Thursday, May 9, 2013

REVIEW: Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II
Director: Sam Raimi
Year 1987

Evil Dead II is the wild sequel to Sam Raimi's debut 1981 horror masterpiece, The Evil Dead. Re-imagined to the point of mimicry, yet infused with a dark comedic style, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn is a twisted amalgam of all of the archetypes that made Evil Dead a hollowed name within the genre. Saturated with a mass amount of gore and dripping with morbid atmosphere, this groovy outing blasts the viewer with an abundance of horrific moments and over the top antics, until you're literally lost in a demented world where anything can happen, and most certainly does. With its heightened sensibility and off-the-wall charm, Evil Dead II is a gory, slapstick ride that you'll never forget.

The film follows a man by the name of Ash, who along with his girlfriend Linda, travel to a secluded cabin in the woods. Once there they find an ancient book and a tape recorder, both possessions of an archeologist who has been studying ancient Candarian demons. After playing the tape, an ancient evil is unleashed upon the earth, transforming Linda into a demonic beast and forcing Ash to fight for his life by any means necessary. Plagued by flesh-possessing evil spirits and trapped in the middle of nowhere, Ash unexpectedly runs into a group of strangers, who one by one, begin turning into grotesque deadites, hell bent on devouring his soul. With a chainsaw and a double barreled shotgun, Ash takes on the demonic horde, decapitating and dismembering his way to freedom, but ultimately propelling himself towards a destiny that not even he could have foreseen.

Bruce Campbell reprises the role of Ashley Williams, AKA Ash, the once timid and awkward youth from the first film, now turned badass demon slayer. The performances between The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II are like night and day, showcasing a wide difference between Campbell's two character's personalities. The differences can be attributed to Raimi's decision to switch up the tone of the film, by including a dark comedic overlay to the proceedings, allowing for Campbell to really milk his charisma for all it is worth. I'm a huge fan of the first film's genuine and natural approach to grotesque horror, yet surprisingly the switch up to comedy centered horror is not an abrupt one. This is in great deal due to Campbell's unfaltering approach to the character of Ash.

Wholly expressive and ultimately masochistic, Campbell's Ash is a human punching bag that takes a licking but keeps on ticking. He's drenched, beaten, battered, bruised and mutilated, and that's just in the first half of this crazy ride of a film. All the while, Campbell keeps up with the intense tempo that director Sam Raimi sets as his precedent for the film and it is in this no holds barred performance that the film really benefits the most from. Charismatic as all hell and tremendously sympathetic, Campbell gives it his all as the tormented hero who is plagued with one unbelievable situation after the other. The ridiculous amount of pain and punishment that his character goes through is unfathomable, but it is through these trials and tribulations that make us root for him to succeed, even if the odds are stacked sorely against him. It's the classic underdog story, and Campbell nails the perfect pitch to get us to stand up and cheer for his eventual victory over the forces of evil.

Aside from Campbell's overwhelming contributions to the film, the other essential element of this movie is the kinetic style of Sam Raimi's direction. From his whacked out angles, to his super-charged tracking shots, to his impeccable visual touch which gives a distinct texture to everything, Raimi knocks it out of the park in this entry. There is a foreboding quality to the film that is not easy to describe and it's even more difficult to fathom seeing that the movie is drenched in a wild comedic style that is anything but orthodox. Even the sound of this film is unbelievably disjointed and demonic, from the sound of the evil point of view shots to the extremely disturbing soundscapes that litter this picture. Needless to say that the audible aspects of this production equal the visuals in both unusual and unsettling ways.

The over the top nature of the film, in its imagery, sound effects and general atmosphere, is almost too off the wall, with fountains of blood erupting and oozing puss protruding from every orifice of this delightfully demented production, but when put into the context of Raimi's envisioned world, it just gels perfectly. Limbs are hacked off, bodies are brutalized, and possessions abound, but in the end it all fits within the context of the world Raimi has constructed. The actual fact that demons are jumping into bodies and wreaking havoc in the real world is pure and unadulterated fantasy, but when amped to the max through Sam Raimi's filter, it comes out as one bloody and entertaining shitstorm of fun.

I haven't even covered the creature effects of the various deadites in the film, but in one word I can describe them as fantastic. With their soulless white eyes, their distorted features, and their absolutely grotesque presence in general, the design on these Candarian demons are without a doubt one of my favorite aspects of the Evil Dead universe. There is just something about those white eyes that just recall nightmarish visions and the effects guys just did an incredible job overall on all of the diverse looks of the deadites. Combine all of these facets that Raimi and crew have brought to the table and you've got yourself one hell of a unique cinematic vision that I absolutely treasure.

Evil Dead II is without a doubt an unexpected sequel, which pulls everything that made the first entry so enjoyable, and then totally flips it all on its head to make a truly unique beast. Streamlined with an unmistakably dark comedic undertone, the movie straddles the line between comedy and horror so closely, that it blends the two into a whole new categorization of genre cinema. Wicked in nature, yet wholly tongue and cheek, the movie thrives in its unexpected, and often unleashed wonder. The film has Bruce Campbell to thank for this for it is his over the top performance and penchant for pain that truly makes this formula work. Bloodied and battered, Campbell throws himself into the role as he creates one of the most beloved characters in all of horror history.

With Campbell in front of the camera giving it his all, Raimi is behind the scenes making it all come together in perfect demented harmony. With his trademark and expressive direction, Raimi gifts unto the audience an exceptionally obscure viewpoint on what motion pictures can endure. Excessive to the max, the production is caked with over emphasized moments, hair raising situations, and unmistakably original techniques which all force the film to rise above its meager origins. When you combine all of these elements with the outstanding creature effects, the vicious nature of the narrative, and the uncontrollable tone in which this film just simmers in, then you have yourself one of the most original, entertaining, brutal, and bizarre flicks to ever come out of the horror genre. Evil Dead II is plain and simply.....

Looks like cozy bedtime reading.

High-five guys.... Don't leave me hanging.

Looks like someone is going to get a little head.

Why you rude little shit!

The flood gates have opened!

See he's laughing.. He's having a good time.

Henrietta is one hell of a singer.

You stay in the basement and think about what you did! Naughty Grandma.

You're.... looking.... great buddy.

Looks like someone got a hold of an Army of Darkness storyboard.

Pull my Deadite finger! Pull it!

Let go lady! I don't think CPR is going to save this poor bastard.

Shit! Henrietta's Hulking up!

Deadite staring contest...... GO!

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