Evil Dead and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn loom far too large in my horror cinephile mind for any sort of casual blog treatment. Nonetheless, I will attempt to make a brief case for the ingenious awesomeness of the Sam Raimi classics bearing the Evil Dead name.
Working from the most banal of scary movie plots, a trip to a cabin that goes demonically wrong, Raimi crafts a franchise that would go on to spawn a true sequel and perhaps the greatest horror hero of all time: Ash Williams.
From this purposefully trite storyline comes both a unique hero and an odd pair of films; resulting in a struggle between the two Evil Dead films to reconcile their genre gap. The original 1981 film is a more traditional horror/suspense film, making a sincere effort to deliver a jump out of your seat experience.
However Evil Dead II “ain’t no freaking sequel” and instead steps up as a horror comedy. It also features the inception of Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, as not only a survivor but a hero.
Rather than bore you with an exhaustive review of each film, and since each are worth watching on their own and in their own merit, I will simply list a few of the reasons why each Evil Dead instalment stands out.
- gritty old school camera work
- young Bruce Campbell
- unnecessarily polite dialogue
- old school stop motion and killer make up/effects
- tree rape
- a dark ending.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
- creative and energetic camera work
- crazy Bruce Campbell
- unnecessarily awesome dialogue (including the birth of ‘chainsaw’ and ‘groovy’)
- unnecessarily large amounts of blood
- tree rape reprise
- a totally unexpected ending.
The differences between the two Evil Dead films are especially jarring if you watch them back to back, so many still confuse Evil Dead II for a remake. In fact, Raimi could not obtain the rights to show scenes from the original Evil Dead, so they recreated some of the beginning to explain how Ash got to the cabin. Given the completely different tonality of the films, it does seem as though Raimi was doing a second take. However Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a true sequel and segue into the third (and massively more successful) movie: Army of Darkness – but that’s a movie for another discussion.
What’s most interesting about these films is just how much people love them. Nevermind movie screenings; I’ve been to the musical to witness the fandom first hand. I mean, people REALLY love this movie! Even Stephen King was so much a fan of the original, that he played a hand in convincing Dino De Laurentis to finance Evil Dead II.
I personally consider the Evil Dead movies to be among the most memorable horror films of my youth because of what they stand for: a testament to the film student turned director, to simple yet effective camera treatments and to the potency of skilled acting.
Evil Dead and Evil Dead II are also charming and confusing chapters of twice re-written demonic possession that have spawned video games, toys, musicals, a third movie, and just to make things more confusing – a true Evil Dead remake in 2013.
But be sure to check out the originals first!