Thursday, October 19, 2006

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn

(1987) *****

Filmed 6 years after the original but picking up 1 second later, supermarket employee Ash continues to battle (i.e., get the crap beaten out of him) those pesky demons he unwittingly summoned in The Evil Dead. Through some major revisionist history director Sam Rami wisely jettisons most of the characters from the original and newly filmed flashbacks suggest that Ash and his girlfriend were alone in the secluded Tennessee cabin when all hell broke loose. Along the way new characters are introduced including the daughter of the professor who discovered the “Book of the Dead”, which is causing all the problems, her husband, and 2 hillbillies. What follows is a sumptuous, non-stop onslaught of possessed limbs, flying eyeballs, and bleeding walls.

In 1987 Octopunk and I caught this film on opening night and were blown away by this instant classic. In fact, I actually have Octopunk’s verbal review on cassette tape (for some unknown reason I used to tape stuff). In the ensuing years between the original and this far-superior sequel Bruce Campbell discovered his acting chops and puts in the performance of a lifetime. Watching the original you would never guess that Campbell could act, let alone perform humor and pratfalls on the level of Charlie Chaplin. There must have been some serious discussions with Director Rami about the tone this sequel would take. Rather than inducing scares, Evil Dead 2 is a balls-to-the-wall-bust-your-gut laugh riot. There are few actors who make me laugh just by looking at them (Steve Martin and John Candy immediately come to mind), and Campbell is certainly in that club for me. As horrible, over-the-top things erupt around him, his worried/concerned face is just hilarious. The plot and other characters really don’t matter and the ending is just absurd (we would have to wait 5 years before learning Ash’s fate in the inferior Army of Darkness. The joy is in watching Campbell’s everyman Ash deal with unbelievably crazy circumstances.



DCD said...

"In fact, I actually have Octopunk’s verbal review on cassette tape (for some unknown reason I used to tape stuff)."
I love it when an especially nerdy detail comes out in the open!

JPX said...

Okay, now my face is red.

Summerisle said...

I'm mad that you beat me to this one. I called the Evil Deads this year and you totally stole my thunder. Ass.

I never really gave the Evil Deads that much credit because I felt that humor had no business in a horror movie. But after recognizing the brilliance of the Re-Animators this month, I now have to rethink my whole horror value system.

Octopunk said...

It takes a fair amount of skill to have two opposing elements in a movie and not have one eclipse the other. One of my favorite examples of doing it right is Starship Troopers, with its 90210 romantic intrigue set against scenes of extreme monster bug carnage. The two coexist without working off of each other; it's not at all "that, with that? It's just so wacky!"

Used subtly, humor can be an excellent way to breathe more character into a story. Used masterfully, like in ED2, it can even boost the impact of the gore and horror.