The Coen Brothers Raise the Evil Dead


Philip Brubaker


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Friends can be influential on a personal level, but what about in an artistic sense? Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers are known for very different films, but once upon a time they were collaborators. While Joel and Ethan Coen are multiple Oscar-winners and critically lauded auteurs, they struggled to break into filmmaking just like the horror-obsessed Raimi. Joel and Sam worked together on Raimi’s no-budget masterwork The Evil Dead, and it was there that Joel learned a cheap but effective camera trick to raise the pulse of the audience: the shaky cam.

The Coens use the shaky cam in Blood Simple and Raising Arizona, with memorable results. In this video essay, we explore the origin and application of the shaky cam. Raimi and the Coens use the plodding camera movement to convey the perspective of a character. For Sam Raimi, this perspective is the POV of a demon. But the Coen’s use of first-person perspective is wildly diverse, and that range is particularly apparent in Raising Arizona.