Sam Raimi is practically a god among geeks. He is a master genre filmmaker who, much like his New Zealand contemporary Peter Jackson, has carved a completely unforeseen path from doing handmade horror movies with his friends (including regular collaborator Bruce Campbell) to marshalling an army of technicians into crafting the biggest of genre-based blockbusters for the likes of Sony and Disney.
In a career spanning more than forty years, Sam Raimi has inspired a passionate fanbase of gore hounds and like-minded lovers of goofy comedy served up simultaneously with scares and shocks. He is also arguably more responsible than any other film director for kicking off the current cycle of superhero cinema that dominates mega budget filmmaking to this day – Blade was arguably the test case for whether Marvel movies would truly work, but Spider-Man demonstrated what was possible if you treated comic book stories seriously and never forgot to be heartfelt.
With such a stylistically distinct and varied filmography and so many creative innovations sprinkling the course of his career, how do we even begin to rank Sam Raimi’s impressive oeuvre?
In this Movie List, we at The Film Magazine have picked just 10 of the most memorable moments from Sam Raimi’s eventful and memorable movies in order to try and sum up what kinds of things he does so much better than other filmmakers. Groovy? Groovy. These are the 10 Best Sam Raimi Movie Moments.
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10. Annie’s First Vision (The Gift)
In a town in rural Georgia, widow Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) puts food on the table for her three sons by doing readings for the locals as a fortune-teller using her family’s gift of foresight. When local socialite Jessica King (Katie Holmes) disappears in suspicious circumstances, likely involving a violent neighbour, Annie is beset by terrifying visions.
The first significant vision sees her wandering down an empty road, then through the mist-shrouded Georgia woodland, before stumbling across a disturbing revelation. It’s the balance between the creepy and the surreal that makes this sequence so memorable. Annie sleepwalks through the woods, wildflowers wither at her touch, and she bumps into a satanic fiddler (a cameo from regular collaborator Danny Elfman) playing horror movie music, before seemingly waking to see Jessica’s grisly fate: her drowned body chained and transposed above her in a tree canopy.
This scene demonstrates how little control Annie has over her blessing/curse, how she could never use her power to warn others of the manner of their end before it’s too late even if she wanted to.
9. The Windmill (Army of Darkness)
After coming agonisingly close to defeating the Deadites once and for all in the present, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is sent tumbling into a portal that throws him six hundred years into the past. Following a brief imprisonment in the local lord’s castle, Ash is sent on a world-saving quest to find the book of the dead, the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, with the promise that it contains not only a spell to banish evil but also the power to send him back to his own time. En route to his goal, Ash hides from an unstoppable evil presence pursuing him in an old windmill, where he ends up fighting many tiny mischievous versions of himself.
First Ash accidentally breaks a mirror, then his reflected images in the shards littered across the floor come to life and dozens of miniature Ashes attack with anything they can carry between them. After a ramshackle fight featuring plenty of ‘Tom and Jerry’ violence, one of the little Ashes enters him (by diving into his mouth) and eventually splits off to become a life-size evil doppelgänger for the original Ash to dispatch.
Sam Raimi had done a similar gag in Evil Dead II where Ash had to battle his own possessed hand both while it was still attached to him and after he’d amputated it, but this scene in the final film of his Evil Dead trilogy is more like a body horror “Gulliver’s Travels” and really makes the most of Bruce Campbell’s unrivalled skill at silly slapstick.