Evil Dead II

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"I'll swallow your soul! "

April 17th, 2013

I had already written a review for the first Evil Dead movie a few years back so rather than reposting that (in the hope of synergy with the release of the Evil Dead remake in UK.) I was left with the option of reviewing the sequels to the original franchise. I was reluctant at first to even attempt writing about Evil Dead II as for myself it remains the one of the greatest horror movies ever produced. Then I considered how appropriate the film was considering that a portion of the movie was also a remake, I'm writing this review more to advise those who have never seen the movie to go out and watch it now regardless of whether you have ever seen the original.

I have a large soft spot for the original movie as it was an experience with my friends that I'll never forget (we watched it on a VHS recording on weekend). Back then no one had internet in their homes and we were unaware that the movie even had sequels (you couldn't look them up and really could only rely on what was available at the local video shop). A couple of days after I was looking through the TV guide scanning for interesting movies to watch I came across a listing for Evil Dead II.

Excitedly I called my friends to let them know about it and dug out a VHS tape to copy the film so we could all watch it the next day (It was a school night and my friends always forgot to record things). I stayed up late to hit the record button (working the timer was too risky I didn't want to miss the start) but after watching the first 5 minutes I couldn't bring myself to go to bed. What followed was one of the best movie experiences of my life that was definitely worth the sleep deprivation the next day. Funnily my friends also stayed up and watched it and yet we still run home after school to sit down and watch the film again off the VHS.

A lot of people consider Evil Dead II as just a bigger budget remake of the first film and while it does reshoot a lot of the same material from the first it is more or less confined to the ten minute opening. This for me felt less a remake and more just a recap of previous events much in the same way the Friday series would show multiple clips from the previous films only far more interesting. This works for those that had never seen the first movie (it wasn't as easy to find movies outside the cinema as it is now) but never feels tedious as we get to new content quickly reaching the same point as the somewhat bleak cliff-hanger ending of the first (it was a cliff-hanger in the same sense that the first Halloween had a cliff-hanger).

Evil Dead II follows Ash and Linda's trip to the cabin in the woods (minus the friends this time). After reading from a book (the Necronomican) found in the house Linda becomes possessed by creature known as a deadite (a talking zombie) which Ash has to defend against. At the same time another group of people are making their way to the cabin which includes Annie, a woman who just happens to have a couple of extra pages from the Necronomican which may hold the key to banishing the evil found within the woods.

The plot is never anything more complicated than bad things happen at a cabin in the woods but the film is such a visceral experience it perfectly embodies the main purpose of a horror movie. To entertain you by making you feel scared while still being safe (much like a rollercoaster). The first movie achieved this purpose as well by Part 2 manages so much more, it offers up comedy, an action hero, outstanding special effects, and surreal moments. By the movies final act you will be left with a huge grin and cheering Ash on.

I don't know how Sam Raimi achieved it but I have never watched a film that manages to give so many different elements and yet gel together so well. It may seem like a contradiction to have a movie that can make you laugh and scare you shitless but Evil Dead II manages it. One moment you can be smiling at Bruce Campbell's slapstick antics only to be drawn out of that sense of safety with gothic scare within the Cabins basement. I think it's also that uncertainty that allows the horror to grab you harder than it would in a straight up scare fest (like the first movie), Is the hero going to save the day? Is he going to fall over? Is this another sequence for comedy or a set up for a jump scare? I'm finding it hard to adequately explain the tone but trust me when I say this is one unique movie viewing experience.

Then we move onto the effects which are absolutely top notch practical applications. The only real drawback of the original (not one that really affect myself but I could see younger viewers having an issue with it) was the rather shoddy effects work that while at times effective (the pencil to the heel still looks good) never had me believing that the deadites were anything more than people in masks (you could see under them). Evil Dead II has some amazing make up and stop motion techniques that even old looking compared to modern techniques they help give a otherworldly unnatural element (which enhances the scare factor). I was lead to believe in the world where I got my amusement from the original by laughing at the sillier elements.

Of course the movie is elevated by the man that is Bruce Campbell who is in full icon mode here. While we all like to remember Ash as an ass kicking superhero his character in the first movie was far from the status the man carries with him today. In fact when I first watched the original Evil Dead I didn't know who Bruce Campbell was and thought his character was rather a pathetic figure, in regard to his acting it was all rather pants. The reason I eventually warmed to his character from the first is because he was the least likely hero, the one you expected to die first (I mean he was stuck under a bookcase at one point) I found myself rooting for him as he was a movie universe underdog.

Where Ashley was originally a background character forced into the survivor role Evil Dead II develops him to fully fledged star. Campbell somewhere between movies had developed a huge amount of charisma (amazingly absent from the first film) and looked the star from the get go. While there are more than enough cast members to interact with it's as if they weren't needed as Campbell really delivers a one man show and spends a large section of the film alone. Be it delivering one liners, acting the reluctant hero, battling possession or physical comedy Bruce delivers the goods. Even the more hammy moments work perfectly and while I can't say Campbell has the greatest range as an actor the movie plays to his strengths. Without Campbell there is no movie (Should I be worried about the remake then?)

Is Evil Dead II perfect, no but it is a joy from the start to the finish (and what a fantastic finish it is). Many have tried to imitate the style and failed (That includes Campbell's own My Name is Bruce).If you like horror in any way you must watch this film. If you like comedy then you must watch this. If you like action you must watch this. If you do not like this movie you must be dead(ite).

Other reviews in the series

Evil Dead
Army of Darkness

Similar Movies

My Name is Bruce

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Sam Raimi
Scott Spiegel
Released: 1987
Starring:Bruce Campbell
Sarah Berry
Dan Hicks