Some chainsaw 'cheer'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 1995, 12:00am

IN 1983 a small film tip-toed into cinemas promoting itself as 'the ultimate experience in gruelling terror'. The Evil Dead marked the directorial debut of Sam Raimi and turned out to be the first in a series that set new standards in outlandish gore and ended with Army Of Darkness (Pearl, 9.30pm).

To understand Army Of Darkness it is important to understand the history. The Evil Dead was made by Raimi and some college pals on a tiny budget of US$400,000 using 16-millimetre film (blown up to 35mm, which is why it looks grainy).

It was followed by Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, perhaps the most absurd, uproariously funny and bloodthirsty film of this eternally disreputable genre ever made. Raimi was 26 when he made it and plumbed new depths of youthful craziness; it features a demonic hand, bleeding walls, gruesome monsters and flying eyeballs.

With 1993's Army Of Darkness (also known as Evil Dead III; Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead ) Raimi lost some of his touch. It has a plethora of special effects, countless bloody fight scenes, but is neither horrible nor comic enough to pass as horror or comedy.

The story is based loosely on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee and sees a hardware store employee (Bruce Campbell, from the first two films) transported back to the 14th century, complete with 1954 Oldsmobile and chainsaw.

The doldrums set in halfway, but there are some scenes worth waiting for, particularly the skeletons, obviously inspired by Jason And The Argonauts. Look out also for Bridget Fonda and a number of wittily incongruous lines: when Campbell, a perfect square-jawed hero for this comic book setting, first meets one of the skeletons, he says, 'well, hello, Mr Fancy Pants'.

IN Mortal Sins (Pearl, 2.05am) orthodox priest Christopher Reeve faces the thorny old secrets-of-the-confessional dilemma, revived most recently to greater effect in Priest. Reeve hears the confession of a serial killer who performs Latin rites over his victims; he can't tell anyone, so decides to find his own way of stopping the psycho from murdering again.

Interceptor (World, 9.35pm) is ludicrous, the story concerning an international terrorist's attempts to hijack a transport plane carrying a top secret (but obviously not that top secret) stealth fighter. Jurgen Prochnow provides the strange accent.

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas wrote the offbeat and unamusing comedy Strange Brew (World, 1.10am) and also star in it. They are two Canadian beer-swilling brothers who visit a brewery in the hope of free booze and, with the help of other oddballs, thwart a plan to take over the world. Based on Hamlet.

Just The Way You Are (World, 2.45am) is better than the title suggests. Kristy McNichol is a crippled musician who goes to a French ski resort with her leg in a cast - to see how people behave when they don't know she's handicapped.

FILMS on Cable Movie Channel: My Heart Is That Eternal Rose (10.30am). A professional hitman (Kenny Bee) returns to Hong Kong for a spot of extermination only to find that his true love has become a gangster's mistress. The gangster's bodyguard helps the couple flee, setting up the obligatory bloody battle at the end.

Aftermath: A Test Of Love (noon). Average made-for-television American melodrama about a husband who fights to keep his family together after his wife is killed and son seriously injured in a car accident.

Mannequin Two: On The Move (3.30pm). A window dresser (William Ragsdale) discovers that a shop dummy holds the imprisoned spirit of a medieval peasant girl (Kirsty Swanson). Even less enjoyable than the first, if that's possible.

Dr Lamb (9pm). Slice-and-dice action based on the true story of a Hong Kong taxi driver who murders young women, dismembers their bodies and photographs the remains.

Perfect prime time Christmas viewing for all the family. Danny Lee, Kent Cheng and Simon Yam star.