Tuesday, October 18, 2016

31 Days of Horror: EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)

Welcome, horror fans, to Day 18 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR! We're back with another film in our lead-up to Halloween. Today, we'll be reviewing not only a classic sequel, but what's often considered Sam Raimi's opus...EVIL DEAD II. Enjoy!

The original Evil Dead is something of a maligned classic. With a budget of about $400,000 and with the most amateur of amateur actors, it's a movie that's very rough around the edges. What shone through, though, is director Sam Raimi's unquestionable eye for suspense and the imaginative special effects that brought the blood-soaked story to life. So now, imagine that same filmmaker given the budget he needs to fully realize many of his ideas. Imagine that filmmaker having the free reign to essentially go nuts with the story now that he has a dedicated fanbase willing to go wherever he's willing to. And imagine he's doing it with an actor who turned out to be one of the unlikeliest and most charismatic action stars around. What you get is the crown jewel of this franchise, in my opinion, and one of the best examples of a genre-bending horror-comedy that can be equal parts hilarious and eerily suspenseful.

Evil Dead II is a peculiar film since it starts with basically an extended recap of the original film. This recap is a few minutes long, which might be a bit tedious, but is a good primer for the following madness. Of course, there isn't really any continuity kept between the films, which has always been something of a joke through all three Evil Dead films. After a quick recap (which oddly only includes Ash and his girlfriend, completely forgetting the other three people who accompanied them in the original), we pick up from literally the last shot of the first film, and from there, it's a rollercoaster of crazy effects, spooky deadites for Ash to fight, and crazy situations. Trapped in a cabin, alone, and having to survive until dawn with a cavalcade of evil spirits ready to kill him, The fact that Raimi can keep this scenario, which doesn't really shift that much, going for 90 minutes is a testament to how good the effects are and how good Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams is.

Ash gets put through the wringer, getting bitten, slashed, tackled, attacked, an arm sawed off, and his ego severely bruised, but Bruce Campbell takes it in stride, his cool demeanor and natural charisma making every attack from otherworldly being look like chump change against the might of his mighty chin. In the process, we get some of the most memorable sequences in horror courtesy of some excellent puppet work and fake gore effects. Pretty much all of the effects, save for some more elaborate effects towards the end, have aged wonderfully, giving the blood and guts of the film a real punch to it. The designs of the evil deadites are wonderfully goofy, looking as demonic and otherworldly as they do silly, which is a tone balance that the film expertly manages. For every demon trying to gore Ash, there's a possessed hand that keeps smashing dinner plates on Ash's head. Raimi described taking a lot from slapstick acts like the Three Stooges, and you can really see this fast paced action at work in some of these sequences. In that way, it's a very fun movie to watch, which makes it so re-watchable. I never get tired of seeing how much punishment Ash is willing to take if it means getting a shot at giving those deadites what's coming to them.

In this way, Evil Dead II is what the original film wanted to be given the proper budget and given a good dose of fun to go along with its admittedly ridiculous concept. That's the trap the original fell into, it's silly premise was somewhat squandered by how self-serious the film tried to be. Evil Dead II has no notions of grandeur or overblown ideas in that regard, it knows what it is, and wants to craft the highest quality version of that it can. In doing so, Evil Dead II accidentally became one of the best horror-comedies, as well as just one of the best horror films of all time.

Tony's Score: 9/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you covering your eyes from next!

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