Celebrating its 25th anniversary as the sequel that serves as more of a remake, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn reunites writer-director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell with the Necronomicon and then proceeds, on a somewhat better budget, to re-create the events from Evil Dead albeit with a loopier vibe. Of course, the comedy of Evil Dead 2 transcends the limitations of its horror mentality and kicks it into overdrive with a pulse pounding frenzy of spooky activity mixed with gut-busting guffaws. It’s a manic film; one that works it starts and fits without the finesse of an old pro but with the wild energy of a newbie. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is quite simply black comedy gold.
Ash Williams (Campbell) and his gal pal Linda (Denise Bixler) are weekending it in an isolated cabin surrounded by a spooky forest. The cabin’s previous tenet, an archeological professor, has left a tape recording that, once played, unleashes an evil spirit that finds solace in Linda’s body. Ash must kill and decapitate his girlfriend in order to survive the attack. Once he has her buried, Ash discovers another spirit is roaming the forest looking for him.
He’s safe nowhere.
Not even the bridge back to civilization will let him leave the cabin in the woods. It is Ash Williams vs. the armies of the Evil Dead…all over again. While Ash deals with this new found mess he’s in, the archeologist's daughter, Annie (Sarah Berry), and her assistant, Ed Getley (Richard Domeier) return to the cabin with more pages from the Book of the Dead. Soon enough, all the characters – including loopy locals Jake (Danny Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley) - meet up with a whacked out Ash, who imagines a whole slew of inanimate objects all laughing at him alone, and slowly begun to understand the deeply demented doo-doo they have stepped in.
Raimi, essentially throwing caution to the ravages of the wind, directs the second encounter with his particular brand of the undead with a fierce and tireless energy that keeps the film feeling funny and contemporary – even upon repeated viewings. The comedy is as sharp as the Kandarian dagger Ash’s possessed hand stabs Annie with. This is easily the 42nd time I’ve seen this morbidly funny film and it still feels excitingly new and vibrant. It’s the anarchy behind the construction of scenes that have Ash attaching a modified chainsaw to his hand and a possessed undead killing mother buried in the cellar of the cabin.
Campbell, who built an entire career out of Ash’s persona, is simply rich as the goon-faced hero. He chomps on his lines and spits them back out with a quick-witted comical force that is matched only by the hyper-kinetic camera recording the action. He mugs for the camera and builds a comedic psychosis that is matched nicely by Raimi’s love for more and more gore. He knows exactly what Evil Dead 2 is and plays along with the need for more and more humor at the sake of the horror cliché nicely.
Full of visual gags and visceral punch, Evil Dead 2 is an unholy rockin’ affair that never reels from the gore or yields in pushing the limits of questionable taste. It’s dripping with ferocity and humor and remains, 25 years down the road, a great source of inspiration of the burgeoning young directors out there.
MPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Sam Raimi; Scott Spiegel
Cast: Bruce Campbell; Dan Hicks; Kassie Wesley DePeiva; Ted Raimi
Tagline: 2 Terrifying. 2 Frightening. 2 Much!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Someone's in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soooul!"
Theatrical Distributor: Rosebud Releasing Corporation
Blu-ray Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 13, 1987
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 15, 2011
Synopsis: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits holds up in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - November 15, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
Playback: Region A locked
Sporting a new coat of paint in the form of its new AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1, Evil Dead 2 is a little slice of Raimi heaven. One should be aware that the grainy look of the film isn’t the problem of the transfer, it’s a problem with the film’s initial low budget. No, Virginia, it doesn’t get any clearer than that. Colors are bright and texture is fine, but the grain is thick and, for some audience members expecting the moon, it will be problematic. The interior scenes sparkle a bit more than the outdoor scenes and shed a little light on the detail that the HD format is able to pull from older footage. Crush is present and, oh green-screen effects, the lines between the physical and imagined is very, very evident on blu-ray. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a nice feature and offers never before heard sounds and a new immersive feel to the film.
- Previously recorded for the last HD release of Evil Dead 2, the commentary is a fun one. It’s provided by Writer/Director Raimi, Actor Campbell, Co-Writer Scott Spiegel and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero. One can tell that the humor of the picture belongs to Spiegel, but it is fun to hear everyone together talk about the technical aspects of putting this crazy gem of a movie together.
Evil Dead 2 is the little film that could. The supplemental material contained on the 25th anniversary release won’t let you forget that. Rightly so. Beginning with a great combination of featurettes woven into one long documentary, the special features cover the make-up effects, the wit, special video segments that detail the behind-the-scenes antics, and a special return to the haunted woods, the Evil Dead 2 release is indeed a great big party sans silly hats and confetti. You can provide those. The gore is dissected, the location revisited, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes home video footage from Nicotero's own camera for fans to celebrate. Even the Stills Gallery – wisely split into the following categories: Advertising & Memorabilia, Behind-the-Scenes, Special Make-up Effects and Stop Motion Animation – are engaging.
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of ‘Evil Dead 2’ (88 min)
- Cabin Fever – A "Fly on the Wall" Look Behind the Scenes of ‘Evil Dead II’ (30 min)
- Road to Wadesboro: Revisiting the Shooting Location with Filmmaker Tony Elwood (8 min)
- ‘Evil Dead II’: Behind-the-Screams (17 min)
- The Gore the Merrier (32 min)
- Still Galleries