‘Evil Dead II’ – Sam Raimi’s Manic Horror-Comedy Masterpiece
For all intents and purposes Evil Dead II is a direct remake of the original The Evil Dead. The story is the same, the setting is the same and it even features Bruce Campbell as Ash in a repeat performance. In fact, I even considered posting the same review from the first film. So what’s the big idea about this film? Why does it stand out against the original which is a great film in the first place? Well, that is what I am here to tell you.
Do you remember I said that the first Evil Dead was like a forest fire and that if you get in its way you’ll be left trampled underfoot and burned to a crisp? Well, it’s not like that at all with Evil Dead II. It’s more like there are two forest fires, one on your left and one on your right and they are coming at you with all the speed and flame that they can muster. You run straight ahead but there’s a train coming. You turn around to run the other way and BEEP! HONK! you get SPLATTERED by a semi! Yeah, that’s why Evil Dead II is even better than the first.
With ‘Evil Dead II’, maverick director Sam Raimi cranked every element of his gory debut to delirious new heights, resulting in an audacious, manic horror-comedy bursting with creativity. While technically a remake, Raimi injects the familiar cabin-in-the-woods premise with an insane new energy.
When Ash and girlfriend Linda take a romantic retreat, they inadvertently unleash evil spirits once again. Linda becomes a cackling Deadite, while Ash fights for his sanity and limbs as demonic travelers stop by the cursed cabin. With his girlfriend and new guests dead and demonized, Ash engages in slapstick battle using not just his wits but his now-iconic chainsaw-hand.
Raimi builds on the original’s gonzo kinetic style, pulling off playfully inventive camera moves like strapping it to a plank of wood to simulate a crazed rush through the woods. Bruce Campbell delivers a legendary physical comedy performance, eliciting laughs between the jump scares. Raimi balances genuine terror with outlandish Three Stooges-esque hijinks, creating a wholly unique horror hybrid.
From the stop-motion Sumerian demon to Ash’s hallucinatory meltdown, Raimi packs the film with memorable sequences exhibiting his creative chops. Made for just $3.5 million, it set the benchmark for what visionary filmmaking can achieve on a shoestring budget.
Endlessly imitated but never matched, the relentless imagination of ‘Evil Dead II’ shows Raimi’s genius firing on all cylinders. Three decades later, it retains its maverick magic.
One of the books on the can that traps Ash’s possessed hand is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms“.
The recap of The Evil Dead includes a shot where the “evil force” runs through the cabin and rams into Ash. When this shot was filmed, Bruce Campbell suffered a broken jaw when Sam Raimi (who was operating the camera) crashed into him with a bicycle. Or so people were led to believe. This was a story concocted by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as a gag to see how many people would believe it actually happened.
During the scene where the severed head of Ash’s girlfriend bites his hand, and before embarking for the tool shed, Bruce Campbell says the single line “work shed”. This line was later re-dubbed in post-production do to the quality of the audio, giving it a strange, slightly “disproportionate” sound to the audio. Nine years later, while filming his cameo in Escape from L.A., the first thing Kurt Russell said to Bruce Campbell on the set was, jokingly, “say ‘work shed’”.