(1987) dir. Sam Raimi
After watching director Sam Raimi’s return to the horror/comedy genre, Drag Me to Hell (2009), I was so much in mind of his classic, Evil Dead II, that I felt compelled to see it again. It had been at least a decade, but even then, the film had impressed me as the real McCoy when it comes to downright great filmmaking.
I remember back in 1987 first seeing this film in the cinema, on a recommendation from some friends, who said, “you’ve got to see it!” and I remember becoming initiated into the cult of the film and the total fandom of Sam Raimi. (Obviously this is some form of geekdom, right?)
Though Raimi’s career never has come close to matching this film, even his sequel to the film, the long-anticipated Army of Darkness (1992) was a significant disappointment, this film has remained up there. And I will tell you, after watching it again, it still kicks ass.
It’s funny after having watched Drag Me to Hell, because you see some obvious parallels, either director trademarks or just self-referential gags. But Evil Dead II has such a stunning visual style and camera-work that it’s still mind-boggling. There are several shots in which the camera is the “eye” of the evil spirits that have been brought to life. Most often, that eye is attached to a psycho-railroad car, careening in and around trees, through doors, smashing them open, chasing the brilliant and amazing Bruce Campbell (also in his “star”-making role) through the cabin in the woods.
Perspective and psychological perspective are constantly at play, from skewed images, during moments of uncertain madness, to moments of chaos and havoc.
The story, at least the way I always described it, is sort of a take on the original The Evil Dead (1981) by Sam Raimi (and starring Bruce Campbell) about a group of people who get stuck in the woods and attacked by evil spirits. The big difference is that this time, it’s played for laughs. Downright slapstick hilarity. Something that in 1987 was as perfectly innovative as the home computer.
My favorite sequences have always been of Bruce Campbell’s hand in the vicious bite of his decapitated girlfriend’s mouth, flinging her head around against walls and trees to get it off (ultimately done with a vice clamp and dispensed with a chainsaw) and the aftermath of his possessed hand attacking him. At 85 minutes in length, this film is all chaos, gore, hilarity, action, and downright low-budget nuttiness. But it’s the camerawork and execution that completely makes it something far beyond its bare essentials.
The film is pure brilliance. It’s made with verve and inventiveness, strange comedy, quick action, and a completely amazing performance by Campbell, whose reputation, like Raimi’s, is well-enough to have hung on this one film all these years (again, not that it has, just that it could have). It’s one of the rarest of rare films, the kind you can watch again and again, ad nauseum, and it keeps getting better, keeps getting funnier.
And while there is much lore and information (as there are with all cult films worth their salt), I won’t go on and project otherwise. I’ll just leave it at that. Evil Dead II, no matter how odd it sounds the first time you hear of it, is indeed one of my favorite films, one of the best out there. And I am happy to say that I still very much believe that to be the case.