Evil Dead 2 (1987)

I’ve always been of the opinion that Evil Dead II is the best of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, so when I was given the chance to review it in Stunning High Definition™ on blu-ray, I jumped at the chance.

The Film

A sequel to 1981’s Evil Dead, Evil Dead II (known in some circles as Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn) takes a much more comedic approach than its predecessor and, in my opinion, is all the better for it. Whilst the first movie was listed (or perhaps blacklisted, rather) as one of the infamous video nasties of the 1980s, I can’t help but feel that in the post-Hostel age in which we live, audiences just aren’t as shocked by the goings-on of these films as they were thirty years ago. Comedy, however, is much less evanescent and as such, Evil Dead: Dead By Dawn has stood the test of time much better than its predecessor.

After a short but completely retconned introduction in which we meet Ash, a young man who is vacationing with his girlfriend to an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, who accidentally summons the Incarnation of All Known Evil (we’ve all been there), the sequel actually starts.

Left all alone after his girlfriend’s inevitable death with no-one but the evil to keep him company, he is eventually joined by the daughter of the archaeologist who discovered the book that summoned the demons, along with her research partner and two locals. Of course, the evil isn’t best pleased with this, so it’s up to Ash and Annie to try and get everyone out alive…

First off, this movie is bonkers. Utterly bonkers. Misleading at first, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was being played straight…but then, all of a sudden, BAM. Tap-dancing corpse. And from that moment on, all bets are off: I’d give a few more examples, but quite frankly I wouldn’t want to ruin the fun. It might be a cliché to say, but it’s truly a roller-coaster of a film; scary and exhilarating and balls-out fun all at the same time. It manages to set a pretty snappy pace at the start and, somehow, actually maintains it throughout, only slowing down to get ready to accelerate once more.

It feels odd saying it, considering how Ash is a character moulded by Bruce, but I could think of no better actor suited for the role than Mr. Campbell. Simultaneously effortlessly heroic and bug-eyed maniac in turn, he manages to straddle the dual comedy / horror genres perfectly without being too serious for the funny moments and too crazy for the scarier moments; and immense props go to him for having the gumption to perform his own stunts. I’d comment on the other three characters but quite honestly they only serve as fodder to feed the Raimichine.

After the success of the first movie, Raimi received a larger chunk of money to spend on his sequel, but despite the increased budget Evil Dead II never loses any of the heart-and-soul B-movie feel that the first movie had either, and because of this it once again feels like a labour of love (albeit a labour of some very dark and twisted love); something that I feel is key to its success.

As I touched on earlier, being a slapstick gorefest, the shoestring quality of the special effects, whilst still impressive, can be forgiven somewhat; if anything, paradoxically, the fact that they look a little low budget raises the quality of the movie as a whole. All the different components complement each other; nothing stands out as particularly out-of-place: due to the fact that the film is deliberately cartoonish, realism simply wouldn’t have worked.

Ultimately, regardless of the lesser quality of each individual component of the movie, Evil Dead II is a masterpiece of so-called splatstick horror – the perfect blend of video-nasty horror and Tex Avery-esque (‘Avarian’?) comedy – that no self-respecting horror fan should go without watching.

The Extras

I’m gonna straight-up say this now. If you like Evil Dead II, even just a little bit, go buy the blu-ray. Now.

Seriously, now. Right this moment. Have you bought it yet? Good.

Hmm. I suppose I’d better discuss all the bonus features on the blu-ray edition for those of you who weren’t convinced by my compelling argument. Containing nearly three hours worth of extra footage, from behind-the-scenes footage to cast and crew interviews, to makings-of, to a hundred-minute long documentary detailing the history of the film, as a fan it’s utterly wonderful to see the people behind the project, doing what they do best; and for saying Evil Dead’s history on the video nasty list, it’s incredible watching the cast and crew having so much fun.

If I’m honest, there’s not a whole lot else to say; the special features are an utter joy to watch and it’s amazing seeing the whole film being humanised so much.

NOW go buy it.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★½

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