|Evil Dead II|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 29 August 2000|
When Rob Tapert met Sam Raimi, younger brother of Tapert's college roommate Ivan, they immediately started making short films together, which Sam had already been doing while in high school with his friends Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel and others. Eventually, their ambitions increased, they managed to scrape together money from investors, and went off to the woods of Tennessee one shivering winter to make THE EVIL DEAD. None of them had even been on a movie set before, but they turned out a film that dazzled hardened horror-movie mavens such as Stephen King, who loudly and frequently endorsed the wildly creative movie.
A few years later, King enthusiastically suggested to Dino De Laurentiis that he back a sequel to THE EVIL DEAD, and so EVIL DEAD II was born. (Note: that is the correct title, although the advertising and DVD box all use "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.") The result is one of the most astonishingly inventive horror movies in world cinema history, a full-bore, all-out assault on the nerves of its audience. It's also frequently very funny, though it's certainly nothing resembling a spoof of horror movies -- it's far too original for something as hackneyed as that.
Although director Sam Raimi (who co-wrote the script with old friend Scott Spiegel) doesn't like it when people call EVIL DEAD II a remake of the first movie, it's hard to deny that it does replay many of the ideas from the first film on a more ferocious level (and higher budget). Poor battered Bruce Campbell is still stuck in that cabin, still fighting off ancient evil demons (or something) that keep possessing everyone around him (and here, Bruce himself at times), as well as assorted trees, furniture and mounted deer heads.
The first few minutes of the film establish the basic premise: guy and girlfriend in lonely cabin that belonged to a scientist who accidentally unleashed demons from the past. The girlfriend is almost immediately possessed, and the hero -- Ash -- is then besieged by these dark forces. The arrival of four other people doesn't help matters; if anything, events escalate, leading to a wild climax with sole survivor Ash being sucked into a time vortex and dropped into 13th century England -- leading to ARMY OF DARKNESS, the third, and so far last, in the series.
EVIL DEAD II doesn't really tell a story; it's a collection of bizarre, sometimes horrifying events, an assault on Bruce Campbell (who looks like he could take almost anything the gleeful Raimi could dish out) and the audience alike. It's a movie of extremes and surprises; seeing it for the first time is a stunning experience -- not only can you not predict what's coming next, you can't even begin to guess how it's going to be presented.
For example, in the morning after the first assault, the camera (often adopting the point of view of an evil force) blasts straight through the cabin, smashing down the back door, rocketing through the building, out the front door and into Ash's mouth, all in one take. But then Ash is immediately lifted up and shot through the forest, spinning like he's mounted to a giant propeller (which Campbell was). Ideas like this simply have no precedent in movie history -- except for EVIL DEAD itself, there was never a movie that tried the kind of stunts that EVIL DEAD II does. The ground sucks up fog (Raimi is fond of reverse action); the camera later goes straight through a car from rear window to front; it chases Campbell through the woods, into the cabin, then into the walls of the cabin (which has suspiciously wide passageways). A headless corpse knows a cue when it hears one ("...chainsaw..."). Campbell's right hand is possessed by the evil force and smashes dishes over his head until he uses that convenient chainsaw to cut it off, all the while screaming "Who's laughing now?!?" The dismembered hand flips Bruce the bird and scampers into a rat hole (where it's momentarily caught by a trap). Bruce blasts the walls which immediately spit thousands of gallons blood into his face. A walking corpse (played by Sam's younger brother Ted) attacks; when someone steps on its neck, its eyeball shoots out, straight into the mouth of a startled woman. (This is one of the great grossout gags in movie history.)
And on and on and on. EVIL DEAD II is clearly not for the squeamish in any way; there's a flood of blood and black bile, body parts fly through the air, heads are chainsawed in two, etc. But it's so brazenly imaginative, innovative, creative and energetic that anyone who enjoys movies with an intense style and sense of fun really needs to see this thing at least once.
It was powerfully influential the world over, including on the action movies of Hong Kong, and particularly on film students. Sam Raimi has gone on to a solid career -- THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, A SIMPLE PLAN, FOR LOVE OF THE GAME -- but in terms of sheer joy in moviemaking, he's never surpassed the dazzling, delightful EVIL DEAD II.
This Anchor Bay release doesn't offer many extras, but the transfer is excellent, the sound is good, and it's widely available.