EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these three films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Equinox, or Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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For years horror movie fans have debated as to whether or not the 1970 low budget horror Equinox was an influence on Sam Raimi’s 1981 Evil Deadthough there are also strong similarities with it’s 1987 sequel Evil Dead IIas wellSam Raimi has never mentioned seeing it, though Evil Dead FX man Tom Sullivan has. We may never know for sure and it’s up to us then to decide for ourselves. So read on to take a look at just how these flicks compare…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

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THE STORY

Equinox finds Four college students David, Susan, Jim and Vicki (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher), venturing into the woods to meet a Prof. Waterman (Fritz Leiber), who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find his cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), soon have the devil himself after them to get it back. In this film the evil has already been unleashed when our main characters arrive.

Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead has five young people, Ash, his sister Cheryl, his girlfriend Linda, Scott and Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich and Theresa Tilly), going up to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and fun. When they get to the rundown cabin, they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book, and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations.

Evil Dead II finds Ash, now alone, trapped in the cabin with the forces of evil trying to get at him. Ash is soon joined by the daughter (Sarah Berry) of the archeologist, who formally inhabited the cabin and is the finder of the book. She and her party (Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley and Richard Domeier) first think Ash has murdered her parents. Soon enough, though, the evil in the woods makes itself known and Ash joins forces with his new companions. Their numbers start to dwindle as the evil lays siege to the cabin and Ash must face this ancient terror in a final showdown.

There are some differences in plot details, but all three flicks have a cabin, a book of evil discovered by a professor and a group of unsuspecting characters, being attacked by an ancient evil. All three have demons and demonic manifestations from the book. All three have a story or backstory that is revealed by way of a reel to reel tape recording.

 

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THE EVIL

Equinox has the devil himself in the human disguise of park ranger, Mr. Asmodeus (theatrical cut director Jack Woods) pursuing the four characters to get the book back. He can take on the guise of one of the other characters and appears in a flying demon form near it’s climax. He also sends various minions to get the book, such as an octopus-like creature, a mutant ape and a blue giant. His minions appear to be able to be killed by conventional means, while he can be warded off with protection symbols from the book.

The Evil Dead Films feature ancient evil spirits known as Deadites, that are unleashed when either the book is read from directly, or a recorded reading from the book is played back. They want the souls of all those in the cabin and possess and torment the occupants claiming them one by one. Raimi’s film requires the possessed victim be totally dismembered to render them harmless. The Deadites seem to hail from somewhere around ancient Sumer and there are, like in Equinox, some creature-like minions in Evil Dead II. The Deadites appear to be only able to attack at night, while Equinox‘s evil is active both day and night.

 

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THE HEROES

Equinox’s ill-fated hero is college student David Fielding (Edward Connell). He’s a clean-cut all-American college student who is forced to come up against some supernatural odds. He’s resilient and brave and is pretty much the strongest and quickest thinker of his group of friends. Poor Dave ends up doomed and in an insane asylum, but before all that, he stands up to some intimidating evil.

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is the Evil Dead franchise’s beleaguered hero. The now iconic Ash is a mild mannered fellow and a little on the cowardly side in the first film. He leaves it up to alpha male Scott to hack up his possessed sister Cheryl and generally do the hero stuff till the Deadites get Scott, too. This leaves Ash all alone to man-up and battle the Deadites. It’s not till the sequel that he starts to take on the mantle of a hero, although an arrogant and bumbling one.

 

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THE SETTINGS

Here, settings differ slightly though both include cabins and woods. The cabin we are traveling to in Equinox is already destroyed by the time our characters get there and the film takes place primarily after that in the surrounding forest.

Both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II take place primarily inside the cabin with a few unsuccessful sojourns out into the woods.

The cabins in all three films were previously occupied by professors who found the books of evil in question.

 

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THE BOOKS

All Three movies contain books of evil that trigger the horrific ordeals the respective films’ characters endure. Equinox‘s book is discovered in the Persian Gulf by a Prof. Waterman and it is his examining the book and it’s contents that opens a portal allowing the evil to enter this world and seek the book’s return. It is described as a bible of evil.

The book of the Evil Dead films is the Naturan Demanto or Necronomicon…the book of the dead…and is described as Sumerian in origin and thus is discovered by a Professor Knowby (John Peaks), also in the Persian Gulf area.

Both books are filled with cryptic languages and spooky illustrations and are not only filled with dark rituals, but also ways to protect from the evils evoked.

 

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THE OPENING SCENES

Equinox opens interestingly at it’s climax with David on the run through the woods from the demonic evil and finding himself in a hospital after being hit on the road by a driverless car. A year later he’s gone insane and a reporter named Sloan (James Philips) investigates the story to find out what happen to him. It’s his reviewing David’s initial taped testimony that sets us on a flashback to what happened.

The Evil Dead opens with the camera racing through the woods with some ominous growling heard as it reaches the car carrying our main protagonists. It is quick and to the point, but sets the tone right away that something bad is going to happen to our five unsuspecting travelers as they head towards the cabin.

Evil Dead II simply picks up where the first left off, after a brief recap, with the evil attacking and briefly possessing Ash, who is saved by the rising sun. So, there is little similarity here.

All three films’ openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Though there are only minor similarities here between Equinox andThe Evil Dead, none really with Evil Dead II…except, of course, for the woods setting each share.

 

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THE ENDINGS

In terms of their climaxes, all the films have endings that resonate.

Equinox ends with David in the asylum screaming for his cross which “accidentally” is now in the hands of reporter Sloan. It’s a year and a day after the incident at the park, the day the demon predicted David’s demise. As Sloan leaves the building, David’s dead girlfriend Susan is seen walking into the hospital. As we hear David’s cries for his cross over the soundtrack, a wicked smile appears on Susan’s face. Ominous and spooky, a last chill before you leave the theater.

The Evil Dead ends with Ash having barely escaped a vicious assault from his possessed friends by burning the book in the fireplace resulting in a roller coaster bloodbath of gore. As the sun starts to rise, he limps out the door only to have the camera race towards him growling like in the opening and coming right at his face as Ash utters a horrible scream. The film cuts to black and ends with the credits rolling; Ash apparently not as triumphant as he believed. It is ferociously quick and very effective, a last jolt before you leave the theater.

Evil Dead II comically has Ash being sucked into a vortex and deposited in the Middle Ages, where, at the moment, he is seen as a deliverer come to defeat the Deadites. Again as with the opening scene, no similarity here to Equinox other than the visual of a castle.

…though all three endings do involve screaming.

 

 

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MISC.

Here, pictures speak louder than words, with these visual similarities…

 

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IN CONCLUSION…

So, we have one flick that is a horror masterpiece and one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and another that is a cult classic, midnight movie from a decade earlier that may…or may not…have inspired it. Both were derived from short films. Equinox was re-edited with new footage added from the original The Equinox … A Journey into the Supernatural, a 70 minute film expanded for theatrical release. The Evil Dead was created from the short film Within the Woods, a thirty minute version of the same story made to attract investors. They both feature some startling SPFX on incredibly small budgets and took three or more years to finally hit theaters. Both are also first films made by young aspiring filmmakers, that made an impression and got careers off the ground for some of their makers and stars.

We may never know the actual truth as to whether Sam Raimi saw and was inspired by Equinox, but the story and visual similarities make for a striking argument. At this point it’s up to you to decide as to what you believe. Did Equinox inspire The Evil Dead, or is it just a cinematic coincidence? Either way, they are both horror classics in their own rights that are now held in high regard.

-MonsterZero NJ

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2 thoughts on “EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

  1. I never heard of Equinox before; I gotta go look it up. Got plenty of time for that kind of stuff in NJ, right now. Thanks for reviewing the films.

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