Sam Raimi turns the irreverence up to 11 for Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987), at once a sequel and a remake of his own indie hit The Evil Dead (1981) as an over-the-top horror burlesque.
Lantern jawed Bruce Campbell (the only returning cast member) stars as Ash, who heads out to a cabin in the woods for a romantic weekend with Linda (Denise Bixler). Their first mistake: mucking with the Necronomicon (the cover made from human skin should have been a warning) and unleashing the evil imprisoned in its cursed pages. The movie has barely begun when she’s transformed into a possessed, cackling corpse and Ash tries to fend off the forces of darkness with four strangers (Sarah Berry, Richard Domeier, Dan Hicks, and Kassie Wesley) who hole up with him.
Campbell hits the right balance between long suffering victim and smart talking hero as Ash loses the woman he loves, his own left hand (which takes on a life of its own in a battle the Three Stooges would love), and his sanity over the long night, but he plays second string to the wild camerawork and amazing budget-minded invention.
Raimi spares no gore in insane, at times surreal extravaganza. Limbs are severed and reanimated, body parts fly through the air, and blood doesn’t just flow, is sprays and gushes in fountains that defy the laws of physics and the boundaries of good taste. The budget is substantially bigger than his debut feature, though still tiny by studio standards, and he accomplishes it all with creative and inventive solutions to practical challenges.
Evil Dead 2 hits all the horror clichés and turns them on their ear, mixing macabre moments with outrageous sight gags and painful puns. Its demons just want to have a little nasty fun with its human playthings and the gleeful excess is so over-the-top that it leaves the realm of horror and becomes slapstick splatter fest. And what would you expect from a hero who lashes a chainsaw on his stump of an arm in place of a prosthetic?
The adventures of Ash continue in Army of Darkness but this entry is arguably the funniest horror film ever made.
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Evil Dead 2 [Blu-ray]
Evil Dead 2 [DVD]
Evil Dead II [4K UHD + Blu-ray]
The special edition Blu-ray and DVD releases feature commentary with writer/director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero plus featurettes and other supplements.
Theirs is also a collectible limited edition in a squishy sculpted rubber case that replicates the flesh covered “Sumerian Book of the Dead,” complete with illustrations by special effects artist Tom Sullivan and sound effects: poke the eye and hear it scream! Groovy!