Evil Dead 2 (DVD)
In this sequel-remake of the original EVIL DEAD, a group of people are trapped in a cabin while ancient evil lurks outside and threatens a fate worse ...
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Review of "Evil Dead 2 (DVD)"
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EVIL DEAD 2Recently I’ve been hearing the following from the uninitiated – “Evil Dead 2? Isn’t that a little bit like Wrong Turn and Cabin Fever?” Wrong way round numb-nuts, is my usual contemptuous retort. Not only is Evil Dead 2 the thematic template and basis for the recent spate of similar styled horror movies, it is also their superior in every conceivable facet. By a long, long way! In fact, it should be made a criminal offence for such rubbish to even be mentioned in the same breath as one of the 1980’s true classics - if not one of the greatest movies ever put to film.
Hopefully I’ve now got your full and undivided attention with that last line. I can hear you all thinking, “What? Evil Dead 2, one of the greatest films ever made? You’re having a giraffe Clowny?” Unfortunately not! Whilst authoritarian and renowned critics will constantly harp on, in an attempt to subjectively persuade audiences, about more established classics like Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather proclaiming them the greatest films ever made, it is just as likely said critics have simply scoffed at the title of Evil Dead 2, snobbishly presuming it to be an exploitative and dire eighties horror flick. Sam Raimi’s predecessor, The Evil Dead, was certainly exploitative (not dire though). Made on a shoestring budget of $150,000 it was an articulated examination of how to make an independent film on the cheap and contained a rape scene involving a possessed tree that garnered The Evil Dead notoriety as one of the earliest labelled video nasties in Britain. Stephen King considered it to be “the most ferociously original horror movie” he had seen at the time. What followed The Evil Dead for the remainder of the decade was a myriad of unoriginal straight to video bloodbaths, simulating The Evil Dead, in fact trying to be the next Evil Dead, which had come to saturate the horror genre; but by unscrupulously placing Evil Dead 2 within this batch of sub-standard, badly acted and directed, provocative bloodbaths does the film's technical merits, originality and sheer enjoy-ability a major disservice.Evil Dead 2 was released in 1987 with the original’s director Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Darkman, A Simple Plan) and hero Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness) returning for the sequel. Following a spookily narrated prologue that divulges the history and creation behind the Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead from the first film), Raimi quickly establishes the films simple premise. Whilst staying with his girlfriend Linda at a secluded cabin in the woods, dim-witted hero Ash (the magnificent Bruce Campbell) turns on a tape recording of a nowhere to be found professor that recites passages from the Necronomicon, awaking dark spirits in the wood outside. Linda is possessed and after swiftly removing her head with a blunt shovel, Ash barricades himself in the cabin, defending against the evil spirits with only a chainsaw, shotgun and what little wits he has, whilst slowly going nuts. The professor’s daughter (plus others) turn up looking to find her father’s research, but are instead drawn into Ash’s fight for survival as the night turns into a non-stop bloodbath of outrageous horror and possession of the living. And that’s it!
So far, so sounding like the myriad of unoriginal straight to video bloodbaths that had saturated the horror genre, circa 1987 - right? Not quite! Most other horrors tended to concentrate on the now typical tactics of loud noises to make the audience jump, long drawn out sequences revealing a supposed “big scare,” a high body count and excessive dialogue laden scripts in order to make their scenario’s seem more credible – original circumstances to place characters in is not the traditional vogue. They also tended to take themselves way too seriously. Evil Dead 2 rightly stands up and defies such conventions.The script, with dialogue paired to a minimum, is concise in its simplicity, not only allowing Raimi to concentrate on a hyper-kinetic camera style, but also incorporating a focus on the vast array of original ideas present to replace the lack of dialogue. The pace simply does not let up. Five minutes in and the premise is alight, blunt shovel and one decapitation down, followed by half an hour of Ash in the cabin, alone, versus the dead. This is a wonderful and masterfully executed scenario. Within these thirty minutes the audience’s enjoyment is measured by the amount of sheer physical and mental pain that Ash suffers. Flung through the windscreen of his car after hitting a tree; his reflection attacking him; laughed at by the cabin’s furniture and ornaments (creepily surreal); the torment of seeing his only escape out of the woods destroyed; chased through doors by an unseen evil; his girlfriend’s decapitated head biting his hand and refusing to let go; beating himself up and smashing plates over his head along with general falling over and the bloodbath from hell, culminates in the greatest filmed sequence of self-mutilation ever. Like I said, pain and suffering equals audience satisfaction.
Unsurprisingly, Raimi is a big fan of the Three Stooges and the whole thirty minutes plays like a one man performance of a number of their sketches, albeit much darker, bloodier and blackly comic. It helps that Campbell is a virtuoso physical comedy performer. Coming across as a proto Jim Carrey, but less annoying, the range of screams, wails, facial contortions and bone crunching falls he performs, provide the character of Ash with a rare realism not often found within the horror genre, or even films in general – a central character that actually gets hurt and humiliated. Frequently! This is not a man who is your typical hero; he is not a highly trained Special Forces commando or a superhero; he is simply a flawed human being, borderline numbskull. Campbell is entirely credible as Ash, playing him with idiotic delight and maniacal frenzy. His cowardly nature and terror imprinted facial expressions creates a plausible human reaction within the incomprehensible situation Ash finds himself in.With the inclusion of new characters arriving at the cabin, the pace slows slightly (but not much) allowing for some character interaction on how to defeat the evil. The remaining actors, who are relative unknowns, do a commendable job in keeping the horror fresh and invigorating. Possession is rife, flying eyeballs take precedence in one of the films most hilarious moments, and a few original deaths are truly enjoyable. Yet, what stands out again is Campbell. Building up to the finale and with the required pages of the Necronomicon being shared with a soul-sucking demon in the fruit cellar, Campbell features in a scene that has engraved Ash into the vaults of movie iconidom. Venturing to the work-shed, the previously subtle and claustrophobic music transforms into a pumping adrenaline fanfare, Ash fires up the chainsaw, twirls the shotgun into a newly made holster on his back, the camera zooms to a close-up on his face as he utters the memorable word… “Groovy!” before carving himself up a witch.
In all respects Evil Dead 2 would be Campbell’s film if not also for the excellent score, special effects, editing and direction. Indeed each aspect of Evil Dead 2 seemingly melds together into one perfect whole. Joseph LoDuca’s score is creepy and plodding at first, adding an appropriately intense atmosphere to the already claustrophobic cabin, before building up to a rampant heroic fanfare as the battle against the dark spirits reaches its conclusion. The effects to this day still hold up well. Some of the stop-motion photography (mostly when the Henrietta demon’s head transforms) has obviously been surpassed by developments in CGI, but there are still some sections that hold their own today. Central to this is Doug Beswick, without whom the surreal visuals of the macabre waltz sequence performed by Linda’s rotting corpse and the much praised furniture and ornaments laughing sequences would have been very different. They still have the “wow” factor about them and have dated little.
Yet, holding all the elements together, holding all the keys to this master-piece, is Sam Raimi. Evil Dead 2 would fall well short of its perceived classic status without Raimi’s assured direction, innovative camera set-ups, exquisite imagination or intelligence.
Added to this direction is Raimi’s involvement in the script. As already suggested Evil Dead 2 is influenced heavily by The Three Stooges shtick of punches and pratfalls and whilst the film does transcend barriers beyond horror and comedy, it successfully maintains this blend of genres for another reason. Understanding that The Evil Dead was possibly responsible for the over-saturation of horror movies in the eighties market, each as bloody and exploitive as the next, Raimi decided to make Evil Dead 2 as a spoof of the genre. Mixing comic absurdity and elaborating on the ridiculous amounts of blood used in these films (via use of a fire-hose), as well as defying numerous horror conventions (a male lead rather than female, a hero used as a punching bag and, most importantly, no teenagers) Evil Dead 2 produces an original variant on an often-used theme. Indeed it is this self-referential and knowing wink towards spoof and satire, without ever being openly mocking or falling into the trap of downright silliness, that makes the film so much more accessible, enjoyable and memorable for audiences. Evil Dead 2 works as a commentary on the state of horror filmmaking in general, well before the term “post-modern” was closely associated with Wes Craven’s Scream franchise.So, there you have it! If that has not convinced you to finally submit yourself to Evil Dead 2, nothing will. Not only is it a masterpiece, it is also an example of the perfect sequel – the same (low budget, cast of non-actors, use of one location, pile on excessive gore and carnage, do not let up on the whip-cracking pace) yet entirely different (more imaginative set-pieces, half hour of a one man show, aspects of comedy and a sophisticated intelligence). It’s a shame the same cannot be said about more recently released rubbish like Cabin Fever or Wrong Turn!! 17 years have passed and at last Evil Dead 2 is finally getting the recognition it deserves!!
Overall – Evil Dead 2 is a work of unparalleled genius where everything fits perfectly together. What more do I have to say? Well, I haven’t mentioned Ash being dropped down the cellar stairs onto his head, the POV shot smashing it’s way through car windows, Ash’s girlfriends head clamped in a vice, the highly original yet unexpected ending (prepare to laugh your ass off at that), blah, blah, blah, blah…..Director: Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Darkman, A Simple Plan)
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Scott SpiegelCast:
Bruce Campbell .... Ash
Sarah Berry .... Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks .... Jake
Kassie Wesley .... Bobbie Joe
Ted Raimi .... Possessed Henrietta
Denise Bixler .... Linda
Richard Domeier .... Ed Getley
John Peaks .... Professor Raymond Knowby
Lou Hancock .... Henrietta Knowby
Running Time: 85 minsCertificate: 18
Product Information : Evil Dead 2 (DVD)
Manufacturer's product descriptionIn this sequel-remake of the original EVIL DEAD, a group of people are trapped in a cabin while ancient evil lurks outside and threatens a fate worse than death. Can brawny wiseguy Ash save the day, or will his dead girlfriend come back to cause more trouble
Listed on Ciao since: 29/01/2001