Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn [retro review]

revil2“Swallow this.”

The Scoop: 1987 R, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Sarah Berry

Tagline: Kiss Your Nerves Good-Bye!

Summary Capsule: Ash, the classic anti-hero stud, must once again do battle with the weird and evil dead.

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Kym’s Rating: Three out of three custom-made hand chainsaws

Kym’s Review: Once again, Bruce Campbell gives another wonderful performance as Ash, the epitome of manliness. This movie is actually a prequel to Army of Darkness, and lets you see why exactly Ash only has one hand (Did anyone ever read Clive Barker’s “The Body Politic”?) and why he was sucked back into the fourteenth century.

While the effects are cheesy and pretty gory (I’m pretty sure that I’ve only seen one other movie with this much blood in it), if you forget about that thing called logic and just take it as a hysterically funny B-movie, you’re sure to enjoy it. I loved the part were Ash was fighting with his own hand (just watch the movie) and where his dead, decapitated girlfriend starts dancing. Also, another wonderful scence is when ever inanimate object in the house starts laughing at Ash. What an evil-looking deer head!

Included are the one-liners that makes Ash what he is and a few well-placed clever references, if you watch carefully enough (check out the book that Ash places on top of the bucket). Rent this one, forget any restraints of the real world, and enjoy it.

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Justin’s Rating: Fire your travel agent

Justin’s Review: Evil Dead 2 is like the Empire Strikes Back of the Evil Dead trilogy. Die-hard fans are most fond of this installment (although I lean slightly more toward Army of Darkness), pleased with the dark humor and delicious parody of the first Evil Dead in specific and horror movies in general. Mm-mmm! Parodies are great with a bit of salt and tabasco sauce!

Why is Evil Dead 2 held in such high regard? Well, for one thing director Sam Raimi has our family at chainsaw-point and keeps tormenting us with answering machine messages. I… I don’t know how to go on… one day at a time, Justin, one day at a time.

But there’s also the fact that ED2 recognizes that horror and humor go hand in hand, that shrieks of fear can turn into laughter, that I can loose my bladder at the sight of a decapitated head or the hijinks of a bad pun. Our hero Ash is equal parts stupid, street-smart, and remote control-grabbing guy. Trapped in a haunted cabin in the woods where his dead girlfriend has come back to life, his hand infected with pure evil, something in the cellar trying to get out, and rednecks mistaking HIM for the bad guy… well, Ash realizes that all you can do is laugh. And then chop off your hand, attach a chainsaw, and blow evil to bits with a 12-gauge.

It’s hard to accurately relate how strangely funny this movie is. It’s a sendup of many other generic horror setups, sure, but ED2 is also a lot of stuff you’ve NEVER seen before. The good guys aren’t all that good at times (everyone gets a chance to play the bad guy in this flick, you might notice). There’s blood, lots of blood, so much blood that at points it is shooting through the wall in a geyser of multi-colored splendor. Evil has a wicked sense of humor, such as when the house comes alive laughing hysterically, with Ash joining in. And everything is shot in Sam Raimi’s classic Bizarro techniques, which brings out the surreal and humor for the whole family (My poor, poor family… when will I see them again? Last Christmas was so lonely! I sat there in front of the tree, which was bare because only my mother knows where the ornaments are kept. And I sipped eggnog, talking to myself and the four pillows I placed around the tree, pretending that they were Mom and Dad and Jared and Jordan. Santa delivered pain and sorrow that year, an aching lonliness of a Christmas where I gave myself a pack of new tube socks. I went out into the virgin snow of Christmas morn, shook my hands at the sky, and cried for justice and vengeance. Why vengeance would be personified in the form of a Scottish Terrier, I do not know, but I accepted it. I lept upon its back and the terrier took off, leaping and bounding its way to the magical fairy kingdom where my family awaited in a dank dungeon, protected by the very might and skill of Or, the Backhanding Knight. Oh, the battle with Or was fierce, and I lost my traveling companion to a particularly vicious slap which sent the dog into low earth orbit. But eventually Or succumbed, and I took his mystical Key, which opened the door to… my bedroom. So I still have no idea where my family is, and the police are now stating that Or was a “harmless hobo” and I have to appear for questioning. But more on that later.).

So the parasite that lives at the base of my neck and I both agree: You need to have “See Evil Dead 2” on your list of things to do before you die.

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Clare’s Rating: You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen this flick. Don’t argue with me about this. I know what I’m talking about.

Clare’s Review: I was going to do separate reviews for the 1st and 2nd Evil Dead movies until I rented them both and watched them back to back. I’ve seen the Evil Deads any number of (ok, over 70) times but never one right after the other. What I realized after all my many years of slobbering affectionately over these two gems is that the 2nd one isn’t actually a sequel to the first. It’s more of a bigger budget “revisiting” of the material that was put down in ED1.

Individually, ED1 and ED2:DBD are absolutely worth watching. This first one is more of a classic, gore fest, spooky house in the woods possessed by evil spirits kind of deal. The 2nd departs into more cartoony, slap sticky, over the top weirdness. However, if you watch them back to back, it’s really easy to follow how director Sam Raimi (and co-producer/star Bruce Campbell) went from the raw material of ED1 to the masterpiece that is ED2.

More importantly though, are the two reasons why these movies have garnered such a devoted and ravenous following. The first, and most important is Bruce Campbell, who has developed a gaggle of adoring dorks who love his every schmarmy, leading man move. (Please count me as, unapologetically, a card carrying member of said dork gaggle). The second is the revolutionary (and no, I’m not exaggerating) camera work. What I call “creeping evil cam” was, in 1982, MUCH harder and more technically difficult to pull off than it would be now with all our fancy new fangled stedi cams and digital short cuts. When I first saw Evil Dead (I’m afraid to admit exactly how many years ago that was), the creeping evil cam totally kicked my ass. When I watched it again recently, my ass was kicked yet again.

Mini-review of Evil Dead:

Ash, (which is short for the very manly Ashley – played by our hero, Bruce Campbell) and his friends drive to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of relaxation, a little lovin’ and some early 80’s style fashion accidents. Almost immediately upon their arrival, weird and frightening things begin to happen. Everyone, of course, decides to ignore all the obvious signs pointing to all the EVIL!!!!!! (thank you Hecubus) that surrounds them. People get sexually assaulted by trees, women scream, dead bodies come alive, much blood is spurt (or is it spurted?) and everybody dies… THE END

But wait. If everybody dies Clare, how can there be an Evil Dead 2? Well little MRFHy, let me explain. The last shot of ED is creeping evil cam speeding from the back yard of the cabin through all the rooms of the house out the front door and stopping, quite horrifyingly on Bruce Campbell’s turned, screaming-in-terror mug. The first 5 minutes of Dead by Dawn are actually a retelling of the entire 1st movie. Only this time, there’s not a group of folks going to the cabin for lovin’, there are two, Ash and his girlfriend. They get there, girlfriend dies, dances around with her decapitated head and Ash THEN gets attacked by creeping evil cam and is thrown, quite comedically, into a very large tree. He eventually comes to and the story goes from there.

Ten minutes in to ED2, it takes on a decidedly different tone from the horror/gore clichés found in the first one. I won’t ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t seen ED2:DBD by divulging too much more of what happens. What I really love about ED2 is that it’s the first (and last?) horror movie I’ve ever seen that addresses the psychological ramifications that horror movie carnage would actually have on someone who’s lived through it. In short, they’d go a little wacky in the head. Do yourself a favor. Arrange yourself on the sofa with a drink of your choosing, some warm slippers and a good friend. Turn off all the lights. Turn on Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Prepare to freak out.

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Toni’s Rating: 5 half-digested locks of hair. Groovy.

Toni’s Review: I am a shameful, shameful person. No really, I am. This blood drenched, manly uberfilm has been out for 14 years and I just watched it this weekend along with Clerks. Please don’t stone me. I assure you, the guilt I feel is only equaled by the pure giddiness I felt after watching Evil Dead 2 twice.

Ash, Our Hero ™, once again experiences a manly breakdown (oh yeah, he’s fine) as the bony headed evil dead terrorize half a dozen people in an isolated cabin. Boy, isolated cabins are -never- good, are they? Bruce Campbell kicks severed wrist in the role, proving that you don’t need seizures to make some really -cool- faces! I mean it. When I’m done here, I’m gonna go watch it again just for his “the power of low-budget fx editing compels you” face. That would be the one we see as he evicts the evil spirit from his body for the first time.

Speaking of the f/x… well… don’t expect ILM or anything but they’re still good and they fit the movie perfectly. The hand, the super evil, and the poor headless girlfriend stand out in my mind. But the thing I loved most was certainly the blood. They should have put it in the credits, there was so much. Okay, so it was kind of watery blood, but still! Look at it all! Nifty! Yay blood! I highly recommend Evil Dead 2 to anyone at all… except maybe my grandmother. She’d never go into the cellar again.

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Nancy’s Rating: Wahoo! Times two!

Nancy’s Review: I’ve only seen this one once, but it is definitely my favorite out of the three. The progression of these films is so amazing — one is straight-up zombie flick, and one is all hilarity in the world condensed in film form. The middle one is a horror movie, by all means, but it’s funny!

Things that I love:

  • Evil chases Ash. For a long time. Ash hides. Evil loses him. THIS IS ALL DONE THROUGH EVIL’S EYES!
  • Groovy.
  • No one seems to care that the plot from the first one is forgotten for the sake of easier story-telling.
  • Every time I see a tree limb, I think “Oh man, it’s happening again…”
  • Continuity errors rock my world. It’s like Bruce Campbell is saying to me “Look. You and I both know this is a movie, not real. And to make it fun for you, we’re going to forget the parts of the first movie that will make less wild zombie fun happen in this movie. And also, my chin… notice it.” I love the glorious celebration of the this-is-a-movie! Let’s-have-fun!
  • Did you notice this crazed mother f-er attaches a chainsaw to his hand? To be fair, no other can compare.

Now, let me get a little paragraph to everyone out there. This is not something you go to for sheer shriek factor or genius special effects. But you’re not going to mock a stupid horror movie, because it’s a completely different experience then that. It’s self-aware without winking at the camera for a cheap laugh. It’s got very strange and freaky elements that may indeed cause nightmares. However, these effects are countered by such elements as a chalk outline around where a chainsaw SHOULD be. The great thing is, you’re so wrapped up in genuine excitement and fear, that the laugh comes as such an intensely hilarious thing. It’s just a relief! And the greatest thing is, if you have any concept of what cool really is, you know that Bruce Campbell is it, through and through. So, your awesomeness points get raised for that day.

The chainsaw heard 'round the world

The chainsaw heard 'round the world

Intermission!

  • Ash puts the book “Farewell to Arms” on top of the bucket trapping his hand
  • Is anyone else confounded by the skull with eyes on the cover of the VHS tape?
  • A glove belonging to Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger can be seen hanging near the steps in one of the cellar scenes. This was in response to the use of Evil Dead on a television screen in Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Professor Knowby’s dead wife is said to be in the “fruit cellar,” a reference to Psycho
  • Ash’s chainsaw appears to switch hands in one scene. This is because Sam Raimi decided Ash should walk the opposite way across the room in that scene, so he flipped the negative.
  • When the plane lands, a guy on the right keeps trying to open the right part of the plane door, and can’t — for most of the scene!
  • Apparently, the reason Dead by Dawn retells (inaccurately) what happened in the 1st Evil Dead is because they couldn’t get permission to include footage from the 1st ED in the 2nd one. Since they had to reshoot it anyway, they decided to just change a whole bunch of stuff to make it easier to explain how Ash could go back into the cabin and not find the dismembered bodies of all his friends who were left there at the end of ED1. (good heavens I’m a nerd!)

Groovy Quotes

Ash: Let’s go down into that cellar and carve ourselves a witch.

Ash: [whistles to monster] Let’s go!

Ash [to mirror]: I’m fine. I’m fine.
Mirror Ash: We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. I wouldn’t call that *fine*.

Annie: The first passage will allow the demon to manifest itself in the flesh.
Ash: Why the hell would we want to do that?

Ash: You’re goin’ down. Chainsaw.

Demon: I’ll swallow your soul!! I’ll swallow your soul!!
[Ash points his shotgun at the Demon’s head]
Ash: Swallow this.

Ash: [after stabbing his bad hand] Who’s laughing now?

Ash: Groovy.

Ash: What’s this?
Girl: Legend has it that in the 13th century a hero from the sky came to rescue them from the evil Deadites.
Ash: Well, he didn’t do a very good job.

If you liked this movie, try these:

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