In recent years, I’ve tended to steer away from the horror genre altogether. The sheer abundance of predictable narratives and worn-out tropes within most modern horror blockbusters has saturated the genre. Some of 2023’s most anticipated horror releases such as The Pope’s Exorcist and Renfield have only proven this point.
Occasionally, my faith will be restored: Talk to Me, released this past July, proved that some filmmakers are still willing to take narrative risks and toy with the audience’s expectations.
Naturally, the opportunity to watch Evil Dead II for the first time on the big screen was intriguing.
Since its release in 1987, the film has developed a cult following. Much to my surprise, for the limited re-release of a film made nearly four decades ago, the theatre was practically sold out; a sign of the excitement that awaited.
Written and directed by Sam Raimi (who would later go on to helm the excellent Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy), Evil Dead II follows Ash (Bruce Campbell) who takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) to an abandoned cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway. Unbeknownst to Ash, this cabin had previously been owned by a professor researching a demonic book. Upon discovering the book, Ash unknowingly releases a terrifying entity that quickly ruins his vacation plans.
Yes, I know. On paper this sounds like an extremely basic and predictable film, but don’t let the plot description fool you; Evil Dead II is an unhinged roller-coaster that will leave you grinning from ear to ear.
The title might elicit confusion—the film is not a sequel but rather a remake.
Raimi had previously directed The Evil Dead in 1981 for a measly budget of $350,000 when he was only 21-years-old. A few years later, Raimi wanted to direct a followup but was unable to reserve the rights to his own film. Instead, he decided to remake the original but with a much larger budget. And it shows: Evil Dead II is the definitive version of Raimi’s strange vision.
The primary difference between both films is the tone; the remake perfectly blends horror and comedy in unexpected ways. Bruce Campbell, in his portrayal of protagonist Ash, steals each and every scene. I found myself struggling to peel my eyes away from his twisted and contorted facial expressions.
Campbell gives an extremely committed and well-realized performance that stands the test of time and will forever cement Ash Williams as a horror icon. This time around, Campbell demonstrates his exceptional physical comedy chops that rival the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
The comedic highlight is a scene involving a rogue hand and the smashing of kitchen appliances that had the entire theatre in tears.
On a technical level, Evil Dead II is masterfully shot. Cinematographer Peter Deming (future David Lynch collaborator) creates some of the most jaw-dropping and visually imaginative shots seen in any horror film. Deming and Raimi’s flawless execution will never cease to stump avid film buffs.
As the film nears its 40-year-anniversary of release, Evil Dead II continues to prove its longevity and relevance. Having spawned countless sequels and reboots all varying in quality, Raimi’s second attempt has yet to be topped due to its wide appeal. Horror fans will be pleased with the film’s stellar practical effects and cartoonish violence, whereas those less versed in the genre (much like myself) can appreciate its comedic tone and visually dazzling production.
Whether you’ve seen it or not, Evil Dead II is the perfect film to watch as we approach the end of October.