Posted April 3, 2013 by Edward Boff in Features
 
 

Evil Dead Legacy Part Two


– By Edward Boff – Welcome back to the second of Edward Boff’’s three-part retrospective of the beloved Evil Dead franchise, counting down to the release of the remake on 18th April. Last time we saw how a timid team of twenty-somethings became one of the poster boys for the Video Nasties. This time Ed looks at how, with the right budget, resources and creativity, Evil Dead II became one of the high water marks of “cult” filmmaking …

By Edward Boff

Welcome back to the second of
Edward Boff’’s three-part retrospective of the beloved Evil Dead franchise,
counting down to the release of the remake on 18th April. Last time we saw how a timid team of
twenty-somethings became one of the poster boys for the Video Nasties. This
time Ed looks at how, with the right budget, resources and creativity, Evil
Dead II became one of the high water marks of “cult” filmmaking …

Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn
The first Evil Dead film got
Sam Raimi and co. noticed by big
studios but it took a while to work out precisely what to do with this
talent. Raimi’s next production, a
crime comedy collaboration with the Coen
Brothers
(Joel Coen was one of
the editors on the first Evil Dead) Crimewave, didn’t do too well with
critics or the box office. So, the decision was made to go back to where things
started. With funding from legendary Producer Dino de Laurentis, and support from the Tom Savini trained KNB
Effects
team, Evil Dead II was
born and became the title that made the series a true phenomenon.

The film opens with a very simplified version of the events of the
first film, due to issues over the use of footage from the first. The story picks up with hapless hero
Ash (Bruce Campbell) still stuck in
that happy cabin with demonic forces trying all kind of tricks to mess with
him. Along the way we also encounter Annie (Sarah Berry), the daughter of the Professor who bought the
Necronomicon to the cabin, along with some more expendable … erm …
characters. What follows is a mad
ride that defies any attempts to summarise in one paragraph.

With this film, Raimi was really allowed to let loose. The exuberant gore levels from the
first film are still present, but here tempered somewhat by having the blood
shed by the Deadites being anything over than red, as an attempt to fox the
MPAA. (It didn’t work! The film’s still unrated in the US). What’s expanded upon here is the humour
content. The first Evil Dead did actually have quite a bit
of humour buried in there but here it’s far more overt, leading to a trend
that’s often called Splatstick; a
high splatter content, with slapstick comedy. Raimi is a lifetime Three
Stooges
fan and actually worked in some references to them in the first
film (like the term “Fake Shemps” used for extras, and one scene
that’s a horrific reworking of the short A
Plumbing We Will Go
). However, here it’s all right up on screen.

What also gets a major upgrade this time around is the character of
Ash. In the first film, and for the first half here, Ash is basically a wimp, a
loser, a hapless victim. This time
around, he levels up and really starts fighting back against the Evil, which
was a great showcase for Bruce Campbell’s natural charisma. This matches quite well with an
increase in the action content this film, leading up to a massive climax and
one of the most legendary improvised weapons in film history…

Often when a horror series do goes down the route of adding more humour
and action, it often means downgrading the horror content. The Nightmare On Elm Street series did exactly that with what ended up
as disastrous results – and quite a few other horrors in the late 80s tried the
comedy route too to somewhat mixed success. Evil Dead II
thankfully doesn’t have that problem. Its horror sections work incredibly well,
from jumps scares, to “where is this going?” tension and to some wonderfully
macabre imagery, like the stop-motion “dance of the dead” early
on. Interestingly, there are a lot
of references in this film to one classic horror in particular; Robert Wise’s The Haunting, which
really couldn’t be a more different sort of horror to Evil Dead II if it tried.

Evil Dead II is not just a
sequel that surpasses the original. It’s one who’s tone and style completely
eclipses the original. In fact, this is generally the film most fans think of
when they conjure up images of “Evil
Dead
“. Many would
describe the first film as a horror comedy, and while there is humour there,
that would be inaccurate, and this misapprehension comes from seeing the film
within the context of this one. If
the first film was like a ghost train ride, this is far more a roller coaster.
It has earned its place in the ranks of great horror films not for any subtext
or because it’s a satire of the times in which it was made, but because it’s
great fun! If you check out only
one of these films as a result of this retrospective, then you should
definitely make it this one!

Next time, we will see how the series ends with not only a drastic
change in tone, but also genre to an extent, and we look over the impact and
legacy of the series as a whole.

The Evil Dead remake is in cinemas Thursday 18th
April



Edward Boff