some photos of my flatmate posing with the gun. I dropped off the roll of film to a local Jessops, and returned to collect the photos an hour later, where was met by a shop assistant who invited me to take a seat. Then two police officers came out, took me into a back room, and asked me a few questions about the gun, they even made the assertion that one of the other photos could be of a bomb. I'm not sure what sort of terrorist they thought they were dealing with, one that takes photos of their latest 'work' to be developed at the local Jessops presumably. Rather than drop the matter, I was escorted back to the police station where a third 'firearms' officer joined us, and I was driven to my flat where all three rifled through my room. Two things concerned me, my bootleg & import horror collection, and more worryingly, one of my flatmates had recently bought a blank firing Walther PPK semi-automatic, which he was prone to messing about with. Luckily no one else was home, they saw my the gun was obviously a fake, and they didn't pay too close attention to my horror collection, or anyone else's room. They left after some 'words of advice'.
Firearms & customs non withstanding I finished the HND in 2000 and had to decide where to take my life next. On advice from a number of professionals who came in to lecture my course, I made the big decision to move to London. The students I was living with at the time who were on similar media courses had come to much the same decision in their chosen fields, so it wasn't such a big leap for me. I got my portfolio together and made the move. Over the next nineteen long months living in London, I managed to get a total of 43 days of freelance special effects & model-making work, and the rest was spent in demoralising menial low paid employment just to pay the rent arrears.
My flatmate posing with the M16
One highlight of that period I still remember, was having been a regular at 'The Cinema Store' in central London most weekends for a good few months, the guy in the DVD department downstairs asked if I wanted to have a look through 'the horror box', whereby out popped a box from under the counter filled with extreme uncut import DVDs, which would have been illegal to sell. Over the course of a few months I bought a pile of titles such as I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Men Behind The Sun, Naked Blood, Dr Lamb, Organ and Evil Dead Trap, all stupidly priced, but what did I know? Something untoward must have happened, as I went in one weekend and there was a new on the till guy who "had no idea what the horror box was", and from then on, that was the end of that.
Many overdraft extensions and missed student bank loan repayments later, I was doing a special effects company portfolio tour for the umpteenth time, and just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and landed a full time special effects position. A job which I still do to this day. Vacancies for full time special effects positions are quite rare, there are probably under 1000 people doing this in the UK, with the vast majority of special effects technicians employed on a freelance basis. Both status's have their pros & cons, freelance special effect technicians & modelmakers generally earn far more money per hour for comparable work than people employed full time on a salary, but they have no job security whatsoever. They can be working one week, and without notice be out of work the next, making financial planning quite difficult.
A spring loaded retractable 8" chiefs knife
A trick machete, shown working in the FX test footage above
Having a full time job in the industry gave me the impudence to start experimenting with my own special effects again. There is a huge pool of professionally employed and very talented artists, sculptors & modelmakers, the vast majority of which are far better than I could ever realistically hope to be. Playing to my strengths, I started to focus more on mechanisms & articulation rather than make-up effects. I've come to believe that drawing, sculpting, modelmaking and such related skills can be practised and improved over time, but , inventing, looking at the world a little differently, creating entirely new & intricate ways of achieving things which aren't just copied or adapted from existing ideas is far harder, more of an ability than a skill which doesn't really lend itself to practice. It's more something you are able to do, or you are not. Of all the pieces I designed & made, there are two that stand out. The most complicated and expensive thing I devised was a complete compressed air squib system, which connects up to an air compressor, and could be configured to make clothing bullet entrance hits, clothing shotgun entrance hits, bare skin bullet entrance hits, straight & flowering bullet exit hits, and wall bullet hits. Any of these could be combined for a single effect, or be rigged to go off on cue in quick succession, replicating multiple hits or machine gun fire. The final system was the some total of around 10 years of prototyping, re-designing, and refining, from the very first squib I came up with for Sugar Coated Razor Blades in 1998.
One of the compressed air squib units
The best overall effect I feel I came up with was a trick machete, something which was quite complicated to prototype and make, but gives an effect which looks impossible to fake and very realistic. I made a fair list of other items such as a rubber hammer, axe & frying pan, and retractable or trick items like a straight razor, knife & screwdriver, I also came up with a number of designs based on the same working principle as the machete, which never got beyond the design stages such as an arrow and a sword. One useful piece of knowledge I can impart is my own personal fake blood recipe which has been a work in progress for a good 15 years. I have scanned & uploaded the pages from my notebook Here, which covers the most recent incarnation of the recipe along with some useful notes & observations.
The majority of the effects I created as personal pet projects, never made it in to proper film productions, and all were funded out of my own pocket, and made solely for the love & craft of making them, but this meant I was sinking money into new ideas like there was no tomorrow, but not doing anything with them once they were finished and not seeing any return on the money I was investing. Around 2005 someone suggested I should try to sell some of my effects rather than just making & storing each one, then moving on to the next idea. After a few months thinking about it I thought the best way to start out would be to keep it simple and concentrate on one really good idea, maybe introducing other items later on, and any profits could be used to fund additional new effects ideas without spending vast amounts of my own money. From this came EvilDeadChainsaws.com, which you can read more about here.
Towards the end of EvilDeadChainsaws.com in 2007, it just became hard work, with no real enjoyment at all. It was eating up all my spare time evenings & weekends just making saws with no time left for other special effects projects which was why it was started in the first place. I was investing any spare money I made into prototyping new modifications or getting new equipment specifically for producing chainsaws, so I wasn't really earning anything out of it either, so I finally decided to pull the plug. This really put me off physically making things for a while, and I sold off a lot of the extra tools & machinery I didn't now need in order to free up some space & money.
Most of big projects I have undertaken since then have been more computer based. I have created a large amount of Evil Dead related material, including a fair number of Artwork & Image Editing Projects, many of which you can see elsewhere on this site. I also have a couple of ongoing projects, including an Evil Dead DVD-ROM disc which collects together & preserves a wide range of related material (such as saved websites/pages/forums/threads, PDFs, Photos, Artwork, Magazine/Newspaper Scans, Scripts, Fonts, Music & Audio Files, Videos, Text Files, etc...) The folder is currently up to release Version 1.7 which is 7258mb big containing 6335 files over 86 folders. This disc is part of a set of eight DVDs which bring together all the rarest Evil Dead trilogy video material. I spent a good few months putting together the contents, menus & artwork for The Evil Dead - The Treasures Collection DVD. I have also done a number of VHS to DVD preservation projects, a Sam Raimi Super-8 Shorts box-set and Dick Spanner P.I. along with transfers of all 7 series' (126 episodes!) of the 90s computer games TV show Gamesmaster. Another DVD project I started but never completed was to create an extended composite edit of The Evil Dead under the original title Book Of The Dead using both the raw footage featurettes found on the Elite & Anchor Bay DVDs. Another project which fell by the wayside was a lego stop motion animation based on Evil Dead, I drew up scale lego plans & parts lists for each of the film's sets, and constucted an elaborate stop motion camera rig to allow some extremely complex camera moves to be achieved. I've also assembled a number of soundtracks. On the Within The Woods 'Score' page you can see the current progress in identifying all the cues used in the Super-8 short, taken from other films. Among other projects, a score for the 70s conspiracy movie; The Parallax View and a 'Complete' score to the 70s zombie film Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA Zombi 2). My biggest soundtrack project to date was to identify and collect together all the previously unidentified library music and create a huge two hour 73 track ultimate score to the 70s George Romero zombie film Dawn Of The Dead. I also created a website to list all the library cue information, which has now been amalgamated into HomePageOfTheDead.com,
Utilising all the knowledge I had accumulated to the benefit of others and creating an Evil Dead trilogy website seemed a logical avenue and a worthy pet project, so I started production on this site towards the end of 2009, along with the help of a fellow Evil Dead fan; James, with the aim to create the definitive site on the subject, as well as being more comprehensive than anything else past or present. Hopefully I have achieved this.
Since getting that first Sam Raimi Super-8 Compilation VHS tape in January 2000, I have made contact & traded with countless people, digging through information on old forums and websites, amassing a large collection of Super-8 shorts and other rare Evil Dead trilogy related material, even transferring some very rare NTSC VHS tapes to DVD personally. This search was made all the more difficult in that a number of people with the rarest material had no idea what they had, so never thought to tell others.
'Dawn Of The Dead - The Extened Cut Ultimate Soundtrack' CD back cover
My goal of obtaining a pristine copy of Within The Woods is still some way off, but I've slowly worked by way up the quality ladder from that nth generation VHS copy way back in 2000, and with Josh Becker now selling professional transfers of a number of his Super-8 shorts on his official website, you never know what the future holds.