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By Jeremy Zoss | June 4, 2002

With the colossal success of Spider-Man there will no doubt be a surge of interest in director Sam Raimi’s other work. No matter what path they take, the uninitiated will eventually find their way to his undisputed masterpiece, “Evil Dead 2.” While the original “Evil Dead” has some vocal and high-profile defenders (Rob Zombie, for one), most fans of the series agree that “Evil Dead 2” is the pinnacle of the trilogy.

One point of contention about the film is that is really more of a bigger-budget remake than a sequel. The plot of part 2 is very much the same as the first; Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend rent a cabin in the woods, discover an evil book, and invoke something evil in the woods. After his girlfriend is possessed and killed, Ash slips into insanity as he battles the evil presence alone. Eventually, another group of people shows up at the cabin, but it isn’t long before Ash is again the only human in a cabin full of demons.

So why would people get so excited about a movie that was so similar to its predecessor? Well, while the story may be nearly identical to Evil Dead, the tone is remarkably different. Where Evil Dead, relied on gore to make an impact, “Evil Dead 2” uses humor. The sequel is arguably more bloody and goopy than first, but the fluids fly in such a way that the gore feels more slapstick than suspenseful. Sam Raimi is an admitted Three Stooges fan, which is evident in some of the most uproarious scenes of “Evil Dead 2.” The most notorious sequence of the film involves Ash battling his own demonically-possessed hand. He severs it at the wrist with a chainsaw, drenching his face with his own blood in the process. The actual act of self-mutilation would have seemed horrific if not for the intensely comic sequence that preceded it, which involves Ash punching himself in the face and smashing plates over his head.

While definitely more humor-oriented than Evil Dead, part two is not without chills. Some of the most effective scenes of the original are reprised, including the infamous “tree-rape” scene and Ash’s burial of his girlfriend. Although these scenes are familiar to those who have seen the original, the increased budget of the sequel went along way to improve the look and special effects of the movie, adding a new level of effectiveness to familiar scenes. Ash’s battle in the cellar with a long-buried zombie is particularly tense; the make-up effects are eerily effective, underscoring how much better the special effects are in the sequel.

The special effects are just one area in which the sequel improves on the original. In the five years between the two movies, Sam Raimi refined his over-the-top directorial style, and Bruce Campbell grew more comfortable as an actor. His character Ash is much more developed in part two; Ash was little more than a crybaby forced into an extraordinary situation in the original, whereas in part two Ash displays fear, desperation, and insanity all without losing a hilariously pompous egotism. In the sequel, Army of Darkness Ash is even more of arrogant lunkhead, to the point where any fear and vulnerability is lost. As a result, “Evil Dead 2” remains Bruce Campbell’s most technically proficient performance of the trilogy.

Many younger fans favor “Army of Darkness” as their favorite of the trilogy, having been introduced to it before the first two, and some purists decry the second two films as too comedic. For most fans, however, “Evil Dead 2” is the moment the series achieved perfection; scary and gory enough to qualify as classic horror, but funny and unpredictable enough to keep them laughing. Thanks to Sam Raimi’s inventive style and Bruce Campbell’s hysterical performance, the horror-comedy genre has grown into a legitimate genre, but “Evil Dead 2” will forever be the king.

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