Bruce Campbell is genius in Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead II’

[rating=4]Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Denise Bixler
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Writer(s): Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel

Bruce Campbell returns in this remake/sequel, 'Evil Dead II'
Bruce Campbell returns in this remake/sequel, ‘Evil Dead II’

The “King of B-Movies”, Bruce Campbell, returns in this half-sequel/half-remake of The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi returns as director and co-writer, Rob Tapert reprises his producing duties, and Campbell joins the behind-the-scenes crew in this film as co-producer.

How can a film be both a remake and a sequel, you ask? Well, Evil Dead II was originally intended to be a straight sequel to the original, but when Raimi was unable to secure the rights to footage from the first film, he attempted a quick and simple re-hash of what went down previously. So, the five original characters became just Ash and Linda… Linda is played by a completely different actress (Denise Bixler)… and the 80-plus minutes of the first film are condensed into about the first 15-20 minutes here.

Obviously, condensing the first film down by a factor of four will change some major elements of the basic storyline. The biggest: after Linda is possessed, decapitated, and buried, she manages to come back and bite Ash’s hand. Our lovable loser eventually does his old lover in with a chainsaw, but the damage is done – he’s been infected with evil. This is where the fun begins.

Before the other characters arrive, we are treated to perhaps Bruce’s best on-screen work until Bubba Ho-Tep. Campbell has this uncanny knack to pull off scenes when there are no other actors around: just the camera, and Bruce kicking his own butt.

The now-infected hand begins to take on a mind of its own and proceeds to do a number on poor Ash. From plates over the head to being dragged across the floor, the evil limb seems to beat our hero up single-handedly… until Ash does what any one of you would do in the same situation.


Remember that chainsaw? That’s right, folks, Ash lops his evil hand off at the wrist before his entire body is afflicted by the “Force”.

After a strange scene where everything in the cabin begins laughing at Ash, the other characters arrive at the cabin. I won’t go into too much detail with them for the simple reason that three out of the four are essentially meaningless. Annie (Sarah Berry) is the semi-important one as she holds the pages of the Necronomicon required to rid the world of this evil entity. All she has to do is read the proper passages and everything will live happily ever after!

You know it’s not going to be that easy!

Here’s where it gets dicey: there are two passages which must be read. The first allows the evil to manifest itself “in the flesh” and the second opens up a portal in the space-time continuum in which this evil is sucked through. If you remember from the first film, Ash is not your typical Harvard graduate: He’s an hourly worker at S-Mart… and lucky to have that quite frankly! So, things aren’t likely to go as they are planned.

Outlandish? Yes. Believable? Not really. Fun? You better believe it!

One of the great things about this film is that you won’t be lost if you haven’t seen the first film. Raimi provides an excellent prologue here which quickly describes the history of the Necronomicon and its potential powers. It is this brief history lesson which serves as the basis for this film, as well as its sequel.

Gore-wise, Evil Dead II is more than adequate. If not for creative finagling by Raimi and his crack FX staff, this surely would have had the dreaded X-rating. So, keep an eye on the massive amounts of blood — it’s not all that traditional red. The blood here comes in almost every color possible: blue, black, yellow, pink, green… you name it. As it turns out, Raimi decided not to even turn the film over to the MPAA, and it was released unrated.

Sam and Bruce also make it obvious that they loved (and still love) The Three Stooges. Look for a classic Stooge moment turned Raimi-esque involving a Deadite, a screaming woman, and an eyeball.

And what can I say about Bruce Campbell that hasn’t been said before? The man constantly goes unrecognized as a genius. Sure, may not be the best actor in Hollywood. He might not even be in most people’s top 100. But in every single film he has ever been in, he gives his all to the role. 120% every single time. In this movie alone, this man lied face-down in a disgusting, muddy, and cold puddle of water for 20 straight seconds without a cut while his face was literally encased in prosthetics.

And we can only imagine how many times Raimi, Campbell’s long-time buddy, made him re-shoot the scene!

Without question, the original film was definitely a pure horror film. It was raw, creepy, darkly humorous, and downright relentless. Evil Dead II has its creepy moment for sure, but it adds in equal parts of dark humor as well as those quotable one-liners that Campbell performs flawlessly. The third installment in the series is entitled Army of Darkness. It picks up where Evil Dead II leaves off, but is more of a fantasy-comedy than horror. In fact, it’s not scary at all. Army of Darkness is a cult classic renowned as the one-liner king of all movies.

All around, this is a more polished version of the original story but it has a comedic dimension added to it as well which only enhances its overall likeability. A must for any horror fan.

Groovy!

Rated: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 hr., 25 mins.

Flick Figures: 2 dead bodies; 4 undead bodies; decapitation with a shovel; flying limbs; multiple counts of eye trauma; dagger to the chest; 1 exploding head; arm-ripping; face-smashing; head-slamming; a dancing, headless Deadite; love-bites; Bruce Campbell spinning… wildly… twice; hand-hacking; multi-colored blood, and lots of it; chainsaw-fu; plate-fu; 1 breast (fake and belonging to a Deadite)

Next Week: The Horror Guru celebrates the Christmas holiday with Gremlins: a film which beautifully straddles the fine line between horror and comedy.

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