Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn Movie Review
Ash returns to fight back against the evil spirits that him & his friends accidentally released, but will it be enough to stop the Kandarian demon?
Directors: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Denise Bixler, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Richard Domeier, Ted Raimi, John Peakes & Lou Hancock.
Run Time: 84 min.
US Release: 13 March 1987
UK Release: 26 June 1987
German Release: 28 January 1988
Welcome to round two of my Evil Dead review series. If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I am currently analysing all three original Raimi flicks before reviewing the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead. While I wasn’t a big fan of the first horror-shocker I really did enjoy this film, which served not only as a sequel but also as a retelling of the first story during the first ten minutes of its runtime. The concept for a sequel was discussed early, during the production of The Evil Dead with Raimi envisioning Ash travelling through a time portal back to medieval times. Sadly the budget of 3.6 million dollars was lower than what the director expected and therefore he scraped the idea.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
This sequel begins with a 10-minute introduction, explaining what the book of the dead is and revisiting the events of the first movie (which were changed) that lead Ash (Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Bixler) to fight for their survival against wicked demonic spirits. Ash ends up killing his girlfriend, who became possessed.
The main plot begins where the last film ended, with Ash being pushed through the woods by sinister forces, which end up possessing him. Thanks to the sun rising, Ash manages to regain his body. The young man runs back to his car and tries to leave the haunted woods, but ends up by the destroyed bridge and the sun begins to set again. Meanwhile, Annie Knowby (Berry), daughter of cabin owner and anthropologic professor Raymond Knowby, tasks a group of people to guide her to the cabin of her father, where they encounter a distraught and borderline crazy Ash.
Compared to the first Evil Dead, which was not being funny on purpose, Raimi used the extremely surreal story and it’s goofy main character to create one of the best horror satires I have seen to-date. What makes this movie so appealing, is the fact that the characters are aware of the silly, yet horrifying, situation they find themselves in and simply go with it, hacking and slashing their way through ridiculous evil spirits in a desperate way to stay alive. The script and narrative are also big improvements to the meagre first story. Raimi focuses more on comedy than on the horror aspects, which give this low-budget flick a loving touch. What I appreciated most, though, is how the 10-minute recap at the beginning retells the events of The Evil Dead and thus gets rid of its major flaws.
As funny and entertaining as this movie might be, it becomes extremely repetitive after the first hour, especially if you saw the previous film. It basically consists of the characters fleeing from the evil spirits, hiding and fighting back once someone gets possessed. However the ending redeems the repetitive tone, once Ash accidentally travels back in time and wakes up in the middle of a battle in medieval England (?).
When it comes to characters, most of which appear in the story are not really explored, with the exception of Ash and Annie. The rest just serve as fodder for the evil spirits, turning them into enemies Ash needs to end up fighting. Even though the lack of character depth is somewhat disappointing, I found it good that Raimi’s portrayal of women changed when comparing it to The Evil Dead. Ash, on the other hand, made a dramatic character change; gone is the shy and humble young man, replaced by a self-secure if not a little clumsy protagonist and I need to applaud Bruce Campbell because he simply owned the role!
With a bigger budget, the cinematography and effects improved immensely compared to the first picture. Raimi re-uses his extensive first-person style that shows us the destructive force of the demon from its point of view, and I still believe it’s one of the best cinematographic effects of this series. It manages to convey tension and fear without ever showing us the creature. The makeup and prosthetics used for Evil Dead II also improved immensely, as did the special effects and the over-the-top violence and gore is used this time around as a comedic effect rather than a shocking one. However, due to the age of this film, not all effects managed to pass the test of time.
Verdict: Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn is the sequel to the highly popular The Evil Dead, as well as a spiritual retelling of the first story. Sam Raimi shifted the narrative tone from horror to comedy, amping up the goofy aspects, and it did benefit the movie not only from a plot aspect but also character wise. Ash’s persona change not only gave the movie the necessary groove (pun intended), but he was a much better protagonist than in his previous depiction with Campbell making a fantastic acting job. Just as in the first horror tale, Raimi managed to prove that he is incredibly creative behind the camera. All in all, this is one of my favourite comedy-horrors and I give Evil Dead II an 8.0 out of 10.
My next review in this series will follow this Saturday, so if you are interested make sure to keep your eyes open. Thank you very much for reading this review and if you liked it, make sure to share it.