Review No. 475
“Evil Dead II” – Where cabin fever becomes hemophilia.
DIRECTED BY SAM RAIMI. WRITTEN BY RAIMI AND SCOTT SPIEGEL. STARRING BRUCE CAMPBELL (ASHLEY J. “ASH” WILLIAMS), SARAH BERRY (ANNIE KNOWBY), DAN HICKS (JAKE), KASSIE DEPAIVA (BOBBY JOE), AND RICHARD DOMEIER (PROFESSOR ED GETLEY). ALSO STARRING TED RAIMI, DENISE BIXLER, JOHN PEAKS, AND LOU HANCOCK. DISTRIBUTED BY ROSEBUD RELEASING ON MARCH 13, 1987. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 24 MINUTES. CURRENTLY DISTRIBUTED UNRATED; PREVIOUSLY RATED R BY THE MPAA.
EVIL DEAD II WAS WATCHED ON MAY 10, 2013.
“You’re goin’ down. Chainsaw.” –Ash (Bruce Campbell)
You know how it’s going to begin. A man makes the big mistake of bringing his girlfriend to a cabin. He doesn’t know it’s the same cabin that killed his friends when he was in college, because the bridge–the single route there–has been refurbished. When he enters, he finds the Necronomicon, the “Book of the Dead” that unleashes spirits when it its recited. Clearly, he doesn’t want to recite it, but there is an audio recitation already loaded in the cassette player. And we know how it’s going to end. (Well, sort of.)
Evil Dead II preserves 90% of its predecessor’s plot, which, contrary to one’s expectations, is a brilliant idea. It’s difficult to follow through your typical sequel, but this one must have been a Herculean task; beyond the story, there’s no job here that we can call simple. 1981′s The Evil Dead was distributed simultaneously to theaters and VHS; it became a hit, regardless, and lives on as a tremendous “cult classic.” The rave it earned in the early ’80s demanded a sequel, and once that project went into production, the film crew became far larger than that of the original. What’s worse, the project was budgeted at $3.6 million, and it had to be as far from a Hollywood flick as possible. It needed to seem like what it was: a follow up to something that five college students made with less than $500,000.
Consider that it takes more effort to look like you did absolutely nothing, than to look like you’ve created a masterpiece. It’s probable that within a matter of six years, Sam Raimi’s natural writing doesn’t look like a mess of clichés and written ad lib, so he has to make it look like that, without making the clichés obvious. And Bruce Campbell’s acting ability has improved, so it’s impossible to not act. But he can’t look like a good actor either, nor can he look like a god-awful actor. He has to act like someone who doesn’t have a clue how to act; someone who spontaneously looks at the camera, someone who accidentally recites his lines with the wrong facial expressions. And none of this can look intentional. Amazingly enough, none of it did.
Although Evil Dead II is a lot of fun, it tends to restrain itself–something its predecessor never would have dreamed of doing. You can tell that there are several great ideas it just isn’t sure about putting onscreen; it’s increasingly self-aware, as well. But I can excuse it for not being the perfect Halloween movie. It has its moments, and they come numerously. Perhaps the most side-splitting scene occurs after Ash tries to shoot his possessed (and dismembered) hand after it has crawled inside a hole in the wall. The result is a hurricane of blood that looks like paint. And as the red paint runs out, you can almost hear these special effects supervisors yelling, “Get some black paint!” There’s several of these scenes in this sequel and, although they don’t pervade the film, they make it well worth watching (so long as you enjoy the outrageously bizarre, gruesome attitude).