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Before I begin this review allow me to just say that this movie is my favorite movie of all time. So you may have to forgive me for fanboying just a little bit. Now that that disclaimer is put out there let’s get to the review.
Evil Dead 2 is not so much as a direct sequel to The Evil Dead as it is a recap with a continuation wrapped up in one awesome movie. Fans of the series can delve into the whole history of why that is, but I will spare you the details. The gist of it is this: “My movie!” “No, MY movie!” And thus, like any uncomfortable situation, we pretend what they were fighting over didn’t happen. Thanks to….Nothing…nothing at all….ahem. We have the opening of our movie.
Drawing up differences between The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 is easy and sometimes necessary but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. The movie opens with just Ash and his girlfriend going to an abandoned cabin in the woods, unlike the first, which involved five people. You’re welcome, every movie since these. After getting there, and essentially remaking the first movie into a much shorter version, Ash begins his battle with the evil. After being possessed then released by the dawn, uh…it happens, he tries to leave only to find the bridge is out. Of course. Again. When has that EVER worked?
Ash returns to the cabin after the evil in the woods figures out how to manipulate time. I’m not kidding. And here begins the biggest chunk of this movie: the psychological aspect. Unlike the first installment, The Evil Dead, this movie focuses more on the mental state and the torture that can be inflicted through manipulation of reality and not so much on the gore. While there is gore, it is not as prevalent or over the top as the first. Such as Ash’s girlfriend’s head is re-animated and attacks him, biting his hand, leading him outside to the workshed. Now here is another little thing that these movies gave birth to: controlling the volume of your ADR. There is a moment when Ash says “Workshed.” and the audio is so loud and overpowering it became a long running joke for actors.
After removing the aforementioned head from his hand via vice the rest of Linda’s body decides to get in on the action, coming after our hero with a chainsaw. Of course the effects here are practical, no CGI anywhere to be found (thank the film gods), but they’re also bordering terrible! Linda’s body looks like a store mannequin covered in play-doh and the movements in the fight are so jolted you can almost tell it’s a guy with a stick whacking Bruce Campbell with a muppet from the burn unit. After defeating and dismembering his now dead again beloved, Ash goes back into the house to discover the evil has possessed his hand. Why didn’t it just re-possess him entirely is a much a mystery to me as it is to you.
After a dramatic Raimi shot we come to the other characters in the movie: Professor Knolby’s daughter, her boyfriend, a redneck, and his redneck girlfriend. Once more we’re not given a lot of background on any of these characters. Just a line or so about why they’re in this movie. Say it with me, kids, “They’re here to die!” On second thought. Don’t say that, kids. Now that we have all our characters on screen I just want to comment this: redneck girl is a scream queen. The other girl is not. She tries, don’t get me wrong, but holy potatoes is it just not her strength. What’s that? Sick of seeing characters on screen that aren’t Bruce Campbell? Me, too. Let’s go back and see what Ash is up to.
After a fight with his own hand that can only end in frustration and pain so intense he does the only logical thing a man who’s been tortured constantly for 48 hours does: lops off his own hand with a chainsaw. After a long sequence that may or may not happen in Ash’s head we finally have the arrival of our other characters. They got there through a trail that was sort of hidden in the woods. I don’t know how Ash didn’t find it or see it, either. After a short confrontation ash is thrown in the fruit cellar while the arriving party begins to try and sort out the chaos that’s still laying around the cabin.
After some explanation and some really well placed audio and camera angles we meet Professor Knolby’s possessed wife Henrietta. Another short confrontation later Ash is sprung from the fruit cellar and joins the other cannon fodder…ahem…uh…characters. While trying to deal with the reality of what’s going on one of the party gets taken over by the evil and explains what they want. After a gory confrontation we get some of Sam Raimi’s best soundwork ever put to film, upping the already creepy atmosphere of the whole movie.
After a visit from a ghost. Yes, seriously. Ash and company find out there’s a way to defeat the evil. But other folks have other plans that result in the return of Evil Ash! Some violence, gore, and a touching moment later, Ash is back to himself, again. Now. Let’s gear up for the final showdown. In the “Preparing to go to war” sequence we get two of Ash’s best known lines: “Groovy.” and “Let’s carve ourselves a witch.” And they’re still awesome.
Final showdown checklist! Chainsaw arm? Check! Sawed-off double barrel shotgun? Check! Catchphrase? Check! Heading into a situation nobody could possibly come out of alive? CHECK-A-FREAKIN-ROO!!! As much as I would love to go into detail about the final battle scene of this movie and what happens I must refrain. I know, I know. Just know that the end of this film perfectly gives us the movie that probably brought the majority of fans to the Evil Dead series in the first place: Army of Darkness.
How to wrap this up and sum up the movie? Well. For the time that it was made it was actually really ahead of itself and really demonstrated what a director could do on a shoestring budget with some dedicated actors and whole lot of creativity. The effects were incredible back then and, surprisingly, some still hold up to this day. In fact the entire ‘Red Band Trailer’ thing is born from a quick shot in this movie where blood coats a lightbulb. Once you get past the gore and horror nature of the film, however, it does sometimes seem overacted and campy. The actors are excellent in almost every scene, the audio is still through the roof excellent, and the direction is career making. In the end I love this movie and hope you guys do, too.
Watch the trailer to Evil Dead 2