Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
Kiss your nerves good-bye!
Year of Release: 1987
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Sam Raimi
Bruce Campbell ... Ashley 'Ash' J. Williams
Sarah Berry ... Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks ... Jake
Kassie Wesley DePaiva ... Bobby Joe
Ted Raimi ... Possessed Henrietta
Denise Bixler ... Linda
Richard Domeier ... Ed Getley
John Peakes ... Professor Raymond Knowby
Lou Hancock ... Henrietta Knowby
William Preston Robertson ... The Hand / The Dark Spirit / The Deer Head / The Enchanted Objects (voice)
Sam Raimi ... Medieval Soldier (uncredited)
Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of THE EVIL DEAD, returns to the same cabin in the woods and again unleashes the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by the demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to single-handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal – and groovy – hero in horror movie history!
Evil Dead II has much to teach us, with the man, the myth, the legend, Bruce "The Chin" Campbell as our guide. First, if someone is being nice to you, they want something. But worse still, if a demon is nice to you, it wants you dead. Secondly, in life, like Evil Dead, betrayal cannot be forgiven. Betrayers must be severed from your life by any means necessary. As inconvenient as it may be at times. And third, when you're Bruce Campbell, you can run a chainsaw without even having a hand on the trigger switch. Those things are all well and good, but they're really more reminders than found knowledge. The bit of information most critical that can be gleaned from Evil Dead II is this: never trust a disembodied head. They'll bite you. Seriously though, there's real historical precedence backing this up. David Gale in Re-Animator, Belial in Basket Case, Anders Hove from Subspecies, Betsy Palmer from Friday the 13th Part 2, an lets not forget about that filthy whore of a head from Bloodsucking Freaks that seduced poor unsuspecting Ralphus. Severed heads are bad news. Being bitten by one is really the least of your concerns. In the aforementioned examples, some of the more egregious infractions committed by severed heads tend to involve women. Some severed heads actually have genitalia and may rape your girlfriend if you leave them unattended. They tend to have jealous issues, having no bodies an all. Worse still if they still have control over their bodies, they'll position their heads to give your girlfriend head, then try to take over the world with its army of newly created zombies. Even if it's serving no greater purpose than coffee table decor at Chateau Voorhees, severed heads always mean bad news. The tape recorder from The Evil Dead movies tells of a need for full body dismemberment of possessed individuals, but ultimately, that doesn't get the job done. No sir. You've gotta give them the Husqvarna lobotomy. It's the only way to be sure. Now, buzz sawing through a skull may prove difficult, but as we learned in the review of the original Evil Dead, anything worth doing is going to be difficult. Put your backbones into it!
The Evil Dead II begins precisely where the original Evil Dead leaves off, with Bruce running for his life from some demon spirits that have seriously had their patience tested. But they finally get their mitts on him an spin him right round, baby. Right round. Clearly not hailing to the king, they spin him through the forest like a dreidel until he comes to rest softly in the embrace of a waiting mud puddle. Then he goes demon an starts lookin' so hideous that nearly 15% of all his groupies would start having serious doubts about letting him rock their bottoms. But then the sun comes up an he starts trying desperately to cover his eyes like he just saw the Octomom porn but it's too late, the sun drives the demon away an Bruce is back in the driver's seat. He jumps in his car (that incidentally kinda resembles a smashed hoagie) an peels out of there, only he forgot that when he checked the bridge approximately 6 hours before (or was it 6 years before?) to take Cheryl back to town the bridge was out so when he gets there an sees that it's still out, he gets a serious case of sad face. Not only that, the sun starts goin' down faster than Courtney Love on a first date an he has to hightail it back to the cabin with a point of view demon right on his ass. He gets back to the house but the demon don't care none it keeps on truckin' right through the house until Bruce is finally able to get a door between himself an it. At this point it starts to feel like maybe it it was imposing an lets itself out. Elsewhere, the daughter of the anthropologist that loosed the demons in the first place is landing at an airport some place, talking to some body count fodder (her boyfriend I guess) about having found some pages from the Book of the Dead. But the guy hasn't heard from her father since he arrived at the cabin because it's in Tennessee an they're around 50 years behind the rest of the country in terms of technology, an even if Tennessee did have phones, this cabin is in the middle of nowhere. Back at the cabin the manual piano has become a player piano, which rouses Linda from her dirt nap an she starts performing the dance sequence from The Nutcracker Suite until Bruce gets too close to the door an she grabs him by the hair an starts mashing his good looks into the door. But then Bruce wakes up in his chair, thinking it was all a dream, until Linda's head lands in his lap. He realizes this isn't sexy time when she chomps down on his hand an no matter what he does, she's not getting off anytime soon.
He gets her into the wood shed an finally pries her off his paw an sticks her in the vice. Now he's got her where he wants her, but the Stihl seems to be missing from its proper storage location so he heads for the door to grab it when Linda's body helpfully busts in with it an tries to give Bruce a chin tuck. But he gives it a little love tap an it flies up an comes back down onto her neck long enough for Bruce to get ahold of it an get that butter face out of out of his business. Then Linda's head starts screwing with his head an giving him a sob story, the usual stuff. It wasn't my fault, the demons made me do it, yeah, sure honey. It's chainsaw lobotomy time. Then he goes back in the house an checks the mirror to see if he remembered to shave that morning when his reflection pops out of the mirror an starts questioning his sanity. Then his hand starts twitching an suddenly develops a bad prison tattoo. Elsewhere, the anthropologist's daughter has reached the bridge to the cabin, or the lack of bridge, as it where, so she has to enlist some local yokels to show her an alternate path through what should be an extremely rapey forest. Back at the cabin, Bruce's hand is breaking the fine china over his head until he passes out an it starts crawling toward a meat cleaver laying on the floor. But he's playing possum an stabs the traitorous hand with a kitchen knife an reminds it who it's daddy is. He knows what he has to do. He takes the Stihl to his wrist an severs the offending appendage an puts a pot over it for safe keeping. But then Thing gets out an makes for the rat hole in the wall an gets caught in a rat trap. Then Bruce has a good laugh at Thing's expense, until it gives him the bird so he has to blast it as it crawls through the wall. That's what it gets for not hailing to the king. Then approximately 10,000 gallons of blood burst out of the hole in the wall an hoses Bruce down like Chuck Heston in Planet of the Apes. Then he hears a noise outside an blasts still another hole in the front door an Drayton Sawyer comes in an starts beatin' him over the head an blaming him for ruining the door. In actuality, it's the anthropologist's daughter (Annie), her boyfriend, an the bumpkins, an they rush in an catch Bruce unawares an throw him down in the cellar because they think the bloody man with the chainsaw has something to do with the disappearance of Annie's parents. So Annie starts playing the tape recorder while Bruce sits in the cellar thinking about what they think he's done, when the tape recorder reveals that the anthropologist's wife was possessed and buried in the cellar an Bruce gets this look on his face like just remembered he left the iron plugged in at home.
Suddenly, Annie's mother bursts from the shallow grave an tries to eat Bruce. He begs like a dog for a bone until they let him out an they're able to get the cellar chained shut before she can get out an chew on them, but in doing so they pop her eyeball out an score a hole in one in the female bumpkin's mouth an for the first time in her life she's grossed out about having a ball in her mouth an promptly gets sick. Then the daughter's boyfriend goes demon an eats the female bumpkin's hair extensions an Bruce has to take the axe to him so he won't cough up a hairball later. Then from the next room there rose such a clatter, so Bruce heads inside to see what's the matter. In the room they find the floating disembodied head of Annie's dad who tells them they must take their place in the circle of life, an if they want any chance of getting out alive they'd better read the passages from the pages Annie found or they're all demon chow. Then the female bumpkin (Bobby Joe) gets creeped out when she discovers she's holding onto Thing an, wouldn't ya know it, runs out into the woods. Like Cheryl from the first movie, the forest binds her with vines, only unlike Cheryl, they don't rape her, because this girl has such a bad reputation even the forest knows where she's been, so it opts to simply drag her off through the woods an slams her into a tree harder than Sonny Bono. Then Bruce an Annie are trying to read the lines from the pages until the imbecilic male bumpkin grabs the gun, throws the pages down into the cellar, an makes them go look for Bobby Joe because, let's face it, he can't do any better. Only when they get into the woods Bruce goes demon again an gives the idiot the same Sonny Bono treatment his floozy got. Annie gets back to the cabin just in time, but then the idiot busts in unannounced an she shanks him with the creepy voodoo dagger before she realizes it's him and drags his heavy, deep fried ass into the living room. Only she leaves him too close to the cellar an Annie's mom grabs ahold of him an turns him into 7500 gallons of Code Red Mountain Dew. Then Bruce pops in an gets ready to go to town on Annie, only he sees the necklace he'd given to Linda an starts to feel ashamed of himself an goes normal again. So with just Bruce and Annie remaining, they must get into the cellar without mom chewing out their jugulars an rattle off the lines like dad's disembodied head told them, or it's the big S-Mart in the sky for both of em.
Evil Dead II is one of the greatest horror sequels of all time. The Evil Dead series is rather unique, in that, the first movie is a straight, pull no punches horror movie. Then Evil Dead II, the first sequel, is a text book horror/comedy. It has the perfect balance of horror to comedy without going overboard on the comedy, as happens all too often when production crews try this. It's easy to go too far, no problem here though. Then, by Army of Darkness, we've made the transition to straight comedy. There are those who would call it a horror/comedy, but those people are wrong. The MPAA is so unbelievably wrong that it's painful to imagine these people are paid for what they do. Seriously, lets take a look at this for a moment. Army of Darkness is rated R. Jaws, in contrast, is rated PG. I realize it was a different time, but for fucks sake that's screwed up. I could see PG-13 for Army of Darkness, I suppose, but R is just nonsense. Anyway, it's a comedy, and a damn good one at that. You could argue that the shift from movie to movie accurately represents Ash's descent into mild insanity and make a great deal of sense. I'm not sure that's the case or not, but it's as good an explanation as any. I do have a serious complaint to lodge about Evil Dead II, a couple really, but lets go over the bigger problem first. The continuity on this movie is honestly quite poor. There's a lot of little things which, honestly are not worth complaining about, but the disappearing blood from the characters is something I really object to. In one scene they're a hideous bloody mess, in the next scene they're virtually dry. No dried blood, no nothing. No sir, I don't like it. The other thing is the recap at the beginning of the movie. It's really unnecessary. It'd be unnecessary even if they could have gotten the rights (yes, somehow they couldn't get the rights to the movie they had created for use in the flashback) to the original movie to use as a recap, the thing is six minutes long. Friday the 13th style flashbacks that last around one minute are acceptable, and in those cases, they often recap multiple movies. This we're talking six minutes of recreated footage, intended to be a flashback from the original movie. When I was a kid I was so god damn confused by this that I didn't even realize the movie was picking up where the first movie left off. I'd believed that Ash had gotten away and for some really foolish reason, returned to the cabin a second time. Anyway, besides those two things, it's amazing.
Overall, Evil Dead II may well be the best horror sequel ever made. I can't think of any other sequels off the top of my head that're better. With some thought I might be able to, but that's beside the point anyway. The shooting location is a pretty decent representation of the original cabin, it had to be, as the original cabin was burned down after the making of the original. Major bummer. It's still a great recreation though. The inside doesn't look as similar as the outside, but it gets the job done. The acting is somewhat improved over the original, Bruce Campbell has matured and gotten better to be sure, and is beginning to display the confidence that's going to exist in ready abundance come Army of Darkness. The budget was immensely larger, probably ten fold over the original, but I must say I really don't know where it went exactly. It's not a problem, I just don't understand it. I think maybe Sam pocketed about a million or so. The soundtrack is another area with a marked improvement. Which is not to say Joe Loduca didn't do a great job on the original, but his composition work for this sequel is honestly much improved. The special effects are about as good as the original, no better, no worse. However there are certainly a lot more of them and they're on screen for a much longer period of time. They used many of the same techniques from the first movie. More stop motion here, but other than that, much of the same. Although they were apparently able to acquire a fire hose for the purpose of squirting blood on people. At least that's what it looks like. I suppose the make up effects probably are a bit better than the original, in the sense that they're confident enough to give them a lot of screen time. When you have bad or mediocre effects, the smart film maker doesn't stick with the shot for too long, lest it reveal the shoddy workmanship, but there's none of that here. In the end, it's not as good as the original, but it's still excellent. Excellent enough to be a no brainer blind buy for any horror fan. Pick it up, it shant disappoint.