Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#1,884. Evil Dead II (1987)

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 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 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 had 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. 

Alas, his problems are far from over…

Professor Knowby’s daughter Anne (Sarah Berry), who, like her father, dabbles in archaeology, is returning from an overseas dig that uncovered several missing 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 has been inexplicably destroyed. Hoping to find another way into the cabin, 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 with 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, 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 points (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 manages to make us laugh and jump at the same time.

Equally as flamboyant is the work of director Sam Raimi, who, throughout the 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 still manage to surprise me). With all the bells and whistles, Evil Dead II is a genuinely frightening horror / comedy that offers just as many scares as it does laughs.

As with 1986’s Aliens (James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece), 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 their sequels!


James Robert Smith said...

Although this movie is thrilling, and does have a few moments of actual horror, it's largely a comedy. In addition, not just a comedy, but a successful translation of cartoon action and slaptick directly into live action. Many modern directors have attempted this, but in my opinion I have only see it succeed twice: in this film, and in Richard Elfman's FORBIDDEN ZONE. It's a very difficult task to achieve this effect in live action, and I give this film the highest of marks for having done so.

beep said...

Hee! That one was easy as the Alamo just had a special showing with the special effects guy, uh, who's name I've misplaced... He was fun to talk with. Got some nice signed photogs and a t-shirt out of it. The Alamo fucking rules.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for the comments!

James: You're 100% right! This really is like a live-action cartoon. Excellent observation!

Beep: Man, I would have loved to been at that screening! Have yet to see this one on the big screen, and I really need to at some point. At some point, I'll get to the Alamo... it's on my bucket list!