Screen Screams: ‘Evil Dead II’ Review
It’s that time of the year again. The month of October is upon us. So to celebrate, we at Full Circle Cinema put together another curated, month-long series with Screen Screams. This year, we will be checking our clocks as we wait in anticipation for the forbidden delight we call “the midnight movie”. And with midnight movies comes a variety of projects that are perhaps too niche for the masses. Today, we venture back into a familiar cabin in the woods to take a look at Sam Raimi’s bonkers follow-up Evil Dead II.
In horror, a certain type of sequel exists that you don’t find in other genres. The type of sequel where the filmmakers take a look at the original, realize they can’t recreate its unique flavor, so they go for something entirely new. Something bigger, something different, something… hilarious? Writer-director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell blow apart the expectations of a sequel in Evil Dead II. In its place, they build a fireworks factory.
READ: Screen Screams: ‘The Evil Dead’ Review
Evil Dead II wastes no time establishing its own identity. Its prologue acts as a de-facto scaled-down remake of the first movie as if screaming at audiences, “Hey, this is its own thing!”. Ash Williams (Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) go for a vacation to an abandoned cabin in the woods. After accidentally playing a tape reciting passages from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis – the “book of the dead” – Linda and the cabin at large become possessed by ancient demons. Having to make the hard choice, Ash puts down Linda. However, he is still stuck all alone… having to face the forces of evil.
Campbell puts on a sterling one-man show for a good portion of Evil Dead II. And the film demands a lot from him, to boot! The signature camerawork from the first film is back and more extreme than ever. Peter Deming’s omnipresent camera smashes through windows, breaks down doors, and gives constant chase to Ash. You couldn’t ask for a more effective demon POV. Back to Campbell, though, he holds up his end of the bargain by acting positively scared out of his wits.
Campbell’s performance is less Ash from the first movie and more something along the lines of Charlie Chaplin or The Three Stooges. The rubber-faced actor could play opposite a wall and create magic. He even might in this film! Entertainment in Evil Dead II is just throwing more situations, more gore, just more more at Ash. No man works harder than Bruce Campbell to get a laugh for the audience. How does one not get amused as his possessed hand smashes plates over his head?
When the daughter of the man who discovered the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry), appears with three others, by all accounts her party is there to deliver vital plot information about the Kandarian demons that have come to be known as “deadites”. They’re there for an info dump, if you will. Savvy audiences know better. They’re fuel for the fire; an excuse to plunge Ash into another layer of hell. And that they do!
Upon the late arrival of these four new characters, Evil Dead II switches into gear, refusing to stop. It’s possession after possession, dismemberment after dismemberment. Much improved gore and make-up effects abound, this film is an ugly beauty to behold. The same effects team from the first film returns, gifted a much higher budget due to the involvement of big-shot producer Dino De Laurentiis. You can’t say the money’s not on the screen, folks. Inanimate objects come to twitchy life. Demons are the stuff of your most twisted nightmares. Endless geysers of blood flow out of the walls and floor.
By the end, Ash Williams has been covered in buckets of the stuff, with other suspicious black goo and all other fluids under the Sun to boot. Somehow he has gained a chainsaw hand. Yet, he’s still trapped in an increasingly ridiculous situation, only to possibly find salvation in a sequel. That’s precisely why Evil Dead II rules. It’s a relentlessly gory and funny onslaught on Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams that doesn’t let up even an inch. It isn’t the first movie, it’s something better entirely. – James Preston Poole
Evil Dead II is now available on digital HD, home video, and is now streaming on HBO Max.
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