EVIL DEAD II
Review by Ed Nguyen
Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Richard Domeier
Director: Sam Raimi
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 or Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English closed captioning
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 or full frame
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: commentary track, "making-of" featurette, trailer, galleries, talent bios, video game preview
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2000
by dawn! Dead by dawn! Dead
the late 1970's, a fledgling filmmaker named Sam Raimi decided that he wanted to
make the scariest movie ever. To
stir up interest in his pet project, he shot a Super-8 short subject, Within
the Woods, starring a young actor named Bruce Campbell.
Potential investors liked what they saw, and soon Raimi possessed a few
hundred thousand dollars with which to make his first feature-length film. Gathering some friends and colleagues together and re-teaming
with Campbell, Raimi set off back into the woods to direct his movie, dubbed Book
of the Dead. Four years later,
that movie was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, of all places.
Now renamed The Evil Dead, it
was gory and bloody, with hacked limbs flying about and grotesque demon monsters
(the Deadites) everywhere. Plus, it
featured Raimi's shaky-cam technique, which he invented on-the-fly to portray
the creepy, stalking point-of-view of the evil Deadites.
In short, the film was absolutely frightful, campy fun.
after hitting the American shores, The
Evil Dead rapidly acquired cult status.
The film's devoted fans asked for more, and thus vindicated, Raimi
re-armed himself a few years later with a bigger budget (around $3 million) to
make the sequel, Evil Dead II: Dead by
Dawn (1987). The film would
follow the further misadventures of Ash (Campbell), the lone survivor of the
original film. This time around
though, Raimi wanted to make a more visually fun film with a dash of humor, the
sort of film the Three Stooges might have attempted had they dabbled in the
forewarned, though. Evil
Dead II may be lighter in spirit than its predecessor, but it is still a
very intense film. In fact, it
originally received an X rating, not because of nudity (there is none) but
because of the sensory-overload of its images and gallons (literally) of blood.
Very young children or anyone prone to bad nightmares probably should run
far away from this film.
aside, Evil Dead II picks up
approximately where the last film concluded.
For viewers not familiar with the original film, Raimi provides a quick
synopsis of its plot in the first few moments of the sequel.
In fact, this opening sequence might even be considered a quick remake of
the original, with a few minor plot elements altered.
Raimi's original film, a group of friends had driven to an isolated cabin in a
remote forest to spend a weekend. Discovering
an audio recording of the Book of the Dead, they played it and inadvertently
unleashed evil into the surrounding woods.
All of them were subsequently killed off, save for Ash (Bruce Campbell),
who somehow managed to triumph over evil...maybe.
The Evil Dead closed on a shot of Ash wandering out from the cabin
in the morning to take in a breath of fresh air...and then suddenly getting
mauled by something wicked this way comes very fast.
the sequel, there is now just Ash and his girlfriend, Linda.
They go to the cabin, where Ash finds an audio tape. He plays it, not
knowing that it contains a passage from the Book of the Dead; consequently, he
summons forth Deadites galore. These
evil beings possess Linda, turning her into one of them, and then maul Ash, just
as in the conclusion of the first film.
isn't killed, though. Oh no; that
would be too easy, and Ash is in for a world of suffering and hurt, yet.
Evil Dead II picks up the story
on the morning while Ash is being manhandled and tossed around like a rag-doll.
In a brief moment of respite, Ash makes a quick dash for his car and
attempts to drive off as fast as he can. It
is one of his rare bright thoughts, but unfortunately, the only way out of the
woods is over a large chasm, whose crossing bridge has been mysteriously
destroyed overnight (surprise, surprise). With
darkness falling suspiciously fast (where did the day suddenly go?), Ash has no
choice but to return to the cabin and to face the evil...in the dead of night.
that a cool set-up or what? Lest
the viewer thinks this film is strictly a one-man show, there are other
characters, too. Anne (Berry), the
unsuspecting daughter of the cabin's original owner, an archaeologist, is
returning from abroad with extra parchments from the Book of the Dead.
She is accompanied by her boyfriend, and on their way to her father's
cabin, they are joined by two other folks, a redneck and his honey.
Would anyone care to wager on how many of these characters will still be
standing by the end of the film? No?
Well, regardless, they somehow manage to reach the cabin via a dirt path
only to find a wild-eyed Ash inside. Assuming
that he has somehow murdered Anne's parents, they lock Ash into the cellar (oh
no!). And as we all know, ghouls
and ghosts just love to dwell in cellars, don't they?
Needless to say, all hell soon breaks loose.
Evil Dead II, one can only but marvel
at the display of masochism on director Sam Raimi's part.
During the course of the film, his hero Ash is bitten, punched, kicked,
thrown about, attacked with a chainsaw, knocked unconscious, knocked unconscious
some more, and even mutilated. It
is as though Raimi sat down with Campbell to brain-storm up new ways of
tormenting the film's hero without actually killing his star.
The end result is just a teensy bit on the gory and violent side, but boy
is it uproariously funny! Bruce
Campbell is simply great and displays a keen instinct for physical comedy.
The other actors in the film may be of the generic horror film character
mold (in terms of acting ability, shrieking ability, pertinence to the plot,
etc., you name it), but Bruce Campbell is the
all is said and done, Evil Dead II is
an ideal film for a midnight viewing. Yes,
some of the effects look cheesy. Some
even look downright fake in that wonderful Harryhausen style of yesteryear.
And sure, the plot and acting are purely B-list.
But Raimi infuses so much charm and unencumbered energy into his film
that it is a lot of fun and really zips right along.
Evil Dead II does have a
cliff-hanger ending, but it is a perfect lead-in into the third (and funniest)
film in the trilogy, Army of Darkness.
hero Ash may be a dimwit, but he is a lovable one. Somehow, despite the fact that everyone around him keeps
dropping dead like flies and then popping right back up as Deadites, Ash finds a
way to stay alive. In Ash, Raimi
may have created just a ordinary everyman with no super powers, but to legions
of Evil Dead fans, Ash is a true hero.
Hail to the king!
have the option of watching the film in widescreen or full frame format.
Either way, Evil Dead II looks good, though some scenes do possess a small
amount of graininess and lower contrast (probably a reflection of the film's
small budget). Otherwise, the
transfer is quite nice, and the image quality is better than in any previous
Dead II has
been THX digitally mastered for video and audio quality.
The film's fans can thus be assured that this disc not only looks great
but sounds great as well. A THX
optimode is provided to assist in optimization of the sound and picture for
original monaural audio track has been upgraded into a 5.1 Dolby digital track
for this DVD. Normally, these
conversions lead to some mighty disastrous results, but in this case, Anchor Bay
has done a splendid job. The mix is
well balanced and loud but not distorted. I
was quite pleased with the overall audio quality, and Anchor Bay seems to do a
much better job with these monaural-to-5.1 conversions than do most other DVD
every time another Halloween rolls in, there's seems to be a new DVD offering of
Army of Darkness or one of the first
two Evil Dead films.
It's enough to make your head spin.
date, this most recent edition of Evil
Dead II comes courtesy of Anchor Bay. There
are probably other versions still floating around out there, but this is the one
you want for one big reason, and that reason is the commentary track with Bruce
commentary is a total riot! Director
Sam Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and effects artist Greg Nicotero also get
into the act, but it's really Bruce Campbell's show! From start to finish, the commentary is probably one of the
funniest commentaries I've ever listened to.
Campbell is positively uproarious and strikes up a mischievous and
devious banter with Raimi. These
guys talk practically non-stop, and the result is a track that is as
entertaining as the film itself.
making-of featurette on this DVD is just as funny, too!
It focuses on the many folks associated with the production of Evil
Dead II. We get to see the
women practicing their screams or the actors clowning around on the set and
testing out various costumes. The
effects guys and make-up guys add a lot of funny recollections, too.
They obviously don't take themselves too seriously, either, even pointing
out with great amusement and in elaborate detail some of the goofs which can be
seen in the film. There are even a
few brief glimpses of deleted scenes, such as a half-headed ghoul or evil-Ash
eating a squirrel. Best of all,
watch the whole featurette to the very end, and you will see a hilarious parody,
Evil Dead Baby!
remaining features on this DVD are of lesser significance but have their charms.
There is a stills gallery which is divided into two section.
The "horror highlights" section contains 56 entries involving
the ghouls and demons. The
"behind the screams" section has 31 photographs of the actors in and
out of make-up. For those
interested in being Ash, there's a
cool preview of the PC game Evil Dead:
Hail to the King. The game
itself is not so great, but Bruce Campbell does participate in a lot of the
witty voice-overs, and he's a hoot. Lastly,
there is a talent bios section which focuses on Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell,
with selected filmographies included.