Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead caused a stir world-wide and was one of the centre-pieces of the notorious purge on the so-called video nasties. It gained a reputation as a film that went too far but the label was unjustified. What young director Raimi and his bunch of friends had produced was a thoroughly innovative and audacious debut feature. Roaming camerawork focussing on the point of view of the evil spirit and exceptional sound work accompanied vast quantities of gore to construct a well executed and scary horror movie. What many failed to realise (as they did with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) was that in many ways the film was funny, albeit very sick. No such problems for Raimi and Co. when a larger budgeted sequel was made as, despite its considerable gore, there is absolutely no doubt that Evil Dead 2 is played for laughs.
Evil Dead 2 is more of a re-make than a direct sequel as Ash (played by the inimitable Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda drive out to the ominously iconic shack in the woods. Hearing Prof Knowey's recording of a series of incantations they unwittingly unleash a spirit with the power to possess humans (dead or alive) and, with the crux of the exposition over within 5 minutes, they bring on the manifestation of evil...
...and what evil it is. Our hapless hero is dragged through the forests at breakneck speed, absorbing the blows of passing trees, slammed into walls and through windows, crashes the car, is mocked by his resurrected girlfriend, and becomes possessed himself. When the Professor's daughter shows up with her man and a couple of country hicks they too become targets for a touch of forestry evil. Cue chainsaws, dismembered limbs, possessed trees, a veritable tidal wave of rainbow gore, swallowed eyeballs and, of course, the depraved Henrietta (played by Raimi's brother Theodore) in the cellar. Forget story and characterisation, this film is a series of set pieces interspersed with some cheesy but amusing dialogue - it's entertainment pure and simple.
The horror comedy sub-genre is well established but rarely manages to balance the laughs and shocks successfully. Evil Dead 2 achieves this rare feat with a combination of gore/slapstick that owes much to the ultra-violent antics of the Three Stooges. Ash's possessed hand sequence is a prime example and is one of the exceptional scenes of the film, a blend of comic book action and Bruce Campbell's superlative silent-style acting. Having managed to beat himself unconscious, Ash eventually recovers and shrieks with delight as he impales his errant hand to the floor, only to realise the foolishness of his action - 'Who's laughing now?' In the documentary that accompanies the DVD, the crew noted how much Raimi enjoyed torturing Campbell at every opportunity.
The effects are quite simply stunning. Naturally the budget was substantially increased this time around, so there was a specialist effects team employed, giving a slicker air to the production. But in many respects it's the simple effects that impress. Raimi is a master of the film reversal process and his camera is constantly roaming, following the point of view of the evil - backwards, forwards and through everything. The atmosphere is enhanced by the phenomenal use of sound and the pacing of the film ensures that the action is not going to stop until the very last frame.
Momentum have done a good job of transferring Evil Dead 2 to DVD - it is at last uncut (restoring a massive two seconds) and features a superb 5.1 sound overhaul - just marvel at the house mocking its victims from every direction. Now if only they would release a version of the Army of Darkness Special Edition...
Reviewed by Michelle le Blanc and Colin Odell
Reader comments about Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
Maison (Email address withheld) writes:
better than the first and not as good as Army of Darkness. Bruce Cambell is a superb actor and rarely gets to let loose like he does in this movie. Perfect mixtures of plot and comedy.
mick clarke (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes:
good film but for me the first uncut version was the best,loved the pencil stabbing.
Steven Potter (Email address withheld) writes:
I think evil dead 2:dead by dawn is brilliant. The special effects are great for the 80's, Bruce Campbell (Ash) is hillarious, and the best things about horror movies, blood and scares. In a magazine i read, the interviewed Bruce Campbell, and he said that in Evil Dead 2, Sam Raimi used over 55 galleons of blood. Thats a lot of blood. To sum it up, it's funny, scary, gory and a true classic for Evil Dead fans!
Jed (email@example.com) writes:
Great parody on classic/retro horror.
Enough comic references to satisfy horror geeks. Gorey without the psychological cruelty of 70s horror, good bad taste entertainment.
Some scenes not suitable for younger viewers.
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