Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, 1987. Directed by Sam Raimi. Written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel. Starring Bruce Campbell, Linda Berry, Kassie Wesley, Dan Hicks, Ted Raimi.
I’ve been meaning to rewatch this one for a while. Last night, on Friday the 13th, my friend Emily and I sat down to do a double feature with this film and Army of Darkness. We only got through this one, but only because we chose to dig into all of the special features on the Blu-Ray.
I love the mix of horror and comedy in this movie and the way it overlaps in unexpected ways. The first Evil Dead tried to play it straight as a horror film, but Raimi and Campbell’s comedic sensibilities infected the production, as well as their fierce creativity in their efforts to make a film inexpensively, which made it unexpectedly original. With a little more money and a disappointing film experience with Crimewave, the team dove in on the sequel. Not having the rights to their original film, they had to re-film any aspect of the original that they wanted to use, which meant that this movie felt like a combination of a remake and a sequel. We get enough of the horror of the original with Ash’s (Bruce Campbell) experiences with seeing his girlfriend Linda turn into a Kandarian demon (the Evil Dead) and then killing her to jump into what happens next: Ash is possessed by a demon and is narrowly saved by dawn. He tries to escape and discovers his only route, a bridge, destroyed, and then he is chased back into the cabin.
This film succeeds best when it just Ash being tormented and reacting while on his own, and Sam Raimi is good at tormenting Bruce Campbell. Gallons of fake blood in multiple colors are fired at Ash with the force of a firehose. Ash is also tormented by his possessed hand, which he cuts off with a chainsaw, as one does.
After a while, Ash is joined by the daughter of the owners of the cabin in the woods, Annie, (how he came to be staying there with Linda and his friends gets a little more muddled), her boyfriend, a redneck named Jake who is doing something in the woods, and Jake’s girlfriend, Bobby Joe. They arrive with missing pages from the Book of the Dead (read aloud again, via recording from Annie’s professor father) as Ash is fending off the latest onslaught from the Evil Dead with a shotgun. They immediately kick the shit out of him and lock him in the cellar. And this is when we’re finally introduced to Possessed Henrietta, as played by Ted Raimi. If there is someone that Sam Raimi loves to torment as much, or more, than Bruce Campbell, it’s his little brother Ted, and from the costume on up, Ted is tormented. But these guys would do anything to sell a gag and it works.
There is a lot of screaming and blood gushing. More folks turn into demons (including Ash, again). But in the end, they read the right things from the newly recovered pages and dispel the Evil Dead and Ash to the Dark Ages.
I love this movie for all of the ways it goes over the top and pushes all of the horror movie tropes aside and seemingly says, “Hold my beer” as it tries to one up them. Bruce Campbell is a good looking guy and a solid actor who totally sells all of the insanity on screen. His comedic skills keep the audience off center as the horror torment is funny, which helps sell the surprises. Horror and comedy are so intertwined that when you deliberately put them together you can achieve genuine reactions from your audience because they never know quite what they will have thrown at them next. This film also executes amazing practical effects, which work great with all the performers being completely game for what they’re asked to do. Totally worth watching.
More later …