Here we are with the absolute classic follow up to the absolute classic that was Sam Raimi's classic The Evil Dead...absolutely. Evil Dead 2 (sometimes subtitled Dead by Dawn) which was written and directed by Sam Raimi and co written by his old buddy Scott Spiegel was released in cinemas in late 1987. Upon release it was seen as little more than a cult film, but I think people generally agree that it's grown into much more than that over the years and is `officially' (probably) a real quality, classic and original film.
At its heart it is essentially a `remake' of the first film with a bigger budget, the first Evil Dead (Raimi's debut `proper' film), released in the early eighties was made on an extremely low budget for that kind of squelchy, horror nonsense. The film starts off with our `hero' Ashley Williams (played by the king of B movies Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda driving out to a remote cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway. Things soon turn, um, `undead-ish' however, when they play an old recording of passages read aloud from the book of the dead, this `kills' the romantic bit and they soon just want to getaway! This awakes an unknown, evil presence in the woods, something that's never-quite-seen (until the epic conclusion of the film that is). This leads to the following 90 minutes of gory, cartoon splatter!
Upon release there was a fair bit of confusion regarding the beginning of the film. The sequence in which Ash and Linda drive out to the cabin and play the tape was actually more of a `recap' from the first film to bring us up to speed (apparently, due to copyright and ownership, sequences from the first film weren't allowed to be used for the beginning of Evil Dead 2 at the time). Some people weren't sure why Ash would bring `another' Linda back to the cabin he barely escaped from in the original, and while Ash isn't exactly portrayed as the brightest of characters I'm sure he's not quite stupid enough to go back and spend another weekend in that horror hideaway, no matter how cheap it is to rent!
Evil Dead 2 starts `properly' with the sequence where Ash is forced through the forest by the evil....'force'...thing, which directly follows the first film's ending (the last shot of the original Evil Dead is of the force...thingy...smashing through the cabin and slamming into Campbell's screaming face). Ash is flung through the air and crashes into a giant tree, after slamming to the ground and into a sizeable puddle; he emerges temporarily possessed by the evil force. Night is driven away as the sun comes up and Ash reverts to his former self only to pass out again. When he awakens, we realize he's slept through the entire day and there follows a mad dash back to the cabin to escape the newly awakened force.....thingy.
One of the great things about Evil Dead 2 is that from this point it never lets up! Ash is literally flung from one terrible event to the next for the rest of the film with barely a moment to recover from the last scene. Some of the highlights include a show down with his half buried, headless girlfriend (which he has to hack up at the end of the first movie), an elaborate sequence in which Campbell - proving he's the world's greatest actor (unofficially) - battles his own possessed hand....then lops it of with a chainsaw and the climactic battle with Henrietta, the `witch in the cellar'.
The fully `zombied up' Henrietta is played by Sam Raimi's younger brother Ted, who, along with Raimi's car (a delta '73 oldsmobile) has appeared in numerous Raimi films including Drag me to Hell and the Spider-man trilogy.
The brilliant, over the top special effects were created by (the then `up and coming') KNB group comprising of Greg Nicotero, Howerd Berger and Robert Kurtzman, who've gone on to do practically every special effect in every film since (including Land of the dead, Ghost Ship, 13 Ghosts and even Kill Bill vol1). An interesting fact (or not) is that the blood colour was changed from red for the most part to either green, black or at one point yellow in an effort to avoid the film being `unrated', which would've limited distribution and screenings at certain cinemas. This also adds to the overall comic book or `cartoony' look, much in the same way the famous `crushed crayon' red blood did for the original Dawn of the Dead (ahh, another classic).
While we're on facts that might be interesting but probably aren't, cabin in Evil Dead 2 was all a set, recreated in the gymnasium of a local school. The `actual' cabin burned down shortly after filming of the first movie was completed...so, there you go! Not wanting to spoil the (presumably black) magic, but if you look closely during the scene in which Ash is chased through the cabin at the beginning, the shots are angled a little too high and you can actually see where the set ends, but you have to be a `special' kind of nerd to have spotted that....um.......
5 severed hands out of 5