Evil Dead 2

Release date: March 13, 1987

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Ted Raimi and Denise Bixler

Before the movie Scream came along to parody the horror film genre and at the same time participate in it, there was Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy (the third movie being Army of Darkness, which was released 1993). Equal parts suspense, camp, comedy, and extreme amounts of gore, the first two Evil Dead movies didn't take long to attain the status of classics. Today, while relatively few mainstream movie viewers have heard of these movies (not to mention having seen them), they have garnered a small but loyal gathering of fans who can recite every one liner delivered by the awsome hero, Ash.

The Evil dead series is definetely not for everyone. A very strong stomach is a good idea if you plan on watching one of the films. If you can't take extreme amounts of blood and gore, this is not the movie for you. Both The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 have enough nasty colored liquids to fill a swimming pool. Also, there are cut off body parts (decapitated heads, bodiless hands, etc.). But, the extreme nature of the gore isn't beside the point it is the point for the movie. Raimi goes so far over the top in presenting these displays that they seem to take on an almost humorous appearance. If you watch the movie you would know that it is impossible to take all the amounts of blood seriously. So, instead of being sickened, we're strangely amused/entertained and this is of course is all intentional. (In general in horror films, it's the little displays of blood like a needle through the finger that cause the most discomfort. The more outrageous a display though, the less likely it is to be taken seriously.)

Evil Dead 2 can be seen as a sequel to the first or a remake. The first movie follows the expedition of five young people who decide to spend a weekend at an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods. They are Ash (Bruce Campbell); his girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker); his sister, Shelly (Sarah York); and his friends, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) and Scotty (Hal Delrich). At the cabin, they find a strange book whose pages are made out of human skin and the writing is written in human blood. This is the Necronomicon, or the "Book of the Dead", which talks about a spiritual presence a thing of evil that roams the forests and dark bowers of man's domain. It also includes spells to raise demons spells that are put into play when a tape recording of a man reading them is played. Soon, Ash and his friends are the targets of an implacable force that lurks in and around their little cottage and, one at a time they are either possessed or killed.

Rather than starting off where the first evil dead film finished, Evil Dead 2 goes back to the beginning (kind of). The first ten minutes or so of the second film recap what happened in the first Evil Dead movie. Ash heads to the cabin, although, in this movie, the only person that is with him is Linda (played here by Denise Bixler). The two discover the book of the dead, and, in no time, Linda is a zombie and Ash is forced to chop her up. Before long, Ash too is possessed, but he somehow manages to fight off the demonic influence. He is joined by a group of four other characters: Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry), whose father owns the cabin; her boyfriend, Ed (Richard Domeier); a guy named Jake (Dan Hicks); and his girlfriend, Bobbie Joe (Kassie Wesley). of course throught the film these characters are taken out one at a time, leaving Ash as the last one standing (again). The ending of Evil Dead 2 leads straight into the third film Army of Darkness, although very many details were changed when the third movie was released.

Although The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II share a lot similarities, the tones of each of the films are significantly different. While both movies contain lots of satire, the first movie is more of a straightforward horror film than its sequel is. The Evil Dead contains little in the way of overt comedy its humor comes through making prominent traditional elements of the horror genre, including drenching the screen in vast (almost too much) amounts of fake blood, allowing the actors to give overly dramatic performances, and purposely putting the characters in positions where they do stupid things. Evil Dead 2, on the other hand, raises the stakes by introducing slapstick comedy and one-liners into the movie. Unfortunately, the scare level of the film drops a notch. It is still possible to be scared by Evil Dead 2, but far less likely than by the first.

One of the best accomplishments of The Evil Dead is how much it was able to do on such a small budget (only about $50K). It could be argued though, that some of the best horror films, like Halloween and The Blair Witch Project, have come with a small budget as well, with the lack of funding which forces the filmmakers to rely more on innovation than crazy special effects. The Evil Dead is at times pretty creepy, due in no small part to the very creative camerawork devised by the director Raimi and cinematographer Tim Philo. The "shaky cam" (in which the camera gave us the point-of-view of the demon rushing through the woods) became a staple of the Evil Dead series, and was "borrowed" by the Coen brothers for Blood Simple. (The Coens and Raimi have been long-time friends and collaborators. Joel Coen is credited as the "assistant film editor" for The Evil Dead.) Also, the evil force that is in the forest is never shown in The Evil Dead, leaving all the details to our imagination (which imo makes the movie even better). In Evil Dead 2, but when it does finally reveal itself at the end of the second film the result is extremely disappointing.

Gore is a key component to both of the movies. Raimi uses it in such outragous quantities that the sheer volume of fake blood often becomes extremely silly (especially in Evil Dead II, where red is not always the color of choice there's black blood, green blood, and yellow blood). Heads and arms are cut off frequently, but it's all done in such a good-natured and over-the-top manner that it's difficult imagining any horror fan being remotely distressed by the amount of gore in the films. (It is also very difficult imagining anyone who doesn't like horror films coming within viewing distance of any of the Evil Dead movies the films are mostly intended for those who appreciate the genre.) In The Evil Dead, we get to see a partially dismembered body twitching around on the ground. In Evil Dead 2, a bodiless head tries that to chew on Ash's hand; later, he is attacked by the headless body. And, in what is probably the most amusing moment in either of the two films, an eye pops out of its socket and flies through the air to a waiting receptacle. With the Evil Dead movies, Raimi does a good job of illustrating that gore can be used for purposes other than grossing out an audience.

The makeup in The Evil Dead is pretty crude usually just globs of goo slathered on the faces of the actors portraying "zombies" to make them look like revived corpses of the crypt. With the bigger budgeted Evil Dead 2, Raimi had more money to play around with. He was able to use latex applications, special designed suits, and even some stop-motion animation to make the appearance of the "zombies" even better. So of course they end up being more convincing in Evil Dead I2, but they never lose the cool cartoonish appearance that is in keeping with the overall tone of the movie though. Raimi's goal is to only frighten us a little, not a lot.

The Evil Dead nor Evil Dead II will win any acting awards though. Other than Bruce Cambell, who has made a decent carreer in other off beat productions the films are populated by a cast of unknowns, many of whom list the Evil Dead movie as the only acting job on their resumes. It's understandable why - the performances are horribly bad. This might be intentional though a way for Raimi to raise the level of parody a notch.

In the end the Evil Dead 2 doesnt do as good as a job as the first movie but is still a very enjoyable film (to horror fans) and is one of my favorite "parody" horror films.

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