Sorry, Mel. Clerks took too long to download. I’ll do it tomorrow!
Evil Dead 2 is the second movie (duh~) in the Evil Dead series (double duh~) that annoying people (Dan~) would like to insist is a remake of the first. Naturally, this post will contain certain spoilers for The Evil Dead, including the identity of the final girl from that horror movie. It’s Ash. Ash is played by Bruce Campbell. While I’m still going to write my The Evil Dead review with the same number of spoilers as I did for Inglourious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs and The Last Exorcism, when a notable movie has one person who went on to achieve any sort of fame in the cast and a bunch of no names, you know who the twist ending is. Who was Keyser Söze again?
The movie starts with a truncated recap of The Evil Dead in which Ash (Bruce “If Chins Could Kill” Campbell) takes his girlfriend up to a deserted cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway. Given his horribly idiotic taste in romantic getaway spots, it should come as no surprise that demons begin possessing all of the stuff in the house and all of the trees in the forest. They make quick work of killing his girlfriend (she’s dead within seven minutes–not a twist) and he buries her out in the woods. He is also killed by the demon, manifested as a point of view shot, but manages to resist becoming a zombie and comes back to life. Remember that, it’s going to be important later.
If you’re familiar at all with horror movies, you should already be aware that Evil Dead 2 is the largest fountain of memes to reach outsiders in the genre. While stuff like Shaun of the Dead is infinitely quotable within fandom, this movie’s uncomfortable blend of cold, effective horror with cartoony, slapstick comedy makes it much more easy to convey in as few words as possible. Throughout the course of the first movie, Ash (Bruce “Lantern Jaw of Justice” Campbell) has been driven steadily insane by Candarian demons who have killed off all of the four friends he came up to the cabin with in increasingly inventive and horrifying ways (including stop motion!). You can see from that last sentence how very truncated the recap that opens this movie is.
Knowing that having your protagonist be alone in the woods with no real interpersonal conflict to speak of is a really weak movie waiting to hit screens, Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell) fills all of Bruce “He Has a Gigantic Chin, Okay?” Campbell’s scenes with horrifyingly gory and disturbingly flippant slapstick comedy. There is a scene early on where the headless zombified corpse of his girlfriend attacks him with a chainsaw, accidentally cutting itself and spewing black blood all over the workshop. That sentence is so good, I wish I could type it again. Instead, I’ll type this one: There’s another sequence that is a Benny Hill style fight scene between Ash and his zombified right hand. This is what Loony Tunes look like when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed. In Hell. The funny hell. Interspersed with all of that is a legitimate sense of growing dread and tension, occasionally undercut with more loony comedy.
Eventually, four more soon-to-be-corpses people arrive at the cabin in the woods because-Bruce-Campbell-had-carried-enough-of-the-movie-already because they’re half looking for their (dead) father and half tagging along for fun and profit. Through most of the opening sections, these people fill time between Ash scenes, liking to pretend that they’re in a “serious” horror movie. Annie is the competent one, some dude is her boyfriend, Bobbie Jo and some hick who loves her or something. Honestly speaking, these people are here to have a good time and do, before also erupting into fountains of multi-coloured blood. It’s an Evil Dead movie. Is it really a spoiler anymore that the only character who makes it from film to film is Ash? The guy’s a memetic badass by now. The character is the reason that Bruce “Yes, That Is His Chin” Campbell has a career.
It should be clear by now, I love this movie. It’s not particularly spectacular in any technical or artistic dimension, if you’re looking at it as a movie that tries to be Evil Dead 2, but that’s the thing. No movie had ever tried to do anything like this before. If it had, tell me about it–that’s probably a damn good feature. This is the only movie I can think of where the adjectives blood-soaked, kooky, fun, horrifying, badass, irreverent, dopey and disgusting all apply in equal measure. Aside from Bruce Campbell, the performances are functional at best and the direction is as spotty as you would expect from a guy on his third feature who could still barely get movies past 80 minutes comfortably. As I’m writing this, I just spotted a plot hole that arises from seeing this movie as a sequel to the first, but hey! I’m not sure anyone really cares about all that.
What you care about in this movie is the fact that it’s horror-based slapstick fun. They aimed for so bad it’s good and hit so cool it’s awesome in the process. When your friends talk about their favourite horror movies and they don’t bring up Evil Dead 2, get new friends. When you mention Bruce Campbell in conversation and you get blank stares in return? Get new friends. Or get a new copy of Evil Dead 2 and start makin’ some popcorn, cos it’s movie night.
Bruce Campbell coda: Bruce Campbell is fantastic in this movie. It’s been a career of 30 years already, and yet I still can’t tell to this day whether he’s an inspired amateur, faking at being a good actor or a really good actor trapped in b-movies because of his low-budget, schlocky horror roots. He flips like a coin between slapstick and horror and is still holding the emotional weight of the film throughout. Note: My review of Army of Darkness will definitely include the fate of his right hand. I recommend watching this movie before then. THREE AND A HALF STARS