After watching the original The Evil Dead recently I continued my journey through this most bizarre of trilogies with, seemingly logically, Sam Raimi’s 1987 follow up Evil Dead 2, sometimes subtitled ‘Dead By Dawn’.
The reason for this being a somewhat bizarre trilogy, other than the subject matter, is that this sequel is, in pretty much all ways, a reboot of the original telling a similar, if expanded story in a far more comedic and elaborate style and with a far bigger budget.
This is clear from the off as the first five or ten minutes takes us through a sped up and stripped back version of the first movie before settling into a far more developed plot loosely split in two.
The first half sees Ash (Bruce Campbell, reprising his role from the first film) dealing with the effects of encountering the Kandarian demons of The Evil Dead before being joined by a new cast of demon fodder for the second half.
This first section is almost entirely a gory slapstick pastiche referencing Ed Wood and Buster Keaton as much as the films Hooper, Craven and bits of Hitchcock’s more horrific movies.
Campbell is a joy to watch here being variously physically assaulted by the director once again as he gets covered with fake blood, hurled around the forest and battered by bits of trees before having a one man battle with his own possessed right hand.
As with the first film this all gives the feeling we might be watching a man have a breakdown rather than actually being possessed but this is cleared up in the second half as the supernatural side comes to the fore as a bunch of new characters arrive on the scene.
This gives Raimi the chance to head back into splatter territory but rather than the grim and grimy, DIY feel of the original this is a far more brightly lit and technicolour version that continues the thread of knock about comedy, though keeps a nice level of gruesomeness to it as well.
Throughout the film there’s a far great use of special effects reaching a, for the time and budget, genuinely spectacular climax, but again Raimi shows he know how to use the camera to get some great effects too with both over cranked and reverse shot sections keeping a similar off balance feel to the first film.
While he was the de facto hero of the first Campbell’s Ash grows into an almost full on action hero here developing to comic book like proportions through an excellent ‘tooling up’ sequence that has been imitated many times since.
His performance balances the comedic side of the film with the slightly more straight horror nicely, making Campbell the cult icon he remains today.
Certainly if it’s all out horror you want The Evil Dead remains the series’ highpoint but with Evil Dead 2 both Raimi and Campbell get to flex their filmmaking and acting muscles in a way that sees them move from aping others into creating their own style that is still their hallmark today while Evil Dead 2 remains a great fun romp of a movie with enough blood and guts for the gore hounds but something more for those who like things a little lighter.