In Evil Dead II, Ash and his girlfriend Linda drive to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. They are essentially squatting, as they don’t know the owners and haven’t been invited. After their arrival, Ash plays a tape recording of an incantation from The Book of the Dead. In doing so, he releases an ancient evil from the woods and that which he has awakened possesses Linda. In an act of self-preservation, Ash is forced to decapitate his girlfriend. He buries her outside the cabin but she doesn’t stay in the ground for long. From there, Ash finds himself repeatedly squaring off against the undead in an attempt to close the portal he has opened.
Evil Dead II appears something like a remake of The Evil Dead to a lot of fans. Some Deadites hold the assertion that Sam Raimi wanted to show what he could have done with the first film if he’d had the budget he did for the second. There are fan theories all over the Internet that attempt to explain the link between the films. Some suppose that Ash somehow forgot the events of the first film and is returning to the cabin for the second time. Others assume that the second film is to be taken on its own, apart from the original. But according to the DVD commentary, the first seven minutes of the film, although reshot, are intended as a recap and the film actually begins upon Ash getting sucked into the woods. The idea is that he never left the cabin and the events that transpire in the second film are taking place immediately after the first.
The great thing about Evil Dead II is that it builds upon the groundwork laid by the original and takes it several steps further. The sequel also infuses comedy into the equation, whereas the original film is much more serious in tonality. All of the elements work together for a second installment that ups the ante while being simultaneously brutal and hilarious. This is a fast paced follow up that wastes no time getting down to the killing and effectively commands the viewer’s full attention for the entirety of the film’s runtime.
The effects on display in the film are exceptional, especially when compared to the more modest special FX used in the first. The scene where Ash gets showered with blood and the segment where he chops off his hand are both standouts in great makeup and splatter effects.
The level of creativity that went into the script and the directorial process are to be commended. The manner in which Evil Dead II balances horror and comedy is also cited as inspiration in countless other films but few features ever come close to recreating the magic that was made when Evil Dead II was introduced to the world.
Evil Dead II is one of the rare sequels that are as good or better than the original. It lives up to the first film in every way and even outdoes its predecessor, in terms of gore, special effects makeup, and creative camerawork.
If you’re reading this retrospective, you’ve undoubtedly seen Evil Dead II. But if you don’t have the Book of the Dead (Limited Edition) DVD, let me suggest that you get your hands on it. The craftsmanship alone is worth whatever the cost. Both the interior and exterior of the set include a realistic representation of the version of the book used in the film. And this edition offers commentary with cast and crew, a new featurette, and so much more.
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Writer(s): Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry
Studio/ Production Co: Paramount
Budget: $3.6 Million
Length: 84 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Cinema of the Undead