Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Ash Wednesday, where we follow the adventures of that likeliest of horror heroes – Bruce Campbell. You join your bloggers Andy and Lilly, who remind you to always follow the instructions on your Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, and to store it in a cool, dry place.
Today’s Film Offering: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Andy: The Evil Dead was something of a sleeper hit. At a time when the slasher trend was getting into full-swing, it seemed stunningly original and made a respectable amount of money and got a respectable critical response. A sequel was inevitable.
Strangely, it took nearly six years for it to appear. The story is long, and kinda pointless, but the long version is that Sam Raimi, the director, wanted nearly ten times the budget and had not done well in the immediate aftermath of The Evil Dead. They didn’t get quite that, so they shelved the original idea for a sequel (which would eventually morph into Army of Darkness) and instead went for a quasi-sequel-remake affair with the same setup as the first film.
Now, 99 times out of a hundred, this wouldn’t have worked.
The film opens in a very, very similar way to the last. Ash and his girlfriend Linda (sans friends this time) decide to stay at a remote cabin, previously inhabited by one Professor Knowby, who somehow never got the message that reading passages of the Necronomicon out loud and recording it is never, ever, ever a good idea. Needless to say, Ash has a very, very bad couple of days, as his now possessed girlfriend taunts him, even after he cuts her head off with a spade.
Meanwhile, the daughter of the (presumably late) Professor, along with her research partner and a couple of hicks, are travelling to the cabin in order to find out what happened to Knowby and his wife.
This is the film that Ash really comes into his own. His experiences, frequently scary, but equally hilarious, leave a man who blasted through sanity a while back (probably after severing his own possessed hand) and has traded it for a chainsaw, a shotgun, and a pro-active attitude to the absolute insanity happening around him. Bruce Campbell has never been better.
Lilly: See, it’s weird, because in the first film, Ash wasn’t a jerk at all, but this film, the moment his girlfriend dies, he is a super crazy sarcasm monster. Which is fine, but it is odd after seeing the same character in Evil Dead. Of course, we could just say this isn’t the same character, they just have the same name and actor playing him. That makes me feel better.
Andy: The script and pacing are infinitely better handled (no long, long looong shots of cars pulling away) and the effects are higher quality due to the higher budget. It really is one of the very few sequels that leaves the original in the dust.
Lilly: I openly enjoy this film far more than the first Evil Dead, mainly because it takes what the first film did and works it into a neater, tighter, more pleasant film experience. While, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t think you should directly compare any sequel or prequel to the original, this is sort of in a different category, where it is a remake-ish thing that watches almost like a re-do. It’s that test you did okay on that you got a chance to do again after school. Certain parts are punched up that needed to be, other bits are scrapped, and it’s just a nicer watch. I mean, as nice as a gory, living dead romp can be, anyway!
Andy: It’s like they took every good idea and cut off all the fat. Having said that, this is most definitely not a film for everyone. It’s gory as anything, with blood pouring out of, well, everywhere.
Lilly: Meanwhile, because of the comedy and the tighter writing, I find the gore in this film didn’t irk me as much as in Evil Dead–I was more forgiving, I suppose, when it was used to a comedic effect that was actually, you know, funny.
Andy: Yeah. It’s also very, very funny, but a particular kind of funny – if you don’t find the idea of a man at the very end of the rope, cutting off his own possessed hand, manically yelling “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW!” hilarious, this may not be the film for you.
Lilly: I think this one is a lot broader reaching, re: audience than Evil Dead in that sense, mind. The humour goes from physical to…that. My favourite is the gag with the book “Farewell to Arms”, myself, and the joy of this film is that someone else will think the funniest part is something completely different. It really does push itself into a broader category of horror, the horror comedy, quite easily, and that makes it an easier sell to me, at least.
Andy: It is definitely one I’d unhesitatingly recommend though, which is more than can be said for The Evil Dead. Horror fans owe it to themselves to watch this, as it is one of the finest fusions of comedy into the genre.