In 1983, Sam Raimi & Co. finally saw their flagship creation get a domestic release. The film, The Evil Dead, would go on to achieve huge praise and a massive cult following. It was filmed in 1979 and 1980, and sat in a limbo for a while before getting its official release, and would eventually be tagged as a Video Nasty by the British government. In 1987, the filmmakers and star Bruce Campbell would release a sequel to the film, which played more as a remake due to a couple factors including rights issues. The sequel is often heralded as superior to the original, but they both serve as important entries in the horror pantheon.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn was released in March 1987. It told a very similar story to the first one: Ashley J. Williams and his girlfriend head to a secluded cabin in the woods with the intent of having a weekend away, only to summon demons with the Necronomicon, a book bound in human flesh and inked in blood, and ultimately meet their demise. In the sequel, however, there is an added aspect of historical context to the book that was absent from the first. The book was being studied by Professor Raymond Knowby and subsequently read into a tape recorder. The recording is played back by Ash’s girlfriend, which summons the demons to the cabin. Knowby’s daughter, Annie, makes her way to the cabin in time to contribute to the ultimate showdown between Ash and the demons.
This film differs greatly from the original in tone. The Evil Dead was an earnest horror film with frightening elements that was made on a shoestring budget by rookie filmmakers. Evil Dead 2 added just as much humor to the horror. Bruce Campbell showcases brilliant physical slapstick humor in his performance with very little dialogue. The comedy and horror mix perfectly with the effects by Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger who would go on to form KNB EFX Group, famously contributing to The Walking Dead, films of Quentin Tarantino, and countless other projects. The effects department on this film really go above and beyond in creating some classic moments in horror cinema: Ash’s possessed hand wreaking havoc, an eyeball shooting across the room, the crazy possessed deadites, the giant final tree-monster-thing that sucks Ash into another dimension, and the list goes on and on.
Evil Dead 2 is a timeless classic and it is extremely entertaining, both for die-hard horror fans and for anybody looking for a well-made comic spectacle. The stories behind the making of the film are equally entertaining; the passion that the filmmakers had and the effort and talent put into the project are perfectly on display. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this film in the thirty years since its release, by all means, see it now. You are in for a treat. Happy 30th!
Check out the trailer here.