The Big Lebowski. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Withnail and I. Some films are just so entrenched in the aura of cult, that it is impossible to think of them in any other capacity. Evil Dead 2 is another one of those films, except it exceeds those boundaries. In terms of influence it deserves to be touted alongside the likes of Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nearly every horror film that has come since should aspire to be as entertaining, horrifying and creative as Evil Dead 2. Last year Cabin in the Woods took the horror handbook and tore it to shreds. Evil Dead 2 is that handbook.
To say that Evil Dead 2 is a sequel is not strictly true. Following on from thesuccess of the original film the creative team were keen to produce a follow up, especially after Raimi’s previous film (Crimewave) was a commercial flop. Evil Dead 2 was sure to be a hit, yet New Line, who had distributed the first film, were less than eager to get themselves involved in another video nasty debacle and distanced themselves from this project. Only problem with that was New Line owned the rights to all the footage and rights of the first Evil Dead, thus posing the question; how do you make a sequel without referencing its predecessor? Well, you remake it.
After accidentally reciting the words of The Book of the Dead, Ash, as the sole survivor, must fend of the evil Deadites from the trusty cabin. Along the way he is joined by another group of strangers, who also decide to batten down the hatches and do battle. Together they must learn the secrets of The Book of the Dead and rid the world of the Deadites curse.
It’s not highbrow from a narrative point of view and it’s doubtful whether it is interested in meaningful interpretations. Whatever its narrative shortcomings bring, everything that happens in between is marvellous. For while the plot may be very similar to the first film, Evil Dead 2 aims for one very crucial difference; comedy, and lots of it.
The comedy element of the Evil Dead franchise is probably what the entire series is best known for. Although it’s not a laugh out loud affair, Evil Dead 2 is bizarrely dark in its approach. Nothing ever seems to phase Ash. He greets every onslaught with a maniacal grin and laugh. He is obviously being affected by the ordeal but he just grows crazier rather than weaker. In the age of dash and scream this was a refreshing approach. What makes the comedy so brilliant though is Bruce Campbell. Deserving to be ranked alongside the likes ofChaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, Campbell is one of cinemas great slapstick actors. He can deliver a line with the best of them but his physical work is something to marvel at. Just by being chased through the rooms of a shack or dancing with a possessed lamp, Campbell manages to make the simplest of things be absolutely captivating and incredible. If you ever want to see a man pull off a believable fight with his own hand, look no further than Evil Dead 2.
Apart from the comedy, one of the most enduring features of Evil Dead is its committal to home made effects. There is no CGI or computer trickery here. All the outfits, monsters and gore have either come from a make up studio or from the talented hands of artists. Gallons and gallons of blood pour out from the cabin walls (so much in fact one of the actors almost drowned in the crimson liquid). Eyeballs fire across rooms in the most creative way possible. Ash battles with stop motion beasts that are so good, even Ray Harryhausen would be proud. Limbs are severed like nobodies business, which eventually leads to the greatest improve weapon in movie history. This may sound like gore for gore’s sake but it is all done in a knowing fashion that sees it remain gruesome as well as funny.
As far as this Blu-ray goes it is a must have for fans. Not only does the film look glorious it sounds better than ever. Sound is immensely important in the realm of horror and the Evil Dead 2 audio alone is enough to give you the creeps. This restoration roars with ferocity and gives the film a newfound intensity. On top of the actual improvements to the movie, the extras contain some fantastic features. A brand new making-of documentary is a brilliant insight into the films production and the individuals involved. Also a new commentary track featuring Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gives you an even greater understanding of the genius behind this film.
To lock some kids up in a haunted cabin and throw things at them for 90 minutes is not a hard formula for a film to follow. Many have copied The Evil Dead structure but few have mastered it. Evil Dead 2 is a masterpiece of horror cinema. What it does isn’t complicated, but it respects its audience and keeps you utterly involved and amused. Few who have seen Evil Dead 2 will need a further conviction of the films prowess. New viewers should buckle their seatbelts for an experience like no other. Mad, absurd, hilarious, unrelenting and revolutionary. In certain circles Raimi and Campbell are considered to be gods. With evidence like this, it’s hard to disagree.