Movie Review – Crimewave (1985)

What more is there to say about Evil Dead and its filmmaker, Sam Raimi, other than it’s a work of brilliance as a cheap grossout horror film made by a guy interested in playing around with camera angles and film speed to add more mood (atmosphere? believe me, it’s such a unique effect that it feels like a character in his films itself) to an already wild movie? It was followed Evil Dead 2, a “sequel” that is more of an improved remake of the first movie, gave Raimi a bigger budget and more time to use his techniques for such an amazing visual ride, and for me a much better movie that showcases his brilliant filmmaking. He’s got a vision, that only feels like his alone, even when he’s telling someone else’s story (Spider-Man).

So, what the ever living hell is Crimewave? This was Raimi (& friends)’s follow up to Evil Dead from Embassy Pictures, a studio I only know about because they released This Is Spinal Tap. Based on Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell’s account in one of his books, the making of Crimewave was the kind of fiasco that tested everyone’s limits to the point where it’d make or break them. Either they’d never be allowed to work in Hollywood again, or they weathered every storm through production and would be able to handle every hurdle from there on.

Thankfully it ended up the latter, obviously, but holy crap what a goddamn nightmare. I guess it started off as a tribute to Hitchcock movies, as scripted by the Coen brothers along with Raimi, and then once Embassy got involved the movie couldn’t make up its mind if it was going to be slapstick comedy or a dark comedy or some kind of over the top cartoon? Well, if the wacky music and zany sound effects are an indicator, they are cues that that’s comedy you’re witnessing, please laugh.

There’s a lot of set ups that are overkill over a payoff you can see a million miles away, there’s a lot of cruel abuse hurled at some victims, there’s some interesting visuals that somehow survived the meddling…and then there’s just a mess. It mostly takes place in a run down apartment building. The owner of a security firm has two cartoonishly awful (in appearance and demeanor) “exterminators” murder his partner, and then himself is murdered by the exterminators. For some reasons the exterminators also kill the security firm owner, and blame falls on employee Victor, while Reynoldo (played by Campbell) tries to woo Victor’s love interest and profit from the murders…?

The security firm owner’s wife has seen her husband’s murder and the exterminators see her witnessing it through some interesting visual setups, and there are slapstick attempts on her life as she is terrorized by the film. Dunno how else to explain how and why things happen, aside from assume the worst for everyone in every scene, mostly because you see it coming before it happens. There’s definitely some interesting bits, where you imagine that that was where all the money spent, for one or two shots (such as the exterminator pulling the entire contents of the wife’s apartment toward him to get to her), but it definitely feels like there’s some limitations that make these ambitious set ups for a comedy fail. Stuff happens, Ted is blamed for everything, can his girl save the day?

You have to be a real die-hard Raimi & Campbell fan to sit through this. It’s disjointed, the jokes you see in the trailer fall flat in the movie, it’s a zany comedy with almost no laughs and seems to go on forever. A strange decision was made by people who seemingly love old fashion crime movies & sensibilities to spoof it with a Three Stooges slapstick approach and it fails. They themselves will speak about how nearly everything went wrong every step of the way, even before studio interference. So maybe it’d be interesting to watch this to confirm these stories as the film plays on, but otherwise there’s little to lose those minutes watching it. Sorry, Crimewave.

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