I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the original Evil Dead. It was such a badly made film, but its shortcomings worked for it and in the end it made for unintentional escapist fun, which made it awesome. Now, a little bias had entered my head when I learned that the sequel, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn was mostly a rework of the first one; in other words, a semi-sequel. But once I popped the DVD in and the film rolled off, it was actually more than I expected. Director Sam Raimi, aware of the unique audience response to the first film’s unintentional humor, decided to explore this rare format, and with an actually bigger budget available ($3 million, compared to the first one’s $300,000), comes up with a semi-sequel which ends up being a complete fucking riot, and a much better film than its predecessor. Who would’ve thought that possible, especially in the horror genre?The first part is a complete rework and remembrance of the original. This time, Ash (Bruce Campbell again for fuck’s sake!) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) visit a mountain cabin owned by Professor Jay Knowby (John Peaks) and his wife Henrietta (Lou Hancock), and there, Ash discovers that they’ve disappeared, no one home. At the same time, he discovers the Sumerian Book of the Dead (Necronomicon), along with the ritual dagger and a reel-to-reel tape that contains the Professor’s translations of the book’s hieroglyphics. Obviously, as they are read out loud, THE SPIRITS OF THE DEAD ARE AWAKENING!!!
"A fucking riot from start to finish"
And the evil goes and possesses Linda, and she turns into a zombie. And you know, Ash kills her, dismembers her, buries her, but keeps the head. The head bites his hand, which later becomes possessed. All through the night he has to endure this Evil up till dawn when he almost turns into a zombie. At the same time, Knowby's daughter Annie (a very hot Sarah Berry) and Knowby's partner Ed Getley (Richard Domeier) have arrived with missing pages of the Book of the Dead, and head to the cabin on foot (because the bridge is destroyed), guided by a pair of local rednecks Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobbie Joe (Kassie Wesley). When they arrive, Ash mistakenly shoots Bobbie Joe, and Jake knocks him out and locks him in the fruit cellar. Annie thinks Ash killed his father, and plays the reel tape looking for answers, then the night comes, and all hell is about to break loose once again.
OK, pure and simple, this film is a riot. What was at first unintentionally funny in the first one, is exploited here in the second one, combining elements of horror, suspense and comedy. ED2 brings out a very interesting and very original mix. Sam Raimi takes production values and artistic quality and burns them to the very fullest within the $3 million budget. As I said earlier, in the first movie, the basic idea is highly solid, and instead of completely rehashing it and make another mindless formulaic horror sequel (as most horror sequels tend to be), Raimi expands the idea, and makes it a much more interesting, accessible and entertaining story from start to finish.
There are several memorable moments amongst the film. The best of them comes from Bruce Campbell’s Ash when he has to act by himself on the set, putting a hilarious, over-the-top one-man show, and even doing a Three Stooges tip-of-the-hat antic that is just fucking awesome. The expression on his big-ass-chinned face and his laughter when he hacks off his possessed hand and the laughing room and mirror scenes are big highlights. Ash’s character is also broadly developed too. In the first one he was just a clueless fuck, but in the second one, he’s still clueless at first but is morphed into one of the most memorable, most badass heroes in recent memory. Groovy, indeed.
The cinematography and editing are completely pushed to the limit, as Raimi employs every possible shot everywhere, including a Point-Of-View shot of a human eye that goes right into Bobbie Joe’s mouth. The screenplay is perfect, with several memorable quotes and one-liners that add to the entertainment. The ending is laughable, but it’s supposed to be, and it will leave you with a big grin on your face and wanting more. Raimi’s direction is also perfect, and showcasing his talents that would lead him toward better things in later years.
The acting is excellent, largely due to the over-the-top performance of Bruce Campbell. He and Raimi’s direction are the reasons why this film is as fun as it is. Sarah Berry is hot, and does quite a good job here, very memorable since this was her only major role in film. The rest of the cast is also good.In the end, this film managed to prove that horror isn’t all cheap shocks and shit-ass suspense, and that there is still plenty of uncharted territory within the genre. Evil Dead is a certified horror/comedy classic, a truly entertaining ride, and one of the few films (even fewer in the horror genre) that manage to be much better than their predecessors. 4.5-5
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originally posted: 11/26/03 16:51:50