31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #9 – Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Evil-Dead-II-poster-2

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer(s): Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel

Studio/Distributor: Rosebud Releasing

Budget: $3.6m

Box Office: $5.9m

Release Date: 13 March, 1987

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Bruce Campbell – Ash

Sarah Berry – Annie Knowby

Dan Hicks – Jake

Kassie Wesley – Bobby Joe

Denise Bixler – Linda

Richard Domeier – Ed

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holes up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.

Inertia’s Insight

Dubbed the ‘number one nasty’ by middle class crusader Mary Whitehouse, The Evil Dead is a superb schlock splatter horror with enough blood to supply the NHS for the year. Raimi’s brilliant take on the cabin in the woods, the film launched his career and made The Jaw Bruce Campbell a B-movie heartthrob. A sequel was foretold, and so we’re given Evil Dead II, a film that stands in the shadow of its predecessor that, despite its cult following, just doesn’t quite manage to hit the mark.

We’re told the history of the Necronomicon – aka The Book of the Dead aka the thing that continually fucks Ash’s life up – in the opening monologue, its long history chartered in an effective sound bite that sets the events of the film in motion.

The first ten minutes are a fast forward retelling of the events of the first film, with different cast members and a slightly different interpretation of events. Its clever but at the same time mildly unsettling, having the previous 80 minutes flick before your eyes with a different narrative. We soon learn of Ash’s fate after the unknown entity takes him out for a little fly through the woods.

evil-dead-2-i-want-you

It’s the absence of Ash’s friends and the events of the first film that kind of underplays what Ash survived ‘the night before’, or at least what we perceive him to have survived from the first film. There’s no doubt that his second night, now part of this new and unseen narrative, is a tour de force of comic horror, but still – it seems to be missing that survival element.

Ash really is put through the ringer when the sun sets. Linda comes back from the dead and dances on her own grave, the inanimate objects around him come to life with hilarity and he is eventually betrayed by his own hand, severing it to save himself and affixing a chainsaw to his stump, becoming the pop culture Ash that we know today. It looks like there’s no way out of this for Ash, and the Deadites promise of him being ‘dead by dawn’ seems to become an appealing prospect. Just as he can’t take anymore, fresh blood arrives and Ash is reinvigorated.

Evil-Dead-II

The final third of the film is pure Raimi madness, and is exactly what brings the film out of a disappointing re-tread and into the cult film it is today. It’s just mental. Gore, guts and gallons of blood paint the walls of the cabin as the Deadites battle to possess the living, and the remaining humans fight to survive. Eyes fly, blood sprays and carnage ensues. It’s not scary, but that’s kind of alright, because it’s just so bat-shit crazy that you can’t help but watch.

The ending sets up Army of Darkness perfectly. The trilogy of ‘Dead’ films couldn’t be any more different if they tried, but that’s what makes them so appealing. One minute you’re watching a horror, the next a comedy and before you know it you’re in period drama territory. Evil Dead II certainly divides opinion, and for the most part I find myself divided from start to finish but in the end, you can’t help but love the madness that is Dead by Dawn, nor the standout appeal that Bruce Campbell provides.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★

Trivia

  • Stephen King was such a huge fan of The Evil Dead that he convinced producer Dino De Laurentiis over dinner to produce and finance Evil Dead II
  • In a visual pun, one of the books on the can that traps Ash’s possessed hand is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”
  • The eyeball swallowing shot was filmed in reverse

Quotes

ASH: Groovy.

HENRIETTA: I’ll swallow your soul!
ASH: Swallow this.

ASH: Then lets head on down into that cellar and carve ourselves a witch.

NARRATOR: Legend has it it was written by the dark ones. Necronomicon Ex Mortis. Roughly translated – Book of the Dead.


Tomorrow: Night #10 – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

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