I realized the other day that I have some huge gaps in my reviews. Since 2009 I’ve been busy posting as may reviews as I can from all the various corners of the horror genre. I have the indie horror scene covered, I have the contemporary horror scene covered, and I have a decent coverage of the zombie movie scene. But I’m definitely missing some important classic films. How the hell could reviewing EVIL DEAD II (a.k.a., EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN) have slipped my mind? I’m going to correct that right now as well as fill in some other gaps in the near future.
1987 was a helluva year in horror. Besides EVIL DEAD II, horror fans were introduced to a little film called HELLRAISER, the fantastic horror-scifi-action film THE HIDDEN, two of the best vampire films ever made, THE LOST BOYS and NEAR DARK, THE MONSTER SQUAD, Peter Jackson’s BAD TASTE, PREDATOR, THE GATE, Dario Argento’s OPERA, and Carpenter’s criminally underrated PRINCE OF DARKNESS (to name a few). 1987 was also the year of some truly classic sleaze like PSYCHOS IN LOVE, NEKROMANTIK, and one of my favorite films of the 1980s, STREET TRASH. In a year filled with so many amazing genre films, a horror flick would have to be pretty damn amazing to stand out in this crowd. Well, EVIL DEAD II is definitely a stand out!!
I think by now everyone knows, and has hopefully seen, this film. Ash (Bruce Campbell) is back in that cabin in the woods fighting off the deadites after they were released by the Necronomicon (the Book of the Dead). The beginning of this film looks like a condensed, Cliff’s Notes version of the original EVIL DEAD film, but EVILD DEAD II is not a remake of the first film. Even though Sam Raimi directed and wrote both EVIL DEAD films (he wrote part two with Scott Spiegel), he didn’t own the rights to EVIL DEAD and therefore couldn’t show any scenes from the original. Instead, the beginning of EVIL DEAD II was remade to explain how Ash got to the cabin and how the deadites were released. Talk about adding a lot of unnecessary cash onto your budget!!
The majority of the film is an actor’s dream come true. About seventy percent of the film is Ash alone on screen fighting off the deadites and I love every second of it. I saw this film in the theaters (I had to drag my mom along because I wasn’t eighteen yet), and I remember being kinda pissed off when other characters showed up. But there’s not a bad, boring, or unnecessary scene in this entire film. The laughing house, Ash chasing his possessed, severed hand around the cabin, the possessed Henrietta in the basement, the eyeball scene, the blood-gushing scene, “Groovy,” etc… There’s not a bad second in this film.
EVIL DEAD II is also the film where I fell in love with Raimi. The first EVIL DEAD is so raw; you can almost sense Raimi feeling his way through the process. But in Part II Raimi hits his stride and we get some fantastic camera work. Odd angles, fast camera zooms, and non-traditionally framed shots make EVIL DEAD II stand out.
When the daughter of the man who owns the cabin comes for a visit with some friends, things get really fun. Annie (Sarah Berry), sees both the cabin and Ash covered in blood and instantly believes he’s the one responsible for killing her mother. With the help of Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva), they overpower Ash and kick him down into the cellar where Ash previously dumped the possessed body of Henrietta (played by Ted Raimi). Once this film begins it doesn’t let up for the entire eighty-four minute run time. The action is unceasing and the gore will have you longing for the mid-1980s again. If you grew up on horror films in the 1990s and 2000s, do yourself a favor and watch all the horror flicks from the mid-80s. You’ll be pleased with the originality and floored by the amount of gore.
EVIL DEAD II is one of those rare, near-perfect films that you’ll find yourself watching over and over again, and it’s definitely best to watch with some friends. If you haven’t yet seen EVIL DEAD II then do yourself a favor and go out and buy the unrated version. This is a must-see for all horror fans!!
Director: Sam Raimi (& co-writer)
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 10 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains (sorry, this isn’t a zombie film, it’s a possessed-by-demons film)
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer