The year is 1987. The slasher movie boom of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s is dead in the water despite countless sequels and copycat films being relentlessly pumped out. It has also been six long years since Sam Raimi released The Evil Dead…
Since its release in 1981, splatter films had become more and more prevalent within the mainstream horror genre. Splatter had been around since the early 1960’s with the release of films by Herschell Gordon Lewis (i.e. Blood Feast) which had typically received less than favorable reviews. The stop-motion gross out effects of The Evil Dead, however, were campy as can be but entertaining as all hell. Films that followed the release of The Evil Dead like Return of the Living Dead and Re-Animator capitalized on the use of excessive gore combined with comedy to delight viewers and ring in a new subgenre of horror appropriately deemed ‘splatstick’. After all the time that had passed, could Raimi deliver the goods with a sequel to his low budget cult classic?
The answer was (and is) a huge and resounding ‘yes’. Despite being called Evil Dead II, the film is arguably a remake of the original. The plot is relatively similar to the first film in that a group of people travel to a remote cabin in the woods where supernatural forces begin to possess them one by one before they are killed off. In Evil Dead II, there is no indication that the main character, Ash (played by Bruce Campbell), has been attacked by the supernatural before as he had been in the first film.
Evil Dead II surpasses its predecessor in every possible way
Regardless, it doesn’t matter. Evil Dead II surpasses its predecessor in every possible way. The comedy is funnier, the wacky moments are wackier, and the gore is gorier. By the time the reanimated headless corpse of Ash’s possessed girlfriend chases him down with a chainsaw before ultimately having the chainsaw flipped over onto the neck stump where her head used to be, viewers are clearly aware that the filmmakers had fun with this flick. Not to mention, this scene comes only twenty minutes into the film.
A lot of the credit for the success of this film (along with the others) absolutely has to go to Bruce Campbell. In the original, he was likable. In Evil Dead II, he was lovable. His physical slapstick humor and body language is nothing short of amazing as he wages war upon his own possessed hand, battles fits of maniacal behavior, and resisting torment from the supernatural. Campbell comes into his own in Evil Dead II and cements his status as a wisecracking horror icon. There’s no doubt about it that he carries the film and is the whole reason that the series has reached the heights of cult status that it has.
The film takes elements of the original and builds upon them while also adding a touch of insanity to the horror.
So, why is it that Evil Dead II tends to get less fanfare than its predecessor? Sure, there are plenty of people that enjoy the second film just as much if not more than the original. Usually when referring to Evil Dead, though, it is the first film that they are talking about. Ultimately, Evil Dead II suffers from the sequel syndrome. Despite not being the traditional idea of a sequel, the film takes elements of the original and builds upon them while also adding a touch of insanity to the horror. However, the one thing it will never be is the first. Just as Friday the 13th Part 2 will always be looked over in favour of its predecessor (despite being the one that introduces Jason Voorhees as the villain), Evil Dead II will always be the follow-up and as a result can’t be heralded with any originality. However, it was a marked improvement on The Evil Dead and as a result, for any horror fan Evil Dead II is well worth seeking out.
By Jeremie Sabourin