The Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn

This is it. This is my favorite movie. I bet I’ve seen it over 100 times. Clocking in at 86 minutes, Sam Raimi’s hyper-paced masterpiece Evil Dead II grabs you by the balls immediately and doesn’t let go. Not so much a sequel as a rewrite to 1981’s Evil Dead, ED2 has the same basic plot involving cabin bound humans battling demons and each other. Many people say the first Evil Dead gets good when Ash is the last one left in the cabin to fight off his demon possessed friends. Evil Dead II spends it’s entire first half with Ash alone, fighting off his demon possessed girlfriend and running from “the force” that lurks in the woods outside.

Why Bruce Campbell isn’t a major Hollywood star I will never understand. He has every-man likeability to him that few actors possess. I’ve even read his book “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor” a bunch of times. It’s the book I always take on a plane with me. The parts where he talks about making the Evil Dead films and how they rigged the different effects is so fucking interesting. His other book “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” is an entertaining mix of fact and fiction, but not as interesting as “Chins.” But wait, you came to this site to check out movie reviews, not hear about book shit, so back to the movie.

Evil Dead II wastes no time with character development or setting up the scene. The movie opens with a short monologue about the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or “Book of the Dead”. This book has passages that open a door to another dimension and cause people to be possessed by nasty demons. Ash (Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) are driving out to a remote cabin in the woods for some love making the Bruce Campbell way. Ash finds a tape recorder with a professor’s voice on it reciting passages from the Necronomicon. He plays it, and the shit hits the fan. First, “the force”, an invisible entity we never see that floats through the woods and makes a WWWAAAAAWWWWW sound (voiced by Sam Raimi), crashes though a window and snatches up Linda. Ash goes outside to look for her, and she pops up all possessed looking. With no forethought Ash decapitates her with a shovel. I’ve always thought this part was funny because she doesn’t even touch him before he lets her have it. I mean, what if she’s just joking? Well, she isn’t because he sees her corpse come out of the ground and do a weird dance number. Then her head falls in his lap and bites him. Then his hand becomes possessed and attacks him. Then he cuts off his hand in one of several blood soaked scenes that earned Evil Dead II an X rating. It’s awesome! Campbell makes his own hand attacking him look really convincing, plus Raimi under cranks the camera to give the whole sequence a cartoon-like effect.

Ash runs out of the cabin and we hear what is probably the most famous badly dubbed line in horror movie history: “Workshed.” In the commentary Bruce talks about how on the set of “Escape From L.A.” the first thing Kurt Russell said to him was: “Say workshed.” Ash puts Linda’s head in a clamp and gives her the chainsaw.

The professor’s daughter Annie (Sarah Berry), her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier), tow truck driver Jake (Daniel Hicks), and Jake’s tough, tobacco chomping hussy (Kassie DePaiva), show up at the cabin and a freaked out Ash takes a shot at them through the door. They all bust in, see the bloody chainsaw, and assume Ash murdered the professor. They throw Ash’s ass in the cellar where Henrietta, (Ted Raimi in a crazy body suit) the professor’s grotesque, demon possessed wife, beats the shit out of him. Ash gets out of the cellar and Ed, the professor’s daughter’s boyfriend, becomes demon-possessed and eats some of tough chick Bobbie Joe’s hair. Ashley gives Evil Ed the axe and green blood spurts out. In a failed attempt to get an R rating, Raimi tried to use other colors for blood than red throughout the movie.

After a warning from the professor’s ghost, Ash’s severed hand shows back up holding Bobbie Joe’s. She freaks, runs out into the woods, and gets thrashed to death by vines. Kind of like in the original, but the vines don’t get “inside” her. Jake (Danny Hicks in one of the finest performances ever put on celluloid) insists they go out and look for her. He holds Ash and Annie at gunpoint and yells into the woods repeatedly “Bobbie Joe!” The creators make so much fun of Danny Hicks in the commentary you have to hear it. Plus the way this scene is edited is fucking hilarious.

Ash gets possessed, rams Jake’s head into a tree and goes after Annie. She ends up stabbing Jake accidentally, and Henrietta eats Jake. Ash turns back to normal and battles a demon possessed Henrietta for the pages of the Necronomicon. Henrietta turns into a monkey monster and gets her head chopped off. A rotten apple-looking monster appears and attacks Ashley. Annie reads the pages and a rift in time and space opens and starts sucking everything, including the rotten apple monster and Ash, into it. Ash ends up in the Middle Ages where Sam Raimi, wearing a suit of armor, flips up his mask and declares “Hail of him who has come from the sky to liberate us from the terror of the deadites!” The movie ends with a visibly distraught Ash bellowing “NOOOOO!” See, at first he’s hesitant to take on the Army of Darkness. But that’s another story.

What makes Evil Dead II so fun to watch and gives it tons of re-watch value is the frantic pacing. Ash is battling demons within the first five minutes, and it doesn’t stop for the next 81 minutes. The effects look better than any CGI studios are spitting out today and you can tell that Raimi’s team, including Scott Spiegal and Rob Tapert, really put a lot of time and sweat into making this movie. If you don’t own it, get your hands on a copy now. You may end up like me. I want to be Bruce Campbell in this movie and have all this shit happen to me. Strange.

**This review is of the blood red colored laserdisc edition of Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn. THE DISC IS BLOOD FUCKING RED! It’s the pride of my laserdisc collection. It’s my favorite movie in my favorite format. The commentary with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Scott Spiegel has some of the best movie making stories and funniest shit I’ve ever heard, and Bruce Campbell does a great Ronald Regan impression. There’s also a behind-the-scenes segment on the making of the film. The Henrietta suit that Ted Raimi had to wear took six hours to put on and was so hot that in one scene you see about a gallon of sweat pour out the ear of the suit. HA! Sam Raimi seems to get pleasure in torturing his brother, and most of all beating the crap out of Bruce Campbell. Raimi spends most of the commentary talking about it.

**Evil Dead II Trivia: Evil Dead II was filmed on the same plot of land as “The Color Purple.” The first seven minutes of Evil Dead II are meant to be a summary of the first Evil Dead. When Ash is standing in front of the cabin and the “force” or “entity” rams into him that’s the scene where Evil Dead ends and Evil Dead II begins.

Who’s laughing now?



~ by exploitnation on June 4, 2008.

One Response to “The Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn”

  1. This is one of my favorite films, also. I don´t hink I´ve seen it a 100 hundred times but I have seen it way too many times for it to be good for my own health.
    The “workshed”-line is hilarious and this film also contains one of my favourite scenes of ANY film: the one where Annie gets the eyeball in her mouth still makes me roar with laughter. Now, THAT`S entertainment!
    You haven´t seen “The Evil Dead”-films until you´ve seen them with Raimi´s & Campbell´s commentary. They make the films even more entertaining, if that´s possible.
    Oh, and “If Chins Could Kill” is a great book. Haven´t had the time to read “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way” yet but it´s definitely one of the greatest book titles ever.

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