Way back in 1981, some guys from Michigan got together and made a horror flick called The Evil Dead. It’s a grungy flick about a group of young people that visit a cabin in the woods and find some evil mojo. Director Sam Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell would try other things in Hollywood, but eventually came back to The Evil Dead.
Raimi wanted to make the sequel about the continuing adventures of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) in medieval times. He would go on to make that in the series’ third entry, Army of Darkness, but Evil Dead 2 ended up being more of a remake of the first. Army of Darkness is great, but it’s very slapsticky and more of an action-adventure. The first Evil Dead is pretty much straight horror. Evil Dead 2 is just right. Raimi and Campbell’s Three Stooges energy enhances the horror as it takes the audience on a deranged, wild, wonderful ride.
Raimi has a blast toying around with the camera. The first person evil spirit viewpoint is inspired. It makes the invisible evil feel like an actual character as it pursues Ash. This perspective is used time and time again, yet never feels stale. He would go on to use it to great effect in other films, most notably Spider-man 2 when Doctor Octopus’ arms come alive.
Raimi takes advantage of Bruce Campbell’s crazed looks with a number of close ups. The whites of the actor’s wide eyes stand out against his dirty, bloody skin and clothes. You can feel Ash losing his mind. Madness is key to Evil Dead 2, with its protagonist often fighting against himself in isolation. Ash is trapped, alone, and cracking.
Campbell’s willingness to do anything is crucial to Evil Dead 2’s success. The role requires the large chinned one to beat the crap out of himself, culminating with him chopping off his own hand. The hand isn’t done causing trouble, and pops back to life. Ash’s battle with his hand battle is great example Raimi and Campbell’s use of Three Stooges humor. Evil Dead 2 quickly turns into a live action cartoon.
Ash’s detached hand scurries about the room, fleeing to a mouse hole. It squeaks, it whines, it schemes. The evil hand is more of a fully formed character than the people that come into the cabin for the second half of Evil Dead 2. Ash takes on the role of the Looney Tunes’ Sylvester as he hunts down his former appendage. After taking a firehose full of blood, Ash finally breaks as objects in the room start hysterically laughing. It’s the point of peak craziness. It’s glorious.
Evil Dead 2 never forgets that it’s a horror movie. The creature design is grotesque. The cackling buck head in the laughing objects scene is pure nightmare fuel with its soulless, white eyes. There’s gallons of blood sprayed, to the point where it becomes the inverse Sideshow Bob rake gag (creepy to funny to creepy again). Oft-repeated lines like “I’LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!” and “DEAD BY DAWN!” also fall within the horror-comedy venn diagram.
The horror-comedy combination makes Evil Dead 2 a special experience. There are movies that have managed to coexist in this region, but none like Evil Dead 2. Grab a six pack and finish your Halloween off the right way with this Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell classic.