After the immense succes of The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi knew that he had to give the horror community another offering of blood, comedy and the legendary Bruce Campbell. In 1986, Sam Raimi, his brother Ted Raimi, old friend and fellow writer Scott Spiegel and the legendary Bruce Campbell came together again to create both a remake and a sequel to their original 1982 horror powerhouse. This time, the boys were able to utilize a higher budget, better equipment, much better post-production effects, and they were even able to hire qualified stuntmen this time around – not that that stopped Bruce Campbell from once again putting his body on the line for horror cinema. Although Evil Dead II was regarded as a ‘minor’ success upon it’s original release, garnering $5.9 million at the box office, Evil Dead II was still very successful and to this day it is fondly remembered as one of the greatest horror films of all time thanks to it’s breakthrough film-making techniques, it’s breakthrough post-production effects, and the fact that Evil Dead II lays claim to being one of the originators of the now popular “Splatstick” style of horror comedy. I know many people who regard this as their absolute favourite horror movie, but my question is: Is it really as good as everyone remembers?
Maybe not, as story-wise, Evil Dead II is actually quite ropey. The movie spends the first seven minutes remaking the story of the original The Evil Dead movie with the exact same final shot – that of Ash being attacked by a rampaging shaky cam shot – before continuing the story into Evil Dead II’s main plot. I’m still confused as to why Sam Raimi decided to do this. It doesn’t add to the story of Evil Dead II, yet it doesn’t really recap the events of the first movie. Originally, the first ten minutes were supposed to be a recap as Sam Raimi was originally going to bring in the five original characters, but he only brought in Ash and Linda in the end which changes the continuity in an odd way. Another thing that really stood out to me about the story is how it’s quite devoid of logic. A lot of the films events are entirely ‘coincidental’ and the more one is to think about the logical sequences of events, the more plot-holes that seem to occur. For example: the dagger is never referenced before, but somehow it spontaneusly appears during the film’s third act; where the hell did the chainsaw appear from when Ash cuts off his possessed hand? Surely Ash could have seen Jake running towards him before he got tackled so I don’t get why he didn’t react, and why did Linda’s necklace rescue Ash from his demonic possession? It doesn’t work with anyone else and it’s never explained or referenced again. However, the funny thing about Evil Dead II and it’s clumsy plot is the fact that the film’s atmosphere is so light in tone and the movie has a very unashamed tongue-in-cheek feel. A lot of the film is plainly silly and intended for laughs, so the numerous ‘coincidences’ that drive the plot don’t actually dimish the effect of Evil Dead II so badly. It’s quite odd to see these ‘coincidences’ occuring, but due to the film’s very silly elements being brought front and centre, such as the abundant slapstick humor and very stupid characters , the ‘coincidences’ don’t hurt the movie at all and can be easily looked over as the story isn’t really a big focus of Evil Dead II. Sam Raimi delivers a spooky cabin setting, a handful of enjoyable characters, some well designed demons, some amazing production effects and plenty of blood, gore and slapstick comedy. That’s what Evil Dead II is about and everything else, including the story, is an afterthought.
Nonetheless, one of the greatest aspects of Evil Dead II is the performance delivered by the legendary Bruce Campbell. Most of Evil Dead II mainly focuses on the exploits of Ash Williams as he slowly goes insane being tortured by unseen spirits whilst alone in the cabin. As much as Evil Dead II still retains a lot of the ‘Three Stooges’ style of physical comedy that was included in the first The Evil Dead, what with Bruce Campbell once again throwing himself around the set all in the name of entertainment, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Evil Dead II is not Bruce Campbell’s greatest peformance. Over time he would do better and evolve performance-wise, and in Evil Dead II he is still quite clumsy and under-experienced as an actor. However, what’s amazing to witness during Evil Dead II is not only how Ash Williams evolves as a character, but how Bruce Campbell evolves as an actor. Throughout the movie it is very clear to see how Bruce Campbell’s performance evolves throughout the scenes as he starts to incorporate more and more of his acting ability as the film goes on. By the end of the film not only is Ash Williams a fully developed character, but it feels like Bruce Campbell is a fully developed actor. At the beginning of the movie Bruce Campbell’s performance is quite hokey, clumsy and definitely needs work, but by the end of the movie, Bruce Campbell perfects the character of Ash Williams and gives a memorably entertaining performance as a badass protanigist that ranks alongside the most iconic adult action movie heroes such as Robocop, Rambo and John McClane. Ash Williams is so iconic that it would be incredibly difficult to think of anyone else in the role, and that is entirely due to the fantastic performance that Bruce Campbell delivers at the end of Evil Dead II and the incredible character design from Sam Raimi.
In terms of tehnicality, Evil Dead II is still as creatively masterful as the original. The ‘shaky cam’ that defined the original movie returns as well as the camera rigs in order to deliver some very creative shots, however, everything production-wise in Evil Dead II feels much better than the original movie. Evil Dead II incorporates a lot more visual effects than the original The Evil Dead with more focus on stop motion animation, post production screen warping and ADR’d dialogue that really gives Evil Dead II a more ‘polished’ feel in comparison to the original. One of the major additions to Evil Dead II however is the fantastic make-up effects. The demons in Evil Dead II look astoundingly better than they did in the original The Evil Dead. Even Ted Raimi dons a full body suit to play the demon version of an old woman, and personally, I think it works really well. Apart from his identifiable facial features, Ted Raimi is almost unrecognisable. Finally, what can I say about the film’s gore effects. Although Evil Dead II isn’t one of the goriest films out there, Evil Dead II features severed limbs, impalements and chainsaw mutilation aplenty. The gore is very well done and all of the amateurish qualities that were evident in the original movie are long gone. Evil Dead II’s effects are high quality, done to professional standard and it really shows onscreen.
However, despite everything that Evil Dead II accomplishes, there’s one thing that the original The Evil Dead does better than Evil Dead II: intensity. The Evil Dead is much more tense, more scary than Evil Dead II. That isn’t a bad thing, not at all, as it seperates the two movies in terms of style. Evil Dead II doesn’t just deliver a better The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II delivers a completely different viewing experience. The Evil Dead is a more traditional horror movie that sets out to scare an audience, whilst Evil Dead II intends to make an audience laugh. It’s hard to compare the two movies because they are alike but completely different, but Evil Dead II definitely shows the evolution of Sam Raimi as a director. Evil Dead II shows that Sam Raimi was capable of handling a big budget production and pulling off a very adventurous project. Evil Dead II is ranked amongst the best horror movies ever made for a very good reason, and it’s a film that’s still as entertaining today as it was in 1987. I thoroughly recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen Evil Dead II to experience it for themselves as it definitely deserves its title as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.