NewsWire: The Geeks Shall Inherit - Biggerboat

Here's an interesting little piece on the "empowerment" of geeks through the internet... Not that everyone who's on the internet is a geek, but... well... ah, nevermind! :-)

The Geeks Shall Inherit
By Jason Clarke
Biggerboat - July 12, 2002

I was one of those lucky children whose parents read to them almost every night, at least until I was ten or so. One of my favorites was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. For some reason, it wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that my father, a longtime Tolkien fan, decided to inform me that there was a sequel entitled The Lord of the Rings. Up to that point, my tastes had run toward science fiction, not fantasy (and fairly weak science fiction at that - I'd read dozens of Star Trek novels, but no Herbert, Heinlein, Asimov or Bradbury). LR changed all that. Between the novel and the card game Magic: The Gathering,¹ I was well on my way to being the fantasy fan I am today.

But a lot has changed since I first read LR eight years ago. It's unlikely that any child today under the age of five could be unaware of the existence of something called The Lord of the Rings - with the release of the movie, it's everywhere. From posters to toys to Burger King cups to innumerable different versions of the novel itself, it has been practically impossible to go anywhere in the last year and avoid seeing something related to the late Professor's works. Gandalf on light-up drinking cups...what's next? Childe Roland Underoos? Beowulf comicbooks? (oh wait, those exist...) As for Star Wars - while the SW films have always enjoyed fairly high visibility, since the advent of the prequels it is not possible to escape the implacable juggernaut that is Mr. Lucas's personal empire.

But I have chosen two very obvious examples of so-called "cult" works bursting into massive popularity. It is arguable that even before the recent films, both LR and SW enjoyed a greater-than-cult status. So instead, I submit to you the Evil Dead films. Again, this is an instance in which I made a pleasant, personal discovery that later became more popular than I might ever have imagined.

There are three Evil Dead films: The Evil Dead (the scary one), Evil Dead II (the funny one), and Army of Darkness (the action-adventure one). All three films star Bruce Campbell, a man who is familiar with the phrase "cult following." The first film, released in 1982, was one of those low-budget drive-in flicks that sometimes become runaway hits (it was the Blair Witch Project of its time). The sequel, in released in 1987, did well enough to merit production of the third film, Army of Darkness (1993), which bombed.

I first saw Evil Dead II in high school. I was immediately taken with it - and that's putting it lightly. Obsessed would be a better word. I wanted them all on tape, but couldn't find them anywhere. With the exception of Army of Darkness, in 1996 these films were not in circulation on VHS. My parents finally tracked down two used copies from a video store in Canada for Christmas. I did find a thriving Evil Dead fan community on the Internet, including the website that would eventually become the premier Evil Dead fansite, Deadites Online. There was even an excellent modification of the game Doom, based on Army of Darkness.

But soon after I had discovered these cult films, something began to happen. Within a few years, both the The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II were available, new, on tape. But that's not all - by 1999, they were available on DVD, too. In special, THX-approved editions, with director's commentary as well as commentary by Campbell. In 2000, due to intense pressure from fans, McFarlane Toys released an action figure of Ash, the main character from the films, as part of their "Movie Maniacs" line. It was the best-selling figure of the line. Since then, McFarlane has released three more figures based on Army of Darkness (AOD), including an 18" figure of Ash. Soon Sideshow Toys, another toy company, will release 12" figures of Ash and his evil twin, also from AOD, complete with fabric clothing. A book about the making of the films, The Evil Dead Companion, was released in 2000. Campbell wrote a memoir, Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, which sat high on the NY Times Bestseller list for all of summer 2001. A videogame, Evil Dead: Hail to the King, also came out in 2001. Perhaps most shocking of all, after numerous claims that there would never be an Evil Dead 4, director Sam (Spider-Man) Raimi recently hinted that he might very well team-up with Campbell one last time.

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