Evil Dead 2 (1987) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 2

by Jovial Jay

If The Evil Dead scared you, then Evil Dead II will swallow your soul! You’ll be dead by dawn!

Sam Raimi returns to the horror franchise that started his career with Evil Dead II, sometimes subtitled “Dead by Dawn.” It’s the further adventures of everyman-Ash in his fight against the deadites of the Evil Dead!

Before Viewing

The trailer makes sure that you understand there was another film called The Evil Dead which came out four years previous. Now Ash and a new group of friends have returned to the haunted cabin in the woods. There’s still the strange floating camera effect. And this time there are headless zombies, monsters under the floorboards whose eyes pop out into other people’s mouths, and all sorts of other craziness! It’s part sequel and part reimagining the original film. But it’s all Evil Dead II – Dead By Dawn!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

Evil Dead 2

Evil Dead II title card.

After Viewing

Evil Dead II starts with a brief re-introduction as to what the Book of the Dead is. Then Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) drive up to a cabin in the woods. There they find a tape recorder and message left by Professor Knowby, explaining that reading passages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis will unleash demons into the world. Linda becomes possessed and Ash must cut her head off with a shovel to stop her. At dawn the next morning, Ash is possessed by an unseen force and hurtled through the woods, crashing into a puddle of water. Fortunately the sun rises, freeing him from the demon.

As the sun sets again, Linda’s decapitated corpse comes back to life and dances across the hillside. Ash takes her severed head and puts it in a vice after it bites him, using a chainsaw (brought in by the headless body) to destroy the head. Elsewhere, Professor Knowby’s daughter Annie (Sarah Berry) returns to the states with additional missing pages from the Necronomicon. She meets up with her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier) and they head out to the cabin. When they cannot get past the destroyed bridge, two locals, Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley) offer to escort them via a trail.

When they arrive at the cabin, Ash has gone off his rocker having cut off his possessed hand, and the four of them have to subdue him, putting him in the cellar. Annie listens to more of her father’s message and they realize her mother, Henrietta (Ted Raimi), was possessed and he had to bury her in the fruit cellar! They manage to get Ash out before the decayed and bloated corpse can get him. Ed is soon turned and Ash has to kill him. Bobby Joe runs away in fear and is attacked by vines and tree branches, that drag her to her death.

Evil Dead 2

Ash goes toe-to-toe with demonic spirits at the cabin in the woods.

Annie discovers that reading the lost pages of the book will allow the demon to manifest physically, before a time portal will open sending the demon back into the distant past. Jake is dragged into the cellar and consumed in a fountain of blood by Henrietta. Ash realizes he too must go back into the cellar to retrieve some of the pages of the book. Annie helps equip him with a chainsaw grafted onto his stump, and he heads in. He manages to get the pages, and kills a mutated Henrietta in the process.

Annie reads the remaining pages of the book as the manifestation of the evil attacks the cabin, stabbing her with tree branches. She completes the ritual and a vortex opens sucking the evil demon into a whirlwind. Unfortunately, Ash (along with his Oldsmobile Delta 88) gets sucked through as well. In 1300 A.D., Ash is mistaken as a deadite by a group of knights, but pulls out his sawed-off shotgun and blasts a flying harpy, earning the knights respect. They hail his heroism, but all he can do is repeat the word “No” over and over!

There’s something out there. That… that witch in the cellar is only part of it. It lives… out in those woods, in the dark… something… something that’s come back from the dead.” – Ash

Director Sam Raimi takes the lessons he learned making the original Evil Dead, and turns it up to eleven! Billed as a sequel, but opening as a reimagining of the first film can leave some casual viewers confused. The first 7 minutes of the film are basically a recap of what viewers may have missed from The Evil Dead, except that Raimi and company were unable to use footage from the original film. So, they reshot it – and reimagined it a bit. This video interview with Bruce Campbell explains the connection and continuity quite well. The cliffhanger of part one, segue’s directly into the shot of Ash being blasted into the woods by the demon.

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With a chainsaw for a hand, Ash is ready to kick some butt!

After that, the film goes bigger and broader than its predecessor. More blood, more gore, and more humor. Raimi alternates between broad physical comedy, which Campbell pulls off amazingly well, and shocking horror. An example includes Ash chasing his disembodied hand around the cabin with a shotgun (it flips him off when he misses), or geysers of blood erupting from the walls, hosing the hero down.

The film approaches parody and meta-fiction, which is the media giving the viewer a wink, acknowledging that it’s aware that it’s a movie, with some of the scenes. Raimi lets Campbell shine with his over-the-top performance fighting with his hand or with his doppelgänger. As with Candyman, a mirror in this film speaks to the nature of duality and self. During a fight, a mirror creates a copy of Ash, which is able to reach out of the glass to strangle the hero. While shocking in the context of the film (as a jump scare), it’s actually pretty hilarious. Campbell’s facial features appear much more suited to a comedy, than a horror film.

All in all the film is funnier than the previous Evil Dead film, and maybe not quite as scary. It’s definitely turned into a cult classic film, spawning a third film, Army of Darkness, in which Ash must battle the deadite’s in medieval times, as well as a TV series called Ash vs. The Evil Dead. As I had mentioned in my previous look at The Evil Dead, this is the preferred version of the film to see, as it is a sequel that definitely tops the original.

Evil Dead 2

In the background, Freddy Krueger’s glove hangs on the wall, a nod to “The Evil Dead” having appeared  in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Assorted Musings

  • When Ash enters the basement to retrieve the missing pages of the Necronomicon, Freddy Krueger’s glove can be seen hanging on the wall; a nod to the inclusion of The Evil Dead in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Anyone interested a great documentary about the film should check out Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II (2011). It has some great interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the filming, including a scene with Bruce Campbell stuck to the floor of the set – due to excessive amounts of fake blood holding him down.

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