31 Days of Halloween — Day 15: Evil Dead II (1987) — by Dr. Shock

 

HMP evil dead 2Editor’s Note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.


Not so much a sequel as it is a reworking of 1981’s The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II takes the story of Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the “Deadites” in a different direction. Instead of straight-up horror, Sam Raimi and company opted to toss a generous helping of comedy into the mix this time out, resulting in a brilliant bit of insanity that has captured the hearts of genre fans the world over.

As our story begins, Ash and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) are heading to a remote cabin for a romantic weekend getaway. Shortly after they arrive, Ash finds a reel-to-reel tape recorder sitting on a desk and decides to give it a listen. The voice on the tape belongs to the cabin’s owner, Professor Knowby (John Peakes), who reads aloud from the Necronomicon, or “Book of the Dead,” which he uncovered during a recent archaeological dig. But, to Ash’s dismay, the passages awaken an evil spirit, which bursts into the cabin and takes control of Linda’s body. Feeling he has no alternative, Ash kills Linda and buries her in the forest. But as he’ll soon learn, his problems are far from over…

As this is going on, Professor Knowby’s daughter Anne (Sarah Berry), who, like her father, dabbles in archaeology, is returning from an overseas dig, where she found several more pages from the Book of the Dead. Joined by her boyfriend / research partner Ed Getley (Richard Domeier), Anne drives to the cabin to share this amazing discovery with her father (who she believes is still there).

Unfortunately, the bridge that leads to the cabin has been inexplicably destroyed. Hoping to find another way in, Anne hires Jake (Dan Hicks) and his girlfriend Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva) to guide them through the forest. Of course, once they arrive at their destination, the four weary travelers find more than they bargained for.

Having already established the particulars in The Evil Dead (i.e., malevolent spirits in the woods, demonic possession, etc.), Evil Dead II doesn’t waste any time setting things up; mere minutes after the opening credits have ended, Ash is listening to the tape and summoning the ancient evil that possesses his girlfriend. And from there on out, the movie doesn’t stop to take a breath.

Most of the lunacy comes courtesy of Bruce Campbell, whose over-the-top performance as Ash is one of the film’s strong suits (the entire first act consists of Ash battling the supernatural entities that have come to destroy him), and it’s to the actor’s credit that he succeeds at making us laugh and jump at the same time.

Equally as flamboyant is director Sam Raimi, who, throughout the entire film, lets his imagination run wild. Along with his frequent use of the “forest cam,” where we’re looking through the eyes of the evil spirits as they rush toward the cabin, the movie features some stop-motion animation (which, among other things, allows Linda’s corpse to spring from the ground and do a little dance) and more jump-scares than you can shake a stick at (no matter how often I watch this movie, a few of these jump-scares still manage to surprise me).

Yet, despite all its extravagant bells and whistles, Evil Dead II is also genuinely frightening, making it that rare horror / comedy that offers just as many scares as it does laughs.

As it is with 1986’s Aliens (James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece, Alien), many horror fans rank Evil Dead II above the original Evil Dead, which, seeing as the sequel is as much a comedy as it is a supernatural fright pic, is something of a surprise. (Likewise, Aliens is more of an action-packed, shoot-‘em-up than a straight-on sci-fi / horror film.)

In the case of both franchises, my opinion is exactly the same: I prefer the originals (Alien and The Evil Dead), but that doesn’t prevent me from loving the hell out of the sequels!

—Dr. Shock


—Read Dave’s original review over at DVD Infatuation

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Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

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3 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 15: Evil Dead II (1987) — by Dr. Shock

  1. (Heavy spoilers)

    Day 15 – Orphan (2009)

    Looking back, it seems as if in the late 2000’s, I stopped going out of my way to watch the mainstream horror releases. You can’t blame me though when you look at where the quality was coming from back then. It was all about the foreign releases and small direct-to-video films. Look at what came out in 2009 alone. There was [Rec], Trick ‘r Treat, Let the Right One In, Dead Sno, The House of the Devil, ect. Meanwhile, some of the bigger mainstream releases included Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, the Friday the 13th remake, and Saw VI. However, by not paying much attention towards the wide releases, sometimes a gem can fall through the cracks. Orphan happens to be one of those movies for me.

    Without a doubt, you can not talk about Orphan without discussing Isabelle Fuhrman. For someone who was merely eleven or twelve years old at the time of filming and with limited acting experience, she ended up doing an amazing job. We’re talking right up there with Danielle Harris as one of the best child actors in horror cinema. She mixes her emotions up well enough that one moment she comes across as a sweet kid, but then in the next scene she’s terrifyingly imposing. Her facial expressions was likely the best part of her acting. There’s times when she has so much rage on her face that you end up getting scared of this punk kid. I can’t say I’ve seen any of Fuhrman’s subsequent work other than her small role in The Hunger Games, but I’m hopeful she can live up to this early potential that created for her career expectations.

    Let’s talk about sex. Children, cover your eyes. There’s one sex scene in the movie and I’m only bringing it up because it reminds me of a classic horror film – Don’t Look Now. In both movies, there’s a sex scene that is a bit scandalous, for Don’t Look Now it’s the sheer length of it while this movie is about where the sex is taking place. On the surface, it’s just sex, but both of them have greater meaning. In both cases, the two couples have experienced a lot of turmoil in recent times with the death of one of their children. For a long time, sex was not even on the menu. So the sex scene is supposed to represent the couples coming back together and finally letting the past go. They’re united once again. For Orphan, it’s a false reunion. Instead, things only spiral out of control with the relationship never again being as strong as it once was. It’s not horror, but that fact makes the sex scene feel so depressing in hindsight. Then there’s the seduction scene. When it comes to scandalous seduction scenes when an underage girl tries to seduce someone old enough to be their father, they’re typically like Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy. Only a couple of years under age and looking older than she actually is. In Orphan, it’s the opposite. Fuhrman looks so young and that makes the scene incredibly unsettling. Again, it’s not horror, but it’s just one of the many instances where the movie does something to catch you off guard. Sometimes it’s great to have a movie to not be so polished and to go out of their way to make you feel uncomfortable without actually crossing any lines that would lead someone into refusing to watch a movie.

    Speaking of unsettling scenes, another strength of the movie came in it’s young star, Aryana Engineer, who played the young deaf daughter. Engineer had a very easy task in the film – be adorable. She accomplishes that with ease and as a result, any time she’s in harm’s way, the tension rises and you’re pleading to the screen that no harm comes to the kid. While the scene didn’t have any great importance, there’s one moment where Furhman’s character is holding a loaded gun at Engineer’s character. Even though I knew they couldn’t possibly have this little girl be shot, the moment was still powerful and shocked me that they would even tease something as extreme as possibly shooting Engineer.

    You can’t talk about unsettling scenes without discussing the opening nightmare scene. Now, I’m not a woman let alone a mother, but the nightmare of the unborn baby dying was the scariest scene of the movie. It reminds me a bit of a scene from a Nightmare on Elm Street movie where you’re going about a real event and at some point you eventually fall asleep without realizing it. From there, your nightmare continues the real event only for it to be far darker than in reality. Everyone around you are acting sinister like and all you’re doing it trying to make sense out of this madness. I now have a perpetual fear of being pregnant and ending up in a similar scene. That’s a normal fear for a man to have, right?

    Then there’s the big twist at the end. Even though this was my first viewing of the movie, I had been spoiled about the twist long ago (Thanks Tosh.0). As annoying as that can be, sometimes that can be a good test to see how good a film actually is. If you know the twist, but it still draws you in with the reveal still feeling like a huge moment, they accomplished that goal. The scene where Furhman’s character is removing her makeup and going from a twelve year old girl into a thirty-three year old is rather freaky looking. The twist also comes off as a welcomed surprise rather than just having Furhman’s character be a young girl or something else (IE. a demon). It’s the main aspect that made the film memorable and it works well enough that it’s still effective if you’re like me and you had it spoiled for you.

    Overall, due to the fact that 2009 had a great collection of top notch horrors, I can’t say this is amongst the best horror movies of the year. However, due to the great acting of Furhman, plenty of unsettling scenes, and a twist ending that no one will be able to forget, Orphan is a wide release horror that is well worth going out of your way and seeing.

    I’d give it a 8.5 and a strong recommendation to watch this October.

  2. 31 Days of Halloween day 14
    Spoilers

    36. Maggie (**) – The only way I can get any enjoyment out of this is if I theorize the the film was symbolizing mental illness. Farm girl runs away to big city, gets involved with drugs. Drugs cause mental illness. Dad picks up daughter. Girl’s condition worsens. Meets boy with similar problem. Boy attempts suicide, gets taken away. Girl worsens. Town wants her put into a mental institution.

  3. Day 15: The Undying Monster
    I got this movie in a set with The Lodger after Dr. Shock did a classic actors segment on Laird Cregar. It was quite good! A nice mystery with a wolfmanish monster. The sets and atmosphere are the real draw here.

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