Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead 2 (1987) As a teen, I used to despise horror comedy as a “horror purist,” i.e. I was only in it for realistic gore and actual scares, i.e. I had no idea what the hell I was talking about.

Horror is almost always about fun. It’s fun to be scared. And it’s fun when cartoon violence or disgusting wounds force you to giggle, as the Atlantic Monthly so cunningly described Kurt Vonnegut’s writing, in self-defense. In a way, horror comedy is the exemplary form of the genre… when done well.

And there’s no finer example, as every fan knows, than Evil Dead 2 (1987).

The sequel was born in part from Sam Rami’s desperation after the utter flop of his first post-Evil Dead (1981) film Crimewave (1985). Rami stuck to what worked from the first installment, at times to near-sacrilege. The sequel’s plot comes in two parts: Ash (Bruce Campbell) battling the forest demons and their attempts to drive him to madness, and two couples joining him to duke it out demon-style in a structure similar to the first film. Among them are a hillbilly couple, Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie DePaiva), as well as Annie (Sarah Berry), the daughter of the professor who discovered The Book of the Dead, and her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier).

(Headless) Monster Mash (with a Chainsaw):

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

As mentioned in my first Evil Dead write-up, the “zombies” here are wide-ranging and with spiritual properties: the demonically possessed living, the demonically reanimated dead (stop motion getting all Nightmare Before Christmas on our asses), and flat-out demonic monsters, like the final creature revealed as the POV of all those iconic zooming shots through the woods.

Evil Dead 2 is a monster flick, a far cry from black and white ghouls going bump in the night. But they still claw through boarded up windows and couldn’t be more evil.
With something like ten times the budget of his first entry, Rami doesn’t waste any time or opportunity for splatter. He constantly thrusts characters to their brink, then recoils to reveal dream sequences or imaginary madness (or, oftentimes, very real hand-chopping-off madness). Like a giddy standup comic, he latches on to what clicks and proceeds to beat it to death.

Sinister grabbing tree branches return, as does heartfelt from the possessed, and, again, those thrilling shots that chase through the woods. At one point, Rami swipes footage from the first film’s conclusion. His repetition teeters on the edge of annoyance (especially in the first ten minutes during a bastardized recall of Evil Dead), but it’s all still very creepy, and all still very fun.

Battering Rami:

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Campbell gives his career-defining performance: who else can deliver “Give me back my hand!” and make it so believable…twice?! More so than the first film, slapstick drives the whole production. Rami debuts his blood splatter fountain effect (we’d see it again and again in the Evil Dead reboot only with none of the humor intact) and the blood comes in three shades: red, green, and black. The audience giggles maniacally along with Ash through it all.

I can’t imagine what it was like seeing the end of this movie in theaters before knowing what Army of Darkness was. How disorienting to see a setup to such an absurd premise — Ash crash-landing in the Middle Ages. But how fittingly absurd, how fittingly silly, all one with Evil Dead 2’s joyful irreverence. There’s terror to be had here, but the pulse of joy is what courses through this film’s veins. It must have been so fun to write, so fun to make, so fun to act. As a horror viewer, it’s one of the most fun watches to be had.

Watch the official trailer for Evil Dead 2 below:

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Written by: Ben Mueller