EVIL DEAD II (1987)
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Upon seeing it in 1981, Evil Dead fast became of of my all-time favorite horror flicks. Fast paced and ferocious, with lots of inventive gore and stunning low budget visuals. When this sequel was announced I was obviously excited!
Sequel opens with a quick recap/retelling of the first film getting us up to date as the camera rushes towards a screaming Ash (Bruce Campbell) and then continues anew as we see what happens to him. Ash, now alone, is trapped in the cabin with the forces of evil trying to get at him. He battles not only his dead girlfriend’s (Denise Bixler) corpse but, his own possessed hand which he promptly cuts off with a chainsaw. Ash is soon joined by the daughter (Sarah Berry) of an archeologist, who formally inhabited the cabin, and she and her party think Ash have murdered her parents. Soon enough, though, the evil in the woods makes itself known and as Ash joins forces with his new companions, their numbers dwindle as the evil lays siege to the cabin and Ash must face this ancient terror in a final showdown.
This flick is considered a classic and by many, the best of the series. I enjoy the film immensely now, but, will admit I was disappointed that the film took on a more comic/fantasy tone rather than continue in the tradition of the first film’s intensity and blood-spattering. It took me a few repeat viewings to get used to it’s slapstick style humor and more cartoonish approach to it’s evil entities. Under Sam Raimi’s guidance, the film still shares the energetic momentum and dizzying camera work of the first flick but, now in a much lighter and more comic-bookish approach. As such, there are a lot of imaginative bits here and poor Ash is put through the ringer, once more, only this time in a much lighter and laugh inducing manner. There is a bit of gore but, most is now colorful splashes of green and blue blood as our Evil Dead are dealt with by Ash and his trusty chainsaw hand which has become a cinematic icon in itself. The effects are well-done and again, inventively designed and while still moderately budgeted, director Sam Raimi gets the most out of his buck using imagination and ingenuity. It lacks the terror of the first film but, makes up for it with a delightfully morbid lunacy, that is infectious even if you preferred the tone of the first movie. Simply put, the movie is a hoot and one of the best horror comedies ever made.
Bruce Campbell is borderline brilliant here with his slapstick comedy and reactions to all that’s going on. His over-acting is intentional and dead-on considering what is going happening around him. The scenes where he is getting beaten up by his own possessed hand and then battling that hand once dismembered, are classic scenes of both comedy and horror and are wonderfully performed by Campbell and directed by Raimi. The rest of the cast are fine. Bixler is pretty and sweet in her brief appearance as Linda. She also has some fun scenes as a taunting disembodied head. Berry is pretty and carries a little intensity as Annie who, at first, thinks Ash killed her parents, then bonds with him to fight the evil. We have Richard Domeier as Annie’s boyfriend and is adequate and handsome but, doesn’t get to do much. Rounding out is Dan Hicks (Maniac Cop, Intruder) and future soap opera star Kassie DePaiva (billed as Kassie Wesley) as a redneck couple guiding Annie to the cabin and become entangled in the supernatural shenanigans. Both play their roles stereotypically and appropriately over-the-top.
No arguments, this is a horror classic in it’s own right and maybe it was best to take the film in a different direction than just giving us more of the same. I was disappointed a bit in 1987, but, as the film did only modest box office, a lot of people took their time discovering it. While the first is still my favorite of the series, this is a blast of a good time and has some very imaginative and inventive set pieces that still work almost three decades later. Maybe a disappointment when I first saw it in 1987 but, one that has won me over completely.
3 and 1/2 chainsaws.