“This 1987, high-octane semi-sequel to Sam Raimi’s cult hit The Evil Dead has nearly eclipsed its predecessor’s reputation thanks to an endless barrage of hyperkinetic camera acrobatics, rapid-fire editing and “splatstick” gore effects … not to mention a truly goofy performance by Bruce Campbell. Nearly the entire storyline of the previous film has been re-shot and presented in a drastically condensed form within the first few minutes: rock-jawed but clueless “hero” Ash (Campbell) now visits the mountain cabin with girlfriend Linda (played here by Denise Bixler).”
How do I even begin to describe the awesomeness of this movie? When you combine low budget horror and the three stooges with brilliant directing you get something offbeat, to be sure, something grotesque, without a doubt, something… groovy! Having grown up in the ‘80’s, it feels like it was “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” that interested people in the first film more than vice versa. The great thing about this movie is how silly it is without ever losing intensity. Great acting in the film would NOT do the over-the-top visual effects justice. If you’ve never sampled early Raimi, this is the film I’d recommend to start with. I believe the movie owes most of its appeal to lead actor, Bruce Campbell and his exceptionally deranged performance.
On the off chance you’ve never had the viewing pleasure, the film begins with a light recapping and remaking of the first. In the original, five people go to a cabin – in this film’s prologue it’s just Ash and his girlfriend Linda. After settling in, Ash discovers a tape recorder that contains a reading of passages from the Book of the Dead (or Necronomicon). These passages include demonic spell casting and the power to resurrect certain evils that have lain dormant until now. As the recording is played, an evil force is unleashed that kills and later possess the body of Linda. With no other option at hand, Ash chops off her head and buries the body, but she doesn’t stay buried for long.
Meanwhile, Annie Knowby (played by Sarah Berry) has found new pages from the Book of the Dead, which her archeologist father had been translating at the cabin. Her boyfriend (Richard Domeier) and two simple rednecks (Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva) accompany her to the cabin in order to reunite the missing pages to complete the book. During that time, Ash is alone in the remote cabin and begins to lose his sanity. I must say, this is one of my favorite scenes in the movie; watching him quickly slip away from reality is golden entertainment. If things weren’t bad enough, he is forced to sever his right hand that has become possessed by the evil forces.
When Annie shows up at the cabin, they toss Ash in the basement with the possessed body of her mother, Henrietta (played in costume by Ted Raimi) because they believe him to be crazy. Ash pleads to get out of the basement as the rotting corpse of Henrietta awakens. Eventually he is set free after they soon discover that only the combined efforts of Annie and Ash can stop the evil…sort of.
As the gory plot thickens, you cannot help but love Ash’s maniacal character. The evil forces start picking off people right and left while he turns into a total evil slaying badass midway through the film equipped with a shotgun and chainsaw.
“Ah. Ha. That’s right. Who’s laughing now? Whoooo’s laaaaughing now?” –Ash
With Annie’s help, Ash refashions the chainsaw and attaches it to where his right hand had been. Annie chants an inscription from the Book of the Dead that sends the evil force back to where it came from. Her spoken words open up a rotating portal, which not only draws in the evil force, but nearby trees, the infamous Oldsmobile, and Ash himself.
Ash and his 1973 Oldsmobile land in what appears to be the Middle East in the year 1300 AD. He is then confronted by a group of knights who initially mistake him for a deadite (creatures, most commonly people, that have become possessed by evil spirits or demons), but they are quickly distracted when a real deadite shows up. Ash shoots the creature with his shotgun and is hailed as a hero who has come to save the land, at which point he breaks down and screams “NOOO!” This segue leads into the third installment completing the trilogy; Evil Dead III, Army of Darkness (also written and directed by Raimi).
Gore and costume make-up created on a very low budget is a key component with this movie. Raimi uses it in such quantities that the sheer volume of fake blood often becomes humorous. Heads and arms are frequently severed, but it’s all done in such a crazy and over-the-top manner that it’s difficult imagining any horror enthusiast being remotely distressed by the amount of gore.
Evil Dead 2 was created by a truly demented mind and millions of fans enjoy it down to the last delirious second. Hard core fans have been nicknamed “Deadites” and theatrical on-stage renditions have been popping up throughout the country. For those of you with an appetite for horror, there’s no tastier meal than the Evil Dead movies. It will swallow your soul!
UPDATE: Lionsgate’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. There has been talk through the grapevine that Diablo Cody (Director of Juno & Jennifer’s Body) is writing the script for a remake! What a fabulously unusual combination of talents!