Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" became a massive cult hit almost immediately -- but not entirely for the reasons he had hoped. Yes, some parts of it are scary, but it's also hilariously over-the-top.
So when it was time to give the world "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," Raimi decided to embrace the joke. Sure, it still has some horrific moments (possessed lady in the basement! Ash stuck down there with her!), but the movie is now being deliberately over-the-top for the sheer joy of it -- fountains of gore, quotable lines, chainsaw hands and laughing deer heads. And of course, Bruce Campbell has completely graduated into his memelike status here, as a demon-slaying mass of manly awesomeness.
It begins with a heavily abridged retelling of the first movie, where Ash (Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) take a romantic vacation in a rickety old cabin, but stumble across a weird old tape recorder and the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (aka, Book of the Dead). An evil force possesses Linda, and Ash is forced to behead her with a shovel. Got it? Onto the story!
After being possessed for a grand total of six seconds, Ash finds himself trapped in the haunted cabin, with no way of getting back to civilization. He's slowly driven insane by demonic hallucinations, and the undead Linda reassembles her very-rapidly-decayed body so she can attack Ash once more. This time, she bites his hand and possesses it, forcing Ash to take very extreme measures to protect himself. Think a chainsaw. Used for amputation.
Meanwhile, ANOTHER quartet of disposable individuals are approaching the cabin, led by Annie (Sarah Berry), whose father left behind the tapes on the Necronomicon. Not only did he leave the Necronomicon and the tapes in the cabin, but his possessed wife Henrietta (Lou Hancock and Ted Raimi) is buried in the basement -- and she wants out. More horrible killings, possessions and demonic evil ensue.
Despite having a few million dollars more, "Evil Dead 2" retains the same low-budget charm as the original. The story takes place in the same weird little cabin, there's a cast of about five or six people, and demonic possession is represented by some charming stop-motion and clever makeup. Sam Raimi has definitely polished his special effects with all that extra money (Ash talking to himself in the mirror), and has added a few for comedic effect (the laughing deer head, geysers of blood!), but hasn't lost the rough edges that made the first so delightful.
He's also dialed his directing up a few notches. It's still a horror movie with a sense of creeping dread, especially as we discover more about the Necronomicon and the undead horrors that come from it ("We are the things that were and shall be again!")
But Raimi fully embraces the over-the-top ("I'll swallow your soul! I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!" "Swallow this!") and in-jokes (Ash pins down his hand... with "A Farewell to Arms"), with plenty of delightfully quotable lines (... groovy"). There's also a lot more weaponry in it, since Ash swaggers through the film with a sawed-off shotgun (which he fires into demon faces) and a chainsaw that he ends up attaching to his arm. It is almost as awesome as it sounds.
This is also the movie where Bruce Campbell blossoms into the one-liner-slinging, larger-than-life, gun-and-chainsaw-swinging cult icon he is today -- he plays Ash as the kind of cool yet frenetic guy that every guy would like to imagine he would be in a supernatural crisis, and he is utterly delightful. The other actors do serviceable jobs as characters you don't know very well, but Bruce simply expands to fit the movie with no room for anyone else to steal (or chew) the scenery with such aplomb and charm.
"Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn" is one of those rare sequels that has more money and polished special effects, but doesn't lose what made the first movie so much fun. Instead, it takes everything that was fun... and amps it up.
on January 27, 2016
Don't expect anything deep here. It's a funny horror movie, as such it does fine. In some ways it's a rehash of "Evil Dead" . Both have an early version of facebook as a plot element ( Facebook, Necronomicon, what difference? ) and loosely follow the same plot except the second is setting up for "Army of Darkness". If you like absurdist humour good odds you'll enjoy this.