Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

Review: Evil Dead 2

Director(s)Sam Raimi
Principal CastBruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Denise Bixler as Linda
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Release Date1987
Language(s)English
Running Time 84 minutes

If I’d have known how funny Evil Dead 2 was, I’m pretty sure I would’ve watched The Evil Dead a lot earlier. Somehow, Sam Raimi took everything good from the fist movie, removed the unnecessary clutter, slapped in some intriguing retcons, and amped the comedy up by a factor of bonker. The result is a one of a kind sequel that gives fans of the original everything they want and more , while feeling like its own story The scares are more interesting, the turns are completely out of left field, and the movie has a lot more fun with itself.

I knew the movie was going to be weird the moment the first scene started. The movie picks up on a “recap” of the events of the first movie, except this time everyone except Linda is missing. Missing as in Ash doesn’t even mention their existence.In his recounting, Ash explains that he went to the cabin for a romantic get-away with Linda (not the fun group bonding we were told in the first movie). Once there, a similar series of events lead to Dr.Knowby’s tape being played and the evil of the Necronomicon being summoned. Right off the bat, the movie forces the audience to come to its own conclusions. Did Ash experience so much trauma during the first movie, that his mind warped the perception of events to the most painful event he went through? Did burning the Necronomicon at the end of the first movie cause an alternative timeline where everyone else didn’t exist? It’s up to you to decide. After the”recap” concludes, Ash finds himself forced to once again deal with the hijinks of the cabin.

With each passing supernatural phenomena, Ash finds himself slipping, unable to differentiate between real events, his delusions, and the supernatural happenings. His experience and interaction with the world feels surreal. Ash is very clearly is experiencing some kind of trauma . Within the span of a day he’s lost his friends ( who may or may not exist), had to kill his girlfriend, been tossed around by supernatural happenings, experience a litany of physical injuries (many self inflicted through sheer clumsiness), and been incessantly mocked by deadlites. It’s enough to turn anyone bonkers, and Bruce Campbell proficiently demonstrates as much with his absurd and hilarious facial expressions. He constantly moves/messes with his eyes, eyebrows, and forehead making him feel unpredictable and energetic, like a switch has flipped in him that’s caused him to become a loose cannon. He really channels this raw chaotic neutral/good vibe that never slows down.

Ash’s (Bruce Campbell) crazy facial expression.

His descent into madness is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. This is a man who’s clearly lost control in his life. He didn’t sign up for any of this and awful things keep happening at breakneck speed forcing him to constantly fight for his life. Losing your mind on top of dealing with all of these issues sounds like hell, like an infinite void that will never let go. Thankfully, the whole experience comes off as a joke. As Ash loses his mind, he becomes more unhinged and cartoon like, going from a clumsy and sweet goof to bloodthirsty and confident. It’s not that the situations are any less serious. It’s just that the story lets you experience them without falling into some weird nihilism.

Everything you loved about the first movie look and feel wise is here and polished up. Fast paced camera chasing subject through the forest? Check. Chainsaw slashing through deadlite splattering blood everywhere? Check. Bruce Campbell’s eyebrows threatening to fight the enemy by themselves? Also check. The best part is all the effects have gotten even better and more polished. The practical effect work feels even smoother and works seamlessly. Possessions look more crisp and grounded as opposed to just nightmarish. My only issue is that ome of the stop-motion feels a bit choppy in the third act, but that’s a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

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TLDREvil Dead 2 is honestly just one of those rare sequels that takes an winning formula and fine tunes it to near perfection. The comedic turn the franchise takes gives it a unique flavor and allows its horrifying elements to really shine. If you enjoyed the first movie and want to see more, check this out. It’s one of a kind.
Rating10/10
GradeA+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Evil Dead

Director(s)Sam Raimi
Principal CastBruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams
Hal Delrich as Scott
Betsy Baker as Linda
Theresa Tilly as Shelly
Release Date1981
Language(s)English
Running Time 85 minutes

This is one of the few western horror movies I grew up watching, so it’s near and dear to my heart. As a naive middle school student, I believed the reviews online that said it was cheesy and corny. The word funny was thrown around everywhere, so I went in thinking I’d be laughing a lot. After the movie, I was left horrified. Nightmares for days on end. Tons of high pitched cackling involved. I refused to go near it again. Then the soft reboot, Evil Dead, was announced. It looked scary and intriguing and I was immediately reminded of the terrors of my not so distant youth. I decided then and there, that I had to get over the movie eventually and immediately went and saw The Evil Dead. The movie still scared me, but because I knew what was going to happen, I could view the events with a certainty.I could sit back and just watch the madness unfold. Now that I’m done a few rewatches, I can confidently say Sam Raimi’s low budget horror movie is one of the best ever made. It manages to scare me, intrigue me, impress me, and make me chuckle a few times every time I put it on.

The plot is campy if you look at it from today’s standards but you should keep in mind the movie came out back in the 80’s and was considered one of the scariest back then. It was ahead of its time and dared to go to some awful, depraved places. The story follows a group of five teenage friends – Ash, his sister Cheryl, his girlfriend Linda, their friend Scott, and Scott’s girlfriend, ,Shelly – as they go off to a cabin in the woods to party and enjoy themselves. From the moment they step foot in the area, things are off. When Scott goes to open the door, a swing repeatedly knocks into the wall of the house, almost as if another entity is trying to enter. Once our group opens the door, the knocking stops creating a sense of impending doom. After a series of events leads to an incantation from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis being chanted , things quickly go south as malevolent supernatural entities come to play.

The movie is very much a story of an unfortunate group of “kids” who are only partially to blame for their situation. They barely have time to do anything because the action st arts almost immediately, and the actions they do end up taking are heavily influenced by the supernatural. It’s almost like they’re doomed into a situation. This is made all the worse because the story takes time to develop the characters, so watching them get tortured is hard. It’s a few moments here and there, but character motivations are fleshed out and almost everyone feels like they have a purpose in the story. Yes, the story is mainly about Ash, but that doesn’t mean everyone else just exists as a prop. The story makes use of these relationships to create horrifying, gut-wrenching, and comedic moments.

It’s easy to tell there are production issues. Yes, Raimi didn’t have a ton of money to spend to make this look realistic. So he doubles down on the absurdity of the situation and makes the action and horror sequences bloody, over the top, and disturbing all at the same time. Makeup is on point. It gets bloody and really shows the damage the supernatural events are having on the group. As evidenced by below, it can get pretty real.

Makeup is on point. The Deadites look absolutely horrific.

Embracing the over the top gore makes the movie both horrifying and comedic. The production issues feel like intentional ways of showcasing the absurdity of whatever is going on. In the face of absolutely nightmarish situations it makes so much sense to laugh, because taking it seriously would make you go crazy (which is more Evil Dead 2). The humor doesn’t come from overt jokes. It comes from the juxtaposition of ineptitude with the horrific nature of what’s going on. Bruce Campbell goes full klutz as Ash. He finds a way to fall or crash in every scene, and puts his full energy into each and every tumble. You can feel the incompetence seep out of him. Add on some crazy facial expressions with his distinctive eyebrows, and suddenly every situation becomes a bit funnier. The spirits haunting the cabin also have a sick sense of humor. They love laughing in horrific sounding cackles and joking about everyone’s darkest fears. They actually relish just making people suffer. It’s funny in the moment, but every time I stop and think about the reality of what’s going on, I shudder. There’s a lot of messed up stuff here that I laughed at because taking it seriously was too off-putting. One scene involving Cheryl has stuck with me ever since I saw it. I have no idea how it got in there, but if sexual assault scenes that are visceral in nature are too much for you, you might want to watch it with a buddy.

To add on to all of the visual splatter and horror, the movie employs a lot of surreal/abstract imagery. There are recurring motifs that are fun to track throughout the movie that have you questioning their real purpose. These scenes are my favorite because I love that weird ambiguous artsy stuff that has you analyzing and re-contextualizing constantly. There are some more obvious symbols/icons that are also used to great effect, so the movie manages to balance the abstract with the “grounded” really well. It lends to a well crafted horror movie that has scares for multiple groups of people.

The camera movement is also exceptional and highly effective. Raimi knows exactly when to do close-ups and every time he does one it feels purposeful. No movement ever feels wasted. When the supernatural force is hunting down the members of the group, the camera moves frantically showing it choosing its next victim. It’s almost like the air and everything around the cabin is tinged with a negativity that seeks to envelop everything.

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TLDRThe Evil Dead is a movie that manages to be hilariously over-the-top and horrifying at the same time. The humor is dark and absurd in nature and is used to counterbalance the violence and splatter-fests the movie ventures off into. If you can get over the “dated” feel and/or watch the movie as if it’s 1981, you’ll get swept up in one of the scariest horror movies made. A surreal nightmare turned black comedy.
Rating9.8/10
GradeA+

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.