Evil Dead II – Review

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry and Dan Hicks
Released: June 26, 1987

Click here for Evil Dead II trailer

There are two very noticeably different sub-genres of horror. One is the kind that sets out to terrify, with subtle, chilling performances, intensely creepy atmospheres and rely heavily on tension and the audiences imagination.
The other is 80s horror.
Enter Evil Dead II, a glorious homage to melodrama, excessive gore and overkill!

The Plot:
Taking his girlfriend to a supposedly deserted cabin in the woods, Ash (Campbell) never expected to be battling demons and trying to prevent them from possessing him. Yet that’s exactly what he ends up doing when he inadvertently summons the ‘Deadites’ from the Book of the Dead. With the help of a group of strangers, including researcher of ancient artifacts Annie Knowby (Berry), and his trusty chainsaw, it becomes his job to send them back to hell.

What must have been going through Sam Raimi’s mind when they wrapped up on The Evil Dead? For such a low-budget, it is a fine film, but it certainly falls into the category of trashy horror. One of the first films ever to be labelled a ‘Video Nasty’ in the UK, it still enjoyed incredible popularity. Can’t you just hear the cogs turning in Raimi’s head?
“What if we actually try to make a video nasty?” And thus, Evil Dead II was born.

Half remake, half sequel, it sees the return of Bruce Campbell as Ash. Only this time around, he is let off his leash. Forget subtlety, forget believable reactions, he goes all out in one of the most hilarious melodramatic performances you can imagine! Scary only in theory, Evil Dead II is fully aware how big of a joke it is, and for this reason, it soars.

Just when the atmosphere is at its most tense, Campbell lets out a highly theatrical scream: “No, you fool!“. His facial expressions make up a good 30 or 40% of the comedy, his constant punishment throughout another 30 or 40%. Make no mistake, there is one star in this film, and his name is Bruce Campbell.

Which isn’t to say that the rest of the cast is bad…..they are, but it is clear that they are meant to be. It fits. They don’t steal the spotlight from Campbell at any point, but their sub-par acting compliments Campbell’s over-the-top hilarious acting perfectly. Scenes that exclude Ash don’t last even 10 minutes in total, so we never have very long to wait to laugh again.

It is the fact that Ash has become so unhinged this time around that makes the whole affair so amusing. From the very beginning, we can see he is no longer a straight character but a bit of a joker. No sooner has his character been established when his girlfriend suddenly becomes a zombie sadist. With a penchant for dancing around naked and headless, her hobbies also include beating the crap out of her former boyfriend while laughing manically.

This, understandably, has a bad effect on Ash. Raimi expands on this aspect much further than he did in The Evil Dead, showing us how all the screws are falling loose and Ash’s grip on reality is becoming as reliable as a chocolate fireman.

The special effects this time around have had a bit of a face-lift. It is still charmingly 80s, with a bit of claymation and lot’s of prosthesis, but it is all very impressive visually. The facial structure of those that have been possessed are particularly creative, especially with Annie’s companion, Ed. The make-up team takes the notion of the conventional zombie and throws in a truckload of brutality, all of which is expressed openly in the Deadites very appearance. Raimi clearly believes in the philosophy that ‘More is more!”. While the strings are clearly visible for the most part, the blood drenched results are simultaneously gruesome and hilarious, a difficult combination to get right.

Being self-aware, the film is quite short. There is only so long you can get laughs out of this kind of premise, and it cuts off respectably at an hour and twenty minutes. With this short a running time, it can’t really afford to take things slowly. It throws the audience right in from the beginning and barely lets up at all.

The only time when you will be aware of the minutes going by is a slight lull just before the finale. Up until this point, everything else is flawless. Watching Ash battle the head of his, we may as well assume ‘ex’, girlfriend or his own possessed hand is an exercise of non-stop hilarity, the kind of grim slapstick that cannot be found anywhere else.

Overall: 
The funniest intentional horror you will probably ever see, Evil Dead II is a classic. It deserves a lot of credit for nailing the delicate mix of horror and comedy, and the fact that it is still genuinely funny now is just, well…….groovy.

Rating: 9/10

Who’s laughing now?!” – Ash (to his own hand)

Shamelessly Awful Stuff:

  • When Ash traps his possessed hand, the book he places on top of the bucket to stop it from moving is ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Evil Dead movies have a tendency not to sync up with each other. The second film implies that the first never happened and the third does not quite follow the events at the end of the second, despite it being a direct sequel.
  • In one of the opening shots, the Evil force rams into Ash. Campbell actually suffered a broken jaw from this, as it the Evil force was actually Sam Raimi on a bicycle.
  • Actually that’s not true. This is a rumour Campbell and Raimi spread around after the film was released, to see how many people would believe it.
  • Anyone who went to my college (IADT), may remember the entire Evil Dead trilogy being played at RAG week. If you are having difficulty remembering when this was, it was the evening when a good quarter of the college were walking around, covered in blood and done up as zombies. It was also the day young children stopped hanging around the college green.
  • In the tool-shed where Campbell carves up his girlfriend, Freddy Kreugers glove (from A Nightmare on Elm Street) can be seen hanging above the door.
  • I once brought a date to see this film in the cinema. Looking back, I probably should have done something more candle-light dinner-y and less dismembered corpse-y.
  • Bruce Campbell’s autobiography is entitled ‘If Chins Could Kill’.
  • Watch out for a cameo of Sam Raimi. He is the first knight to hail Ash at the end of the film.
  • The cabin that the film itself is filmed in has since been burned down, although the fireplace, apparently, remains. Raimi refuses to reveal its location because, apparently, fans kept stealing bricks from it.
  • The Evil Dead movies were adapted for a Broadway musical. Musical numbers included: “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” “Look Who’s Evil Now” and “Do the Necronomicon.”
  • Stephen King is a major fan of the Evil Dead franchise, which was a major selling point for the early advertising campaigns.

Hipster Book of the Dead:
(Had a Facebook before it was cool)

This film is kind of like:

  • Being in a horror movie, but knowing you have an extra life

or

  • A tiny little bakery on a little known street that just happens to make the very best cakes and cookies in the entire world.
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