Arguably the most important film to emerge from the renaissance of 80’s horror films, “Evil Dead 2” is a film so abrasive, so original and entertaining, not to mention well directed, shot, and acted, that it has become not only a seminal horror film, but it remains an immensely influential movie. Peter Jackson’s “Braindead,” for example, owes a great deal to director Sam Raimi’s bizarre mix of slapstick comedy and schlock horror, which is what sets this movie apart from every other horror film before or since.
The plot is simple enough: picking up where the first film left off, our hero Ash, having gone to hell and back while duking it out with demons resurrected when a tape of recitations from the Necronomicon ex mortis, the book of the dead, is played. After his friends are killed, Ash is briefly turned into a demon, or deadite for all you Evil Dead fans out there, has his hand possessed, gets beaten by a few stragglers who make their way to cabin— Honestly, there’s really no reason for me to synopsize “Evil Dead 2.” If you’re reading Film Threat, chances are you’ve seen the movie many times.
While the script is incredibly simple—the first half of the film focuses on Ash battling demons and slowly going crazy inside the cabin—what sets it apart from so many low budget horror films is the comedy, which is, to paraphrase director Sam Raimi, the horror version of old Three Stooges gags. Jokes from flying eyeballs landing in people’s mouths, to laughing appliances, to the legendary possessed hand sequence dominates the film, adding a surreal edge to what should have been a traditional horror film.
Raimi, licking his wounds following his disastrous “Crimewave,” his follow up to the original “Evil Dead,” directs this film with enough energy to power a locomotive. The camera moves and spins and soars and falls and gets as close to its actors as is physically possible while Bruce Campbell moves and shakes and yells and screams in slightly surrealistic, peristaltic movements. This is the movie that made Bruce Campbell what he is today. These days, he is known as a legendary B-movie God who has amassed a legion of die-hard, cult-ish fans. His performance is brilliantly cheesy, which perfectly captures the film’s oddball tone. But it is his physical comedy that sets new standards, and made him the coolest actor around. The scene in which his hand possesses him and beats the living hell out of him in one of the funniest, most energetic, and awe-inspiring scenes of physicality every displayed in motion pictures. You haters out there can keep your Jackie Chan’s, you Tony Jaa’s, for my money Bruce Campbell is the greatest of all physical actors.
While Anchor Bay has released, then re-released this film in the past, their latest release features a crisp and beautiful “Divimax” transfer enhanced for 16×9 televisions, which is why it’s getting a new release. But the packaging, oh the packaging, is why die-hard Evil Dead fans will shill out their hard-earned money for this edition. Packaged in a foam Book of the Dead case, the packaging features a new sculpt by Tom Sullivan, special effects man who created the Book of the Dead seen in the movie. Similar to the Book of the Dead edition of the first “Evil Dead” film, what sets this one apart from its predecessor is a chip inserted into the cover. When you press the right eye, the book screams. Yes, it’s gimmicky, yes, it’s slightly cheesy, but it is innovative and it brilliantly captures the feel of this classic movie.