Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn Review

Told with a low budget, the first movie was a horror masterpiece that had already garnered a huge cult following four years later when the sequel was commissioned. Maintaining the original director Sam Raimi and the original star Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn strangely replaced the original's gory shock abundance with absurd horror slapstick! The Evil Dead fan-base has inevitably been split into two camps as a result, with endless convention debates raging as to whether the first movie's serious horror or the second movie's visual humour is better. The debate still continues, although for the record the sequel's sharp left turn into comedy isn't as silly as it sounds, and the result is one of the most inspired movies of the late twentieth century, and an effort that certainly betters the original.

Although often mistaken as a remake due to the imitation opening, Evil Dead 2 is as much of a deviation from the original as the material allows. After finding himself the apparent sole survivor of the first film, dim-witted Ash (Bruce Campbell) returns for a romantic break to the same evil-infested woods with his girlfriend. Why he would do this is anyone's guess, but upon reaching the woods he soon enough discovers an old, empty, creaky house with tape recordings of a Professor's journal. Listening to the tapes, Ash discovers that they contain the Professor recounting magic spells, and before he has time to act the tapes have initiated an evil spell onto the surrounding woods. Obviously, the woods embark upon terrorising Ash and his girlfriend, and before long serious carnage ensues. To make matters worse, the professor's children have journeyed to the house to attempt to trace their father, and their presence causes a tremendous impact on the gore factor.

However, even though this is Evil Dead 2 and this is horror, the last thing that anyone should worry about is the plot. It is fairly conclusive that director Sam Raimi picked up invaluable experience after the first movie, and the second film contains some of the flashiest and most innovative touches to ever grace the decade of the eighties. The first forty-five minutes could have been a stand-alone film in their own right. They have a manic energy, combining slapstick Three Stooges humour with excessive horrific gore. Although never venturing into scary territory in the same sense as The Exorcist or The Omen, Evil Dead 2 instead finds itself in the category of hysterical comedy on a par with Airplane! or The Graduate. On paper, the script must have been very scary to read, but the slapstick sensibility of director Sam Raimi and the flawless portrayal of Ash by Bruce Campbell ensures that laughter outweighs the fear factor in nearly every sequence. This humourous approach is entirely intended, unlike certain so-bad-they're-funny movies who take themselves too seriously. Take for instance, the sequence when Ash's right hand becomes possessed and starts attacking the rest of his body - a long drawn out battle occurs which results in Ash chain-sawing off his own demonic hand, and trapping it under a bucket held down by 'A Farewell To Arms'! Or what about that legendary scene in which a Deadite's head is caught in a trapdoor, thus squeezing/firing out one of its eyeballs into a nearby girl's throat! The first half of the movie is full to the brim with scenes such as these, although the inevitable plot denouement slows the pacing down a little in the second half.

Endlessly imitated, Evil Dead 2 is a triumph of stop-motion effects, and even pays homage to films such as Taxi Driver or Jason And The Argonauts. It is heavily indulgent in visual horror, and a small portion of the horror audience is turned off by the alleged 'sick' black humour. To argue against that criticism, the film is if anything, a ruthless and satirical self parody of the first movie, and on an entertainment scale Evil Dead 2 is a riotous and hysterical take on a genre that clearly needed refreshing. Quite simply, Evil Dead 2 is one of the ten best films of the nineteen eighties.

Although presented correctly at 1.85:1 and given the anamorphic treatment, the picture quality is disappointing and inconsistent. At times, the visual transfer appears clear as if given a new lease of life, and at other times the picture is gloomy, extremely grainy and detrimental to the presentation. Even so, the picture still champions over the laserdisc version.

Although presented in a Dolby 5.1 mix, the sound, much like the picture quality, is also disappointing. The effects are given the full surround treatment, and this perfectly complements some scenes in particular. Unfortunately, the dialogue track doesn't appear to have been remastered, and never escapes the tinny, mono confines it was originally recorded in.


Commentary With Sam Raimi, Robert Tapell, Bruce Campbell, Greg Nicotero: Taken from the laserdisc version, The commentary is very funny with the main elements of the cast and crew spending the movie's running time mocking the entire plot and delighting in revealing funny anecdotes. All of the men involved appear to be heavily endowed with a sense of humour, and the commentary doesn't feel like it has run its duration when the film is ended. Nicotero appears much more infrequently compared to his colleagues, and his contribution appears at first guess to have been recorded separately, though this doesn't detract proceedings at all. Bruce Campbell gives much indication that he was heavily involved in the production, unlike most lead actors of today, and a funny story involving Holly Hunter is also revealed. This is much better than the separate commentaries given on the first Evil Dead movie, as Campbell rises to the occasion when provided with company.

The Gore The Merrier: Making Of Evil Dead 2: A Thirty two minute documentary hosted by Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero which contains retrospective interviews with the three effects wizards of the film (Also of From Dusk Till Dawn fame) spliced with home video footage captured by Nicotero during the making of the film. A fun and fascinating documentary that clearly depicts the amount of enjoyment felt by everyone in the project, and also contains some deleted scenes from the movie in their only surviving versions. What is useful is that both the commentary and the making of work in unison in that they never repeat the same material, thus never giving a sense of repetition to the audience.

Trailer: Perhaps sensibly, the marketing department of Evil Dead 2 capitalised on the horror elements and negated to mention any of the slapstick elements, possibly fearing alienation of its large and ever-growing fan-base.

Evil Dead 2 is both the funniest horror movie ever made and the scariest comedy ever made, and is light years ahead of the original. The picture and sound quality should have been improved, but the extras are exceptional and concentrate on quality and not quantity. Evil Dead 2 is a must buy for any serious cinema, comedy or horror lover.

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