Evil Dead II (1987)

by Jaime Grijalba.

Many people know my love for the original and horror masterpiece that is ‘The Evil Dead’, one of the most original, scary, gruesome, gory and entertaining films that have ever been made. I love it so much that I put it in my top 10 films of all time, surpassing the likes of ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’, having the fourth spot of my list just behind of ‘The Shining’, thus robbing it from the top spot of the best horror movie ever made. The strangest thing was that I delayed the watching of this film for the longest time after I positioned the original film as the masterpiece that it really is, and while the final experience was completely amazing and worth the wait, I was afraid that coming the day to finally sit down and see it for the first time, I wouldn’t like it to the same level than the original, I was maybe over-hyping it myself by looking at individual and masterful scenes in Youtube and other sources. The conclusion to all my fears and doubts when I finally had the chance to see it, was that while it wasn’t as seminal nor as deep with interpretation as the original was, it is still one of the funniest and most entertaining films of all time, that also happens to have horrific creatures, great scares, plenty of gore and an amazing feeling that the guys that were doing the film (just like the feeling that the first one has) were having fun with it, were playing and liking what they were doing every morning that they entered the set. A recent viewing of the film in a 35mm copy at the Valdivia International Film Festival of 2012 was exactly what was I needed to bring me to finally write about this masterpiece, but now the problem is, what do I say about this film that no one else has ever said? That’s completely impossible! But I can talk about how I feel the movie plays in my head and the importance of it towards the history of horror filmmaking in general. Can I do that? Of course not, but at least I can try, and that’s the best thing that anyone can do right now.

‘Evil Dead II’ starts with one of the most divisive segments in the history of horror discusions regarding horror films, because it has divided those who think that ‘Evil Dead II’ is actually a remake of the original ‘The Evil Dead’, just because it starts the whole story again, giving us exposition to what is the ‘Necronomicon Ex Mortis’ or ‘Book of the Dead’ that makes the demons from another dimension take over the bodies of the living (a.k.a. Deadites) and then leaving us with our main character, the badass and classic archetype that is Ash, finding and then using a cabin in the woods to be with his fiancee until something evil is awakened and takes ahold of the body and soul of his loved one. Then he is hit by the invisible force that roams the woods and thrown far far away, just like at the end of the original film from 1981, so here’s my theory (and that of many many other people) since he didn’t want to change the tone so harshly, he filmed the first minutes of the film to not use footage from the first film (and avoiding an evident change in film quality, lighting and scenario) but if you want to really think of this film as a sequel (and you should) you can fast-forward the film to that point and nothing will be taken from you, even some elements from the first one make a reappearence, so it’s just as if they just took 4 years between films and, obviously, the quality of the film stock changed, hence the shift in how it looks. But as we all know, it’s not just a shift in how it looks or feels, it’s also a change in the genre, since it drifts from the drama/horror/gore to the comedy/horror/gore pole, and thus it expands and widens its audience and mythos, giving it one amazing mythology and set of rules regarding the powers and features of the deadites (something that was very capable of doing the first one without that much exposition) and at the same time where they come from.

This film is a technical marvel, one of those that astonish me every time I sit down to watch it again and again (as its predecesor its insanely rewatchable), because the special effects are just a marvel to see: blood, creatures, glowing eyes and specially the camera angles and movements, a staple of the Sam Raimi direction style, something akin to a constant moving all-seeing creature, because we have to admit and say right here that the famous monster-cam, so imitated and shown in horror films (and I’m not talking about POV shots, but about the always moving forward camera that imitates the POV of a ghost-like creature) was born in the original film and in this sequel it has ganied its own foot, managing to really deliver some great action and almost art-like sequences (let’s not forget that people like to seek art whenever they like, and while this movie for sure is art, the movement of the camera in the long takes is what is closer to what we could call high-art), when our protagonist Ash is followed by the camera and tries to block its way and the camera manages to break doors, open them or even push the actor to another place, it is truly one of the funniest and most impressive coreographed camera-action sequences ever made. The film is a mixture of the gore films from the 60’s and their obsession with dismemberment, the craze for demoniac possession films of the 70’s (starting with ‘The Exorcist’ (1973), obviously) and the slapstick comedy of The Three Stooges, even stealing one or two jokes here and there from their most famous short comedies. This film is a riot, something to be seen to be believed, and even if the energy isn’t the same as with the original (maybe something related to what could’ve possibly been if there really wasn’t any other character than Ash fighting his own and other dimenssion’s demons), it is still, for me, one of the best movies of all time, it is in my top 15 and I can’t stop loving every second of it.


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