Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #116
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: March 13, 1987
Sub-Genre: Splatter/Black Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $10,900,000
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: Sam Raimi
Producers: Robert Tapart, Bruce Campbell, Alex De Benedetti, Irvin Shapiro
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Score: Joseph LoDuca
Editing: Kaye Davis
Studio: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Renaissance Pictures
Distributors: Paramount Pictures, Rosebud Releasing, Vestron Video, Anchor Bay Entertainment
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier, John Peakes, Lou Hancock, Snowy Winters, Sid Abrams, Josh Becker, Thomas Kidd, Mitch Cantor, Jenny Griffith, Tony Elwood, William Preston Robertson, Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel, Ted Raimi
Suggested Audio Candy:
Joseph LoDuca The Book of Evil
Poor old Bruce Campbell. He sure knew to pick the wrong buddies at school, in particular, a certain Samuel M. Raimi. While the two forged a close friendship in no time and remain best of pals all these years later, his old chum really put him through the ringer in 1980 when his debut full-length feature The Evil Dead arrived on the scene kicking and screaming. Thanks to its unprecedented universal success, it seemed only reasonable to give the people more of they sought, that being, another ninety minutes of watching Ashley J. Williams enduring one of the biggest shit-kickings ever committed to the silver screen. While Roddy Piper and Keith David possibly hold the title of most prolonged man-fight, when dealing with the Deadites it becomes a decidedly more one-sided affair.
It’s unanimous. Evil Dead II contains the most significant ass-whooping of all time bar none. Rocky Balboa may have left it until last knockings to floor the intimidating Ivan Drago but at least he had a couple of decent rounds, plus he got to catch his breath thanks to the wonders of rousing montage. For our beleaguered hero Ash, however, no such respite is provided and, instead, a ninety-minute hotchpotch of pain, frustration, and ongoing affliction is his sole penance for enduring the original. Indeed, things get so distressing for our exasperated idol that even his own body parts conspire against him.
A little company would do him good right? With Annie (Sarah Berry), Ed (Richard Domeier), Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva) arriving at the cabin, it appears as though Ash’s soiled fortunes may be about to change. Sadly, his last nerve has long-since been frittered away so, when he introduces himself by way of clattering through the door with a look of sheer madness in his eyes, first impressions are far less than favorable. After an almighty scuffle, our hapless hero is consigned to the one place on God’s earth that no man wishes to end up. That’s right, I’m speaking of the kind of hell hole where light bulbs fill up with blood for shits and giggles and menstrual monsters throw their weight (and the hapless Ash) around in hellish hissy fits.
It is unremitting and methinks Sam was perched on his directorial stall gargling with glee, with belt around his bladder but still warm on the inner thigh through the sheer purgatory he was putting his buddy through. To be fair, everybody is provided with a raw deal in Evil Dead II, but none with quite the enormity of that suffered by Ash. In some ways, the sequel closest resembles Tom & Jerry as it flat refuses to take itself too seriously and the performance of its lead is melodramatic, in the best sense, and almost animated. Alright, he isn’t compacted into ludicrous shapes and left to crawl around on the tips of his fingers like his feline counterpart, but then the kitty never had to remove the lower segment of his arm with a chainsaw, so I guess in that sense it’s tit for tat.
Joseph LoDuca Behemoth
The rest of the cast is game and in Annie, our hero is supplied with a welcome dash of love interest to keep him from misplacing his one remaining marble, albeit never one destined to be realized. However, this is primarily a one-man show and Ash has precious little time for small talk as he is more than happy to engage in that with himself. That’s the great thing about utter madness, you’re never as alone as people think you are. Thanks to Campbell’s glorious rubber-faced antics and the opportunities for pratfall provided by Raimi and fellow screenwriter Scott Spiegel’s script, there is no shortage of gristle for him to chew on and, with a sturdy chin like our man Bruce, that’s never likely to present a problem.
Of course, there is also a small matter of those dastardly Deadites and they are just as off-the-chain here as they were first time out. The words “dead by dawn” may well be ringing in your ears for days afterwards, while the sound of that cellar hatch rattling incessantly is more than sufficient to further loosen our hinges. For Evil Dead II, Raimi throws in everything, including kitchen sink, that the screaming Deadites he unearthed have stipulated. There are no crude claymation effects on parade here and the far more lavish $3.6m budget is put to bloody good use. Blood geysers, disembodied limbs which in turn scutter around the joint, airborne peepers, it is all here, lovingly shoehorned into the time it takes Jabba The Hut to touch his toes. It has the lot, without having to progressively cultivate like before, it’s pretty much a freight train of pain designed to maim. And maim it damn well does.
So at this point it may come as a swift kick in the dangle fat to know that I don’t regard this as The Godfather Part II that so many believe it to be. Make no qualms; Evil Dead II is a whole strong shit can of awesomeness and the worthiest of follow-ups imaginable. But, hard as you try, you can never replicate that first trip. My case in point is this: at sixteen I first dropped acid and, for the next several hours of my existence, I observed some truly messed up shenanigans. I witnessed a gentleman walking his dog across the field before us stark naked, became fixated with my copilot’s rabbit feet, and swore blind that his right eyeball had vacated its socket. Then, with my sanity at breaking point, I returned home to the sanctuary of my bedroom, fired up my Walkman, and sat comatose while the walls behind me exhaled to the precise tempo of my musical percussion. Shutting my eyes for precious respite, I was then duly greeted by a mass of stroboscopic primary colors and symmetrical patterns.
Anyhoots, while initially it appeared as though LSD was no friend of mine, I always was a sucker for psychedelics and spent the following three years frantically attempting to recreate that hallowed experience but, alas, to no avail. The primary experience could never again be repeated and the same can be said for The Evil Dead. Cryptic analogies aside, Raimi’s second slice supplies everything you could ever dream of in a sequel and then some. He is calculated in his estimations of what his devoted fanbase desires and gives us exactly that. Is it as good a film as its predecessor? I would argue not quite as, like I say, that first cut is the deepest. However, is Evil Dead II better than virtually any other genre flick of its era? Without a solitary shadow of doubt it’s a resounding yes.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Its predecessor may have been a touch nastier and there is no philandering foliage second time round. However, the extended budget afforded to Raimi does equate to some marvellous instances of sopping grue and with Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero supplying the splatter, we’re in the safest hands the industry can muster up. Besides, what’s not to like about an airborne gob-stopping eyeball?
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)