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Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: R
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: April 1987
Genres: Horror, Cult

*Also starring: Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Theodore Raimi, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier

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Review by John Beachem
4 stars out of 4

Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend, Linda (Denise Bixler), travel out to a remote cabin in the woods where an archeologist (John Peaks) and his wife (Lou Hancock) had been staying. While Ash and Linda settle in, Ash discovers a tape recorder on which the professor had been translating his latest find, the Necronomicon. When the recorder is played, the professor's words wake an evil force in the woods which kills Linda and tries to kill Ash. Ash barricades himself in the cabin, blasting anything that comes close to the front door with a shotgun. Little does he know that the professor's daughter, Annie (Sarah Berry); his colleague, Ed (Richard Domeier); and two hill-billies (Dan Hicks, Kassie DePaiva) are on their way. The group first thinks Ash killed Annie's parents, but they soon discover the evil force is after them as well. Now Ash and the quickly dwindling group have to gear up and face the evil forces. Their weapons? A shotgun, a chain-saw, a strange bone knife, the Necronomicon, and Ash's wits. They're in deep trouble.

Five years after the release of the first "Evil Dead" movie, Sam Raimi brought audiences "Evil Dead II", and motion picture history was made (in my opinion anyway). The eternal question facing those who watch this magnificent movie is this: what exactly is it? Is it a horror movie? Well, it certainly contains horror movie elements. Afterall, blood, gore, ghouls and headless girlfriends with chainsaws abound. Yet it can't quite qualify as an out and out horror movie because there is also brilliant comedy at work here. While the first film had comic elements, it was still a horror movie. "Evil Dead II" contains a few comic sequences that have become certifiable classics. What really makes "Evil Dead II" strange is that it's not exactly a sequel. What do I mean by that? Well, the events of the first movie are crammed into the first five minutes of this one, but they're changed. In the first movie Ash went to the cabin with his girlfriend, his sister, and two friends. In the beginning of this movie he goes with only his girlfriend (who promptly dies, leading to one of the funniest scenes in the movie). I assume the reason for this is because so few people saw the first film, Raimi believed a refresher of sorts would be needed. However, rumors that "Evil Dead II" was actually meant to be a parody of the first movie have spread.

Five years, three movies, and multiple stage appearances after the first "Evil Dead", Bruce Campbell has honed his comic talents to perfection. His lines are delivered with sheer comic genius, and his facial expressions are second to none. Watch the look on his face when a wave of blood pours out of a wall, slams into him, then retreats back into the wall. In the first film, Campbell was forced to carry the entire acting load on his shoulders because his supporting cast was, well, dreadful. In this installment, the cast obviously isn't quite on par with Bruce, but they're all at least tolerable (that's probably why some of these people actually went on to careers, uh, of sorts). Sarah Berry never went on to anything else, and it's not surprising since of the supporting cast members she is far and away the worst. She constantly has a look on her face like she's watching the other actors closely, waiting for the exact moment when she gets to deliver her next line. I hate that. She does have one brief, shining moment though, when she goes after Bruce with an axe. Dan Hicks ("Wishmaster") gives quite an amusing performance as the hill-billy of the group. My favorite part with him is when he screams for Bobbie Joe, who has vanished into the woods. The look on his face and his tone of voice are wonderfully pathetic. Ted Raimi ("Xena: Warrior Princess") shows up, completely unrecognizable as a possessed grandmother.

Remember when I said there were a few classic comic scenes in the movie? I'm afraid I was understating it a bit. This movie is actually packed with comic moments. We get a room full of furniture laughing hysterically (and Ash laughing right along with it); a headless girlfriend with a chain-saw chasing Ash around; Ash battling his own hand in a three stooges style fight (this scene has been mimicked dozens of times); Ash placing a pail on top of his severed hand and holding it down with the book, "A Farewell to Arms"; Ash getting knocked flying through the forest, spinning head over heels and crashing through tree limbs; and dozens more. There's a big laugh every five minutes here, plus we also get an obscene amount of gore (that's a good thing for me anyway) and a few really good startle effects. Will "Evil Dead II" scare you? Maybe if you're eight or nine years old and you still believe in monsters under your bed. Otherwise, it's doubtful. "Evil Dead II" isn't a scary movie, but it's not meant to be. It's supposed to be campy, fun, and highly entertaining; and it delivers on all three counts in spades.

Raimi's direction becomes a bit more restrained in this film, but that's not a bad thing, it just shows that his directorial abilities have matured. Don't worry, we still get the neat low camera angles, and we still have the monster in the woods that tears through them at break neck speed (he's involved in another one of the brilliant comic moments, when he chases Ash through the house). Yet the camera is a bit more controlled, the action not so frantic. Raimi's pacing has also improved, keeping the laughs and action consistent throughout most of the movie. In the first movie, Raimi spent just a little too long on the build up, and then everything hit us all at once. Obviously the fact that the script throws us right into the middle of Ash's situation contributes to the lack of down-time in this movie. Joseph LoDuca's ("Xena: Warrior Princess") music isn't used too often, but it's always appropriately campy when present. "Evil Dead II" runs a frighteningly quick 85 minutes. I'd recommend it to fans of the original, fans of cheesy "B" horror movies, and fans of Bruce Campbell. For being one of the most entertaining horror movies ever made, I give "Evil Dead II" a full five out five stars.

Copyright 2001 John Beachem

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