Evil Dead II

Evil Dead IISynopsis: Kiss Your Nerves Goodbye

Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of The Evil Dead, returns to the same isolated cabin deep in the woods with and again unleashes the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to single-handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal – and groovy – hero in horror movie history!

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Evil Dead II 7.75

eyelights: the campy humour. the crafty rebooting of the original film. Bruce Campbell’s hilarious performance.
eyesores: the crappy claymation animation. the temporal portal sequence.

“We are the things that were and shall be again! Ahahahaha! Spirits of the book! We want what is yours! LIFE! Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn!”

After the success of ‘The Evil Dead‘, Sam Raimi moved on with another project, called ‘Crimewave’. He fully expected it to receive the same plaudits and box office numbers as his feature film debut, but it was not to be. Concerned about the potential death of his career, he finally considered doing a sequel to his earlier effort, in order to regain momentum.

It wouldn’t be so easy: he not only didn’t have access to the footage from ‘The Evil Dead’ to base his new film on, but he also needed to attract a producer to finance his new picture. Enter Stephen King, whose review of the original had helped the movie attract attention: he approached producer Dino De Laurentis and opened a door for Raimi and crew.

De Laurentis wasn’t convinced that it was going to be a good deal for him, and didn’t agree to the entire sum Raimi had requested, but he needn’t have worried: ‘Evil Dead II’, like its predecessor, received critical acclaim upon its release and was a respectably profitable picture, despite being shown in a comparatively limited number of cinemas.

It would eventually lead to a second and final sequel, ‘Army of Darkness’.

‘Evil Dead II’ is an interesting sequel because it partly reboots the previous movie. Since they couldn’t reuse the previous film’s footage, they reshot the relevant material to do a recap for audiences, changing the story in the process: in this version, Ash goes to the cabin with only his girlfriend, who is also played by a different actress.

Other things change too: the tape recorder that Scotty finds in the cellar is now just sitting on a desk in an adjacent room, which Ash proceeds to listen to. It’s also suggested that the professor who did the recording was renting the cabin but disappeared mysteriously. When the professor reads an incantation on the tape, Ash’s girlfriend becomes possessed.

Ash is forced to kill and bury her, but he is attacked by an entity in the woods. This ties into the original movie, which ended with an attack on Ash, albeit a different one, and continues with Ash being taken in the air by the entity, hilariously spun around high above the trees and dropped into the forest where he is temporarily possessed himself.

This recap takes place in the first six minutes of the picture, including a short prologue explaining what the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis is – something that was never properly established in the original film. This is done via a combination of tongue-in-cheek animation and special effects. Already, we know that we shouldn’t take the film too seriously.

…and that it’s going to be a blast!

This is where ‘Evil Dead II’ distinguishes itself from the original the most: it’s much heavier on the humour and less so on the horror. The sequence with Ash spinning vertically through the trees is a perfect example of that: it was designed to be slap-stick, physical and absurd. The look of mock terror on Ash’s face alone had me in stitches throughout.

After this, Raimi further shows us that we shouldn’t be too uptight about realism by freeing Ash of the entity when the sun comes up, only to have it come back down as he’s running to the cabin for shelter. He clearly hadn’t run for 12 hours!!! if anything, that was meant to add to the ridiculousness of the moment, allowing us to laugh a little while longer.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

There will be plenty more where that came from. For example:

  • That chase from the woods to the cabin culminates in the most hilarious sequence inside the shack as Ash goes through door after door trying to escape the entity, in a POV shot from its perspective. It’s manic, nutty and too funny!
  • Not long after, an undead Linda pulls herself out of her makeshift grave and begins to do a grotesque ballet outside the cabin. This is done with claymation, which looks crappy as heck, but which ostensibly added to the laughs.
  • Linda then comes for Ash, who is by the window, clueless as always. She grabs his head through the window and starts to pull him towards her, bonking him against the boarded up windows – over and over and over again.
  • Her disembodied head bites his hand and, in trying to knock it off, he smashes it everywhere, in a slapstick routine from Hell. To no avail: it would take more than just a few hits to make it let go of its victim.
  • Naturally, his bitten hand becomes possessed… and attacks him. This is a great one man show by Bruce Campbell, as Ash: he’s in the kitchen, breaking dishes on his head when his hand grabs the back of his hair and bashes him against cupboards and flips him. It’s amazing to watch. It’s deliriously ridiculous.
  • But what can he do? Well, he takes a chainsaw and cuts off his possessed hand. This doesn’t kill it, of course: it escapes, all Thing-like, and gives him the finger before disappearing and leaving him one-handed.

How’s that for theatre of the absurd?

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

The problem with ‘Evil Dead II’ is that it’s not nearly as chilling because it’s so damned funny! It’s essentially a very graphic horror comedy. Personally, I prefer this approach simply because there’s only so much plot that you can cobble together in a film where your main protagonist is stuck in a cabin with demons. The humour contributes a lot.

Thankfully, Raimi and co-screenwriter Scott Spiegel also added a few more layers by introducing the professor’s daughter and her boyfriend, who are coming to the cabin with a few newly-found pages of the Necronomicon, fully intending to translate them. Along the way, they drag along another couple to the cabin, adding a few more twists along the way.

I really had fun watching ‘Evil Dead II’. I’ve always preferred it to the original because it makes me laugh a great deal both with the absurdist humour and slapstick, but also with its outrageous gore and violence, which is taken to a humourous level. I think that it’s a much more balanced film, the mark of filmmakers with a little bit more experience.

It’s also much more ambitious in some areas. While the first had some of the most insane camerawork I can think of (and on a fraction of the budget, no less!), “Evil Dead II’ is more ambitious in the animation, costuming, and effects department. It suffers from a budget that doesn’t match its ambition, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch.

I have mixed feelings about the ending, because it’s just so damned epic (moving trees, claymation, large monster, a temporal portal) that it feels like too much somehow, and leaves me unsatisfied. But I enjoyed the campy creativity that was injected in it, much like the rest of the picture. And I liked how slick this film is compared to the original.

‘Evil Dead II’ no doubt must have disappointed those who wanted a more straight-forward horror film, but I’m not one of them: there are plenty of those horror films out there, so I enjoy this unique mixture. Plus which it sets the stage for ‘Army of Darkness’, which is even crazier and funnier – and which remains to this day my favourite of the whole series.

Story: 7.0
Acting: 7.0
Production: 8.0

Chills: 3.0
Gore: 7.5
Violence: 6.0

Date of viewing: October 3, 2014

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