“The Evil Dead” dropped in 1981, and since its debut, this wacky flick has blossomed into a cult classic. While much beloved, 1987’s “Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn,” is often regarded as an elite sequel better than its predecessor. Sam Raimi’s excellent “Evil Dead 2” benefits from all that made “The Evil Dead” amazing, adding to and improving the recipe.
We pick up generally where the first film left off, with a quick recap. Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler), arrive at a remote cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway. Ash discovers a tape recorder left by archaeologist Professor Knowby (John Peaks), the former occupant of the cabin. Knowby reads a few pages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (Book of the Dead). Upon playing the recording, Ash inadvertently unleashes a demon, which possesses Linda. Ash has no choice but to decapitate her.
We then resume where “The Evil Dead” left off. Ash battles the evil force unleashed by the Book of the Dead, is possessed, but the demon releases him when the sun comes out. Professor Knowby’s daughter, Annie (Sarah Berry), along with her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier) arrive at the cabin. Annie and Ed bring two road workers they met on the journey, Jake (Dan Hicks), and Bobby Joe (Kassie DePaiva). Together they battle the demon, and attempt to banish it from whence it came.
A common misconception is that Raimi opted to remake the first movie with the recap of the original “The Evil Dead.” However, contrary to popular opinion, Raimi was unable to obtain the rights to show clips of the first film. Thus, he was forced to re-shoot scenes and essentially retell “The Evil Dead.” Yet while “Evil Dead 2” isn’t intended as a remake, there’s the feeling of a remake.
The sequel takes everything that made “The Evil Dead” a classic – the humor, excessive gore, detailed special effects – and ups the ante. Plus, this time the humor is intentional, as opposed to the original film deriving its laughs from the inherent cheesiness. What’s more, there’s a pleasant mix of slapstick humor and clever set ups. One of the highlight moments comes just after Ash has chopped off his possessed hand and trapped it under a bucket. On top of the bucket, he puts a stack of books, among which is A Farewell to Arms. It’s a quick moment, but one of the film’s finest.
Bruce Campbell basically steals the show, and thanks to the “Evil Dead” trilogy, he emerged as a cult icon. Almost no other actor could deliver one-liners like “Groovy,” to perfection the way Campbell masters them. After the 1981 “The Evil Dead’s” success, “Evil Dead 2” swooped in to build a franchise, spawning a third sequel in “Army of Darkness,” 2013 reboot, and a television show, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” on STARZ. Horror author Stephen King is actually partially responsible for “Evil Dead 2.” King loved the first movie so much that he convinced producer Dino De Laurentiis to finance the sequel. Ironically, King famously hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining,” though he admittedly shared a more personal connection with Kubrick’s film having penned the novel. Creepy, campy, and outrageously funny, “Evil Dead 2” is one of the greatest sequels ever created.