arlier this month I watched and reviewed The Evil Dead. As you know, I loved it! My one complaint was that Ash wasn't who we all know him to be. Thankfully the sequel fixes all that. So let's talk about...
Evil Dead II (1987)
Before I start, let me clear something up that I didn't know until recently. This movie is not a remake of the first one. The first 15 minutes or so is a recap of the original movie. They couldn't get the rights to the original footage so they had Ash and Linda go through the major beats of the first one and the movie actually begins where the first one ended, with the unseen evil sending Ash flying through the woods. As for what happened to the crew from the original, well, they were an economic casualty.
Right off the bat, this Ash is way different from the Ash from the original. Like I mentioned in a previous review, Ash Prime spends most of the fight scenes under a bookcase that he was flung into. But thankfully this movie makes Ash "Cinema's Greatest Hero" early. While he's not as arrogant as Army of Darkness Ash or as clueless as "Ash vs. Evil Dead" Ash, it's a lot of fun because you see bits and pieces of what the character would become in the future. Plus you get Ash uttering the iconic "Groovy" for the first time!
After watching the original and then this one, the first thing you may notice is it looks much better. You can definitely see the bigger budget at play in this one. For me personally, I think I enjoyed the gritty look of the original more, it felt more real, like we were watching this actually happening. With that said, I think that's the only thing I liked more about the original.
In Evil Dead II, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell seem to have hit their stride. You can see a lot of the things that Raimi is known for done very well in this movie. The POV chase shots, the weird camera angles and of course, the gratuitous gore shots that are so bloody it's cartoonish. It's hilarious how often Ash gets doused in the stuff.
Let's talk about the story, after finishing off his Deadite girlfriend, the evil presence isn't giving Ash a break. Ash is doing his best but he's clearly losing his mind and before he gets some unexpected human visitors, they make it painfully obvious he's gone mad. There's a surreal scene where he joins every inanimate object in the room that's laughing at him after he falls through a chair. It's so weird at first when the deer head starts cracking up, but as more objects join in, Ash, and you the viewer, just go along with it.
I mentioned this when I reviewed Evil Dead. While the original is a very good movie, it's a straight up horror movie. This one is a lot more slapstick and goofy and I think it's better for it. It's definitely a horror movie, but for the most part the best bits of timing lead to laughs and not scares and when you have a lead like Bruce Campbell, the blending of horror and comedy is the perfect vehicle for him.
And that brings me to what I really want to discuss, the best part of the movie. At one point, as Ash describes it in Army of Darkness, "It got into my hand and it went bad." What happens next is the best physical acting you'll ever see. It's just an absolutely insane fight scene of a man battling his own hand. It's so incredibly done and a joy to watch. It's just a hand but the damn thing emotes! Bruce Campbell makes you believe his own hand is evil and you get completely lost in that fight scene. To make the whole thing even better, the entire fight was improvised by Bruce Campbell! Not only that, what you see was the first take! I'm sure people could make arguments for silent movie-era actors, but I'm going to say it anyway, I don't think there's a better physical actor than Bruce Campbell. That fight scene is perfection and well worth the price of admission.Plus, how he deals with the hand and how it responds leads to one of the funniest moments in the movie.
Out of the trilogy, easily my favorite is Army of Darkness, but Evil Dead II is the best one. It mixes horror and comedy so seamlessly that even non horror fans can enjoy it. Plus, the gore isn't designed to gross you out, there's always so much of it, too much to be possible, that it can't be anything other than funny. I say it a lot, but I'm so sad Bruce Campbell has hung up the chainsaw. I can understand, Ash is a very demanding role, but the world is a better place when Ash Williams is saving us from evil.