Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks
Tag line: "Kiss Your Nerves Good-Bye!"
Trivia: Most of the film was shot on a set built inside the gymnasium of the JR Faison Junior High School in Wadesboro, North Carolina
Not so much a sequel as it is a reworking of 1981’s The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II takes the story of Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the “Deadites” in a different direction. Instead of straight-up horror, Sam Raimi and company opted to toss a generous helping of comedy into the mix this time around, resulting in a brilliant bit of insanity that has captured the hearts of genre fans the world over.
As our story begins, Ash and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) are heading to a remote cabin for a romantic weekend getaway. Shortly after they arrive, Ash finds a reel-to-reel tape recorder sitting on a desk and decides to give it a listen. The voice on the tape belongs to the cabin’s owner, Professor Knowby (John Peakes), who reads aloud from the Necronomicon, or “Book of the Dead”, which he unearthed during a recent archaeological dig. But, to Ash’s dismay, the passages awaken an evil spirit, which bursts into the cabin and takes control of Linda’s body. Feeling he has no alternative, Ash kills Linda and buries her in the forest. But, alas, his problems are far from over…
Meanwhile, Professor Knowby’s daughter Anne (Sarah Berry), who, like her father, dabbles in archaeology, is returning from an overseas dig that uncovered several more pages from the Book of the Dead. Joined by her boyfriend / research partner Ed Getley (Richard Domeier), Anne drives to the cabin to share this amazing discovery with her father (who she believes is still there). Unfortunately, the main bridge that leads to the cabin has been inexplicably destroyed. Hoping to find another way in, Anne hires Jake (Dan Hicks) and his girlfriend Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva) to guide them through the forest. Of course, once they arrive at their destination, the four weary travelers end up getting a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Having already established the particulars in The Evil Dead (i.e. – malevolent spirits in the woods, demonic possession, etc), Evil Dead II doesn’t waste time setting things up again; minutes after the opening credits have ended, Ash is listening to the tape and summoning the ancient evil that possesses his girlfriend. And from there on out, the movie doesn’t stop to take a breath. Most of the lunacy comes courtesy of Bruce Campbell, whose over-the-top performance as Ash is one of the film’s strong suits (the entire first act consists of Ash battling the supernatural entities that have come to destroy him), and it’s to the actor’s credit that he succeeds at making us laugh and jump at the same time.
Equally as flamboyant is director Sam Raimi, who, throughout the entire film, lets his imagination run wild. Along with his frequent use of the “forest cam”, where we’re looking through the eyes of the evil spirits as they rush towards the cabin, the movie features some stop-motion animation (which, among other things, allows Linda ‘s corpse to spring from the ground and do a little dance) and more jump scares than you can shake a stick at (no matter how often I watch this movie, a few of these still manage to surprise me). Yet, despite all the bells and whistles, Evil Dead II is also genuinely frightening, making it that rare horror / comedy that offers just as many scares as it does laughs.
As it is with 1986’s Aliens (James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece, Alien), many horror fans rank Evil Dead II above the original Evil Dead, which, seeing as the sequel is as much a comedy as it is a supernatural fright pic, is something of a surprise (Likewise, Aliens is more of an action-packed shoot-‘em-up than a straight-on sci-fi / horror film). In the case of both franchises, my opinion is thus: I prefer the originals (Alien and The Evil Dead), but that doesn’t prevent me from loving the hell out of the sequels!