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Movie Review: Evil Dead 2

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A man takes his girlfriend to this cabin he knows about in the woods for the weekend. He has Champagne, a basket of goodies, and romance on his mind. She is concerned about the owners, but he assures her the cabin is abandoned and everything will be okay. After some minor convincing, she agrees and cuddles up to him as they arrive at the isolated cabin deep in the middle of the woods.

The cabin is calming and relaxing and perfect for a romantic weekend away from it all.  While she goes to the bedroom to change, he begins looking around the drawers, boxes, and shelves. On a dusty desk he finds an old book and a tape recorder. Curious, he opens the book and hits “play” on the recorder. The voice on the tape is that of an old man describing his wife’s illness and her death. The voice on the tape then translates a passage from the Necronomicon ex Mortis (the Book of the Dead), and the weekend becomes neither calming nor relaxing.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a rare gem – a bad movie that knows it’s a bad movie and becomes a classic in the process. While it does break a few horror rules of the day to keep the audience guessing, the plot and script are suffering from any clear direction. The bright side is I believe it was intentional.  For a bad movie, this is a great flick.

Sam Raimi, the director of the Spiderman movies, started his career as a horror director. You could always tell a Sam Raimi movie because every one of them was like a rollercoaster. I don’t mean they had twisting plots and loops. I mean his camera moved more than the actors. He was a big fan of following flying objects and showing the object’s point of view as it flew. He liked playing with lighting to change the shape and mood of a room, usually during a scene. He also had the patience and ability to milk a scene for every second he could. He could hold time, it seemed. He set himself apart in a landscape filled with bad '80s horror directors.  He made live action comic books.

One of his early efforts was a horrible movie called Evil Dead about two couples who go to a cabin in the woods and are assaulted both by an ancient evil and the surrounding woods, literally. The movie suffered more from a lack of budget than a lack of talent. It became an underground cult classic: the true sign of a bad movie.

His next movie, a comedy/crime flim called Crimewave, did not do well. It was viewed as too cartoony for most and failed. Raimi combined his love of the Three Stooges with suspense and failed in his first try, but it was in this film that he perfected his style. Raimi decided he should revisit the cabin in the woods for his next film.

Evil Dead 2 is not a sequel in the traditional sense of the word. It does star Bruce Campbell, who reprises the role of Ash.  It has the same Book of the Dead and tape to bring the demons forth.  It is obvious that Ash has been to the cabin before, but he also has no clue what is going on while the same things happen to him in the same cabin. Even as the trees batter the house, nothing jogs his memory; no déjà vu moments.

Of course, it is fully possible Ash is just that stupid. Ash is not your standard movie hero after all. Ash is more like one of us if we were in this situation. At times, it is as if he realizes he is in a live action cartoon.  The poor man gets beaten more than Jim Caviezel and keeps coming back for more.

This is a violent and bloody movie, sort of. The violence of the movie is more comic style violence than horror style. That is not to say there are not moments of pure terror in this movie. There are both classic suspense moments and those annoying jump scares, but this movie seems to be more a parody of the first one than a horror movie.

The first half of the movie consists of poor Ash and a never-seen demon chasing and tormenting him. Occasionally you are shown the demon's point of view, which makes for some thrilling chase scenes through the woods. This part of the movie is a one man show with Bruce Campbell reacting to things unseen alone in the cabin.  He gets to show off his gifts for physical comedy and displays how under-appreciated he is as a talent.

This will sound rather sadistic, but the scenes of Ash alone in the cabin are some of the funniest and most original slapstick I have ever seen. Ash's right hand becomes possessed by the demon and it then proceeds to try and kill him. It slams his head into the sink; it flips him; it throws him over tables; it smashes dishes on his head until he blacks out. Cutting it off does not even stop the attack and the entire time, Bruce Campbell is playing the part of a panicky victim to perfection. 

The second half is a more traditional horror movie. It starts when the daughter of the cabin’s owner arrives with her partner and two guides to check on her parents. It slows down quite a bit for a while at this point, but there does need to be some body count for an '80s horror movie to qualify.

During the entire movie you cannot help but say “What a bad day that poor guy is having.” Any day that starts with you killing your possessed girlfriend and ends with… well, it was a bad day every minute for poor Ash, but such fun to watch. It even ends with a set-up for the second greatest bad movie ever made, Army of Darkness (review to come soon).

This is, by far, one of the greatest movies ever made. Not that it is a great movie, because it is the king of B-movies to be honest, but it delivers everything a movie should. It is one of the scariest, funniest, and most psychedelic movies I have ever seen. It perfected the comedy-horror genre and it has yet to be surpassed.

Grade: A+++++++ (you get the point)

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About Brad Schader

  • II is definitely a different flick than the first and I can see how seeing the first after II would make it seem sub par. Army of Darkness is the third film and lots of gooey fun.

  • I was a late bloomer of sorts. I did not see the first one until after I saw the second so it was a bit of a let down for me. It might be good horror, but just seems so weak compared to be perfect part two.

  • Brilliant bloody movie. One of my all time favorites. I would say that the first Evil Dead is actually rather great. It has none of the slapstick of the sequel, but was quite inventive horror for its time.