Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Theodore Raimi (Ted Raimi), Denise Bixler
Written by: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Directed by: Sam Raimi
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 85
Date: 03/13/1987
IMDB

Evil Dead II (1987)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Groovy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A friend once told me that he put on a tape of Evil Dead II during a wild party, just to show someone a particular scene. Before long the party came to a standstill and everyone was gathered around the TV watching the film. I didn't discount the story because I'd actually had a similar experience at another party of my own. That's just the kind of movie Evil Dead II is. You can't not watch it.

Evil Dead II is not so much a sequel as a remake of the original The Evil Dead (1983). Raimi and his crew made enough money on their first low-budget venture that they were given more money to make a sequel. Since Raimi had already planned to do Army of Darkness (then known as "Medieval Dead") as the REAL sequel, and he knew that it would cost more money than he had, he simply remade his first movie. Bruce Campbell returns from the first movie as Ash. He brings his girlfriend to a remote cabin in the woods that was used for research on the Book of the Dead and inadvertently sets an evil demon loose and spends the weekend trying to fight it off.

The movie contains plenty of shocks and startling moments. It doesn't ever bother to build suspense (at least not for very long) because it would kill its own furious momentum. Most of the scares come from unbelievable stuff suddenly popping in from the corner of the frame, such as the headless re-animated corpse of Ash's girlfriend, now wielding a chainsaw. We jump when it bursts through the door, but we're laughing when Ash deflects the chainsaw and it splits the corpse's neck in two, spewing black blood everywhere. We also laugh because the corpse is so ridiculous looking. It bobbles along like a muppet.

Everyone has a favorite part, but mine is still the eyeball. An evil demon is trying to get out of the basement through a trapdoor in the floor. Our hero jumps up and down on the trapdoor to get it closed, but not before the demon's eyeball pops out, flies across the room, and lands inside a woman's mouth.

The real trick of Evil Dead II is not just the scares and the gags. It's the pure kinetic energy. It moves with a vicious speed not seen since Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday (1940). It powers through its 83 minutes like it was a short cartoon. Yet it's never overwhelming. Director Raimi instinctively knows when -- and for how long -- to give us a breather.

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in the 1980s and been a "discoverer" of this movie. (I was the first one to rent it and show it to my friends.) And I'm glad to see that it stands up to another viewing today.

In 2011, Lionsgate issued a new Blu-Ray for the film's 25th anniversary. It includes many of the extras from the older DVD releases, and overall, it has all the extras a fan could want. A great commentary track, recorded by Raimi, Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and F/X man Greg Nicotero, consists of the filmmakers' ridiculing their own film, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style, and pointing out all the times that Raimi tortured Campbell on the set. Yet, there's definitely an underlying pride in their work. There's a new 98-minute "making of" documentary. The disc also contains an amazing 30-minute documentary featuring vintage video footage shot on the set, as well as a trailer, and lots of other stuff.

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