When The Evil Dead was released in 1981, it went on to become a firm favourite of horror fans, and a sworn enemy of censorship boards. That battle with the censors led to it becoming one of the flagship ‘video nasties’, films criticised by the press for their supposed abhorrent behaviour, gratuitous violence and exploitative scenarios. Director and writer Sam Raimi must have looked at all that noise and laughed to himself, wondering why everyone was making such a fuss over his little movie. That sense of absurdity clearly stayed with him as he went in to make a follow up to his sleeper hit, with Evil Dead II emerging from the gnarled forests of censorship controversy, as one of the most insane and anarchic horror movies of all time.
Essentially both a sequel and a remake, Evil Dead II wastes no time in getting to the demonic shenanigans, as we witness Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) quickly having to go through hell as he heads for a romantic getaway, only for demons to possess his girlfriend (Denise Bixler), all before the first 10 minutes. What follows is a day of hell, as Ash must find a way to send this evil back to the dark dimension from which they sprung.
Evil Dead II is very much the kind of sequel that doesn’t care all that much about continuity, or even tonality. What we have here is a sequel that refuses to play by any set of rules, choosing to follow whatever course of action it thinks will be the most fun. As a result, what Raimi delivers is the purest distillation of his cinematic sensibilities: funny, gory, virtuosic and mad as hell.
With a mixture of hilariously grotesque prosthetics, creepily disjointed stop motion, and twisted matte backgrounds, Evil Dead II is alive with a similar low budget energy that the first one had, but is undoubtedly dialled up to 11 when it comes to the amount of imagination on screen. The demons, or Deadites as we come to know them, clearly relish in cheekily toying with Ash, taking great amusement in driving him mad. That gleeful menace really comes alive in the amazing creature effects on display, giving Evil Dead II that mad scientist energy that always remains a great deal of fun to dive into. Bruce Campbell’’s rubber faced satire of an action hero also remains a comedic delight, putting in a turn full of physicality and exceptional comedic timing.
The Evil Dead franchise has continued onward since Evil Dead II, with a sequel, a remake, a TV show and another stand alone instalment currently in the pre-production stage. But the potion has never been quite as potent as it was in 1987, with Evil Dead II standing as the most original and intoxicatingly delirious of the bunch. An absolute must for every Halloween. Heck, all year round. All together now: Groovy.
Dir: Sam Raimi
Scr: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Richard Domeier
Prd: Robert Tapert
DOP: Peter Deming
Music: Joseph LoDuca
Runtime: 84 minutes
Evil Dead II is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on demand now.