Evil Dead II (1987)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell and 4 other people
Release date: March 13, 1987
Running time: 84 minutes
Back again in my continuing series of "the most important movies of a particular genre that I've never seen." Up until I started this, I had never seen an entire Evil Dead movie, but sat through that entire piece of shit White Noise where Michael Keaton sees ghosts in video tapes. The first step is admitting you have a problem...
This is the part where I'd normally warn about spoilers, but I think I'm the last person from my generation to watch it, so why bother? Big chinned idiot plays a tape, puts a chainsaw on his hand, kills demons. It's your standard Shakesperean farce.
The movie begins with a recap of the events of the original Evil Dead. Or it would, if they had the rights to show it. Month after grueling month of shooting, physically abusing the actors, cold-calling local businesses to scrounge up enough money to finish filming, and grabbing anyone and everyone they could to cake on demon makeup and attack Bruce Campbell. They inadvertently created not only an insanely profitable indie movie, but one of the most iconic horror films of all time. The kind of film a whole new generation of filmmakers will point back to as their inspiration, a film that entranced them and made them not only want to pick up a camera, but made them believe they could. And they couldn’t show a single second of it. Welcome to Hollywood, dick.
So instead of Previously on Evil Dead, they just re-film it. Scott and those other 2 useless characters whose names aren’t worth remembering aren’t there. It’s just Ash and his girlfriend Linda driving to an “abandoned” cabin in the woods. On one hand it’s weird to make a direct sequel and retell the first movie without half the cast, but if I put a gun to your mother’s head and gave you 10 seconds to tell me which female character got the pencil in the ankle, you would spend one second thinking and then nine seconds apologizing and telling her you love her.
Ash is putting the moves on his lady friend and decides to crack open a bottle of champagne. He heads into a well-furnished room that was clearly decorated by someone who was very, very recently using it, but who cares; if he plays his cards right he can get an under the table handy in Leatherface’s cabin. Linda is still convinced the owners are going to come back but Ash blows her off to get his drink on. She has every right to be concerned, because all of the owner’s things are still sprawled all over the table. Shit, the lamp is still on and his glasses are sitting there. The owner probably went back into town to get some moonshine and this big chinned idiot just rolls on in to pump and dump in this dude’s home. Ash kinda deserves to have his soul torn asunder by infinite demon penises.
|It literally couldn't be more obvious that someone is in the middle of using it, by a handy is a handy
Next to all of the professor’s things are a giant tape recorder and an ancient text bound in human skin and inked in human blood. I guess the hand jibber can wait, let’s listen to a groovy tape. The tape explains the cabin belongs to Professor Raymond Knowby, who had travelled with his wife, Henrietta, daughter Annie, and another professor named Ed to the Castle of Kandar. There they found Necronomicon Ex-Mortis: The Book of the Dead.
It’s a passageway to an evil world, written long ago "when seas ran red with blood” and disappeared entirely in 1300 A.D. He and Henrietta brought the book to the cabin so he could study it without any distractions, and there he began to translate. Nobody had a problem with him taking a 600 year old book seemingly lost to time out to a cabin in Bumfuck, Nowhere. The book speaks of an evil presence that roaming the forests that can be summoned to possess the living by incanting the book’s passages. The professor begins to read aloud from the book, and an all too familiar POV shot of an unseen evil force comes flying through the forest towards the cabin.
I gotta say, I don’t hate the Necronomicon as much this time around. In the original, I noted how nobody read from it, they just played a tape and yet unspeakable horror was visited upon them. They didn’t do anything to deserve their horrible fates. The exact same thing happens here, but for some reason it doesn’t bug me. The original should have been five teens go into the woods and fuck something up and die one by one. In this movie, it feels more like the evil had already been summoned, Ash just happened to walk into it. Classic wrong place at the wrong time scenario.
The demon force flies through the window and attacks Linda. Ash goes outside to look for her and she attacks. He doesn’t spend half the movie moping around, though. He falls, she leaps at him, he picks up a shovel and knocks her fuckin block off. He buries her headless body and has a couple of seconds to process what the fuck just happened before the evil spirit flies through the cabin straight towards him.
This is where the first movie ends. He doesn’t die, like you would’ve been led to believe. He’s lifted on the ground and carried through the woods, and it is absolutely amazing.
|Not since George of the Jungle has such a harrowing tale of man not watching out for that tree been told
The ride finally stops when he slams into a tree trunk and falls face-first into a puddle. I don’t know why Sam Raimi seems to hate Bruce Campbell so much, but if abusing actors worked for Kubrick I guess you might as well keep throwing your best friend into saplings. Ash awakens fully possessed, but before he can do anything he’s reverted to his human form. Why? Because the Sun has come up, driving the demon away. Remember how at the end of the last movie the Sun came up and everything was ok, but it was a fake-out and an evil force flew at his face and it cut to black? Well, you shouldn't. Just pretend it didn't happen, continuity is your enemy here. He regains his senses and promptly passes out with all the survival instincts of a wounded dog.
So to recap, eight and a half minutes into the movie and Ash has found the cabin, discovered the book, played the tape, killed his girlfriend, and been possessed. Ash finds this as ridiculous as I do, and doesn’t even head back to the cabin to pack his shit. He takes one look at it, sees a spooky demon face, and moonwalks the fuck out of frame and gets into his car and drives off. There’s plenty of time to think of an alibi on the open road. Well, there would be, if the bridge wasn’t completely destroyed. As he’s left staring wondering what in the fuck could have done that, the sun goes down (I guess he slept all day, it’s not really explained) and the evil force appears again out of nowhere and starts racing towards him. Ash drives off, but hits a stump and is thrown through the windshield, because Sam Raimi fucking hates Bruce Campbell. Everyone says the two of them are best friends, but if someone hoisted me up on some rickety ass machine and slammed me into trees, and then made me fly out of an Oldsmobile windshield, we wouldn’t be on speaking terms.
Ash runs back to the cabin on foot and is chased from room to room, until he’s able to elude the omnipresent demonic force. How could a simple human defy the pure embodiment of evil? By playing hide and seek in the cellar like a child.
Ash has had a rough night so he takes a cat nap, but is awoken by piano music. He enters the room to discover the piano playing the song he played for Linda while she still had a head. Speaking of Linda, she must really dig this song, because her headless corpse emerges from the ground as a stop motion Barbie doll and dances. Her head rolls back onto her body and she dances her heart out, then disappears, only to reappear in front of the window and repeatedly slam Ash’s face into it.
|Would you fuck me? I'd fuck me
Her head falls back off and Ash awakens, screaming. Oh good, it was all a dream and the window is still boarded up, at least he doesn’t have to worry about HER SEVERED HEAD FALLING INTO HIS LAP OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE. She says “hello, lover” and bites his hand and doesn’t let go. She latches on with a death grip as he flails around the room, violently slamming her head into anything and everything. It’s absolute Looney Tunes. I mentioned Raimi’s love of Three Stooges in my review of the last film, but it’s never more apparent than right here. I’m surprised she doesn’t spit his hand out and yell “nyuk nyuk nyuk” at him in her over-modulated demon voice. Ash takes her out to the woodshed and clamps her head in a vise, finally breaking her grip.
She taunts him and he decides he’s gonna shut her up for good. He reaches for the chainsaw but it’s missing, where could it be? Before he can finish his thought, her headless claymation body bursts through the door wielding it. Seeing as she doesn’t have a head, she can’t see where she’s going and takes herself out. I’m not one to put wacky music over movie scenes, but I’ll be god damned if my brain didn’t start playing the Benny Hill music in my head the entire time. This moment is such a perfect example of the tone of this movie: it’s super violent and gratuitously violent but still hilarious.
Now with the chainsaw in his position, he murders the shit out of her big stupid head. She won’t be getting a burial this time. Ash returns to the cabin where he finds a shotgun and encounters a rocking chair moving on its own. He’s had to murder his girlfriend twice, become possessed, and watch a headless body literally burst through a door like the Kool-Aid man then chainsaw it’s own stump where its head used to be. Ash has had a very trying day and looks into the mirror to try to make some sense of it all. Then his reflection reaches out and starts strangling him, because of COURSE it does.
|This is the look of a man who has just about had it
He comes to his senses and realizes he’s choking himself. He collects himself, takes a deep breath, and is attacked by his own hand. The bitten hand has become possessed and is trying to murder him. I was listening to Now Playing Podcast’s retrospective of the Evil Dead series and one of the hosts pointed out that in this movie in particular, he sees a lot of Bruce Campbell in Jim Carrey. Like I said in my Evil Dead review, I’ve never seen these movies before. But I sure as shit watched Jim Carrey growing up. To this day I can quote Ace Ventura word for word, and I saw everything he put out because I was a child in the 90’s. And man do I see it. I’m not saying Jim Carrey lifted Bruce’s style, but if you told me he spent his time as an up and coming comedian getting high and watching this movie, I wouldn't be surprised. It’s almost uncanny how similar they are, from the facial expressions to the over the top physical comedy. And when Ash’s hand grabs his own face and starts attacking, you can bet I immediately thought of The Claw in Liar, Liar.
Meanwhile, Knowby’s daughter and Ed (the other professor. There’s no way you remembered who he was) are heading to her father’s cabin with new pages from the Necronomicon to be translated. They come across the bridge and it’s obviously uncrossable, on account of it being ripped apart by the hand of an angry God. They come across two hillbilly harbingers who offer to lead them through a trail - for a price. Who cares, they're only in this movie to die horrible, gruesome deaths. Back to the Bruce Campbell Show.
The hand is breaking plates over Ash's head, slamming his face on the counter, and throwing him around like a general asshole. Anything the hand can reach, it grabs and breaks over his head. The Hand spots a cleaver on the floor and starts dragging Ash’s unconscious body towards it. Ash awakens and stops it in place by stabbing it with a knife, then cuts it off entirely with the chainsaw. They took his woman and they’ve taken his jackin’ hand. Now it’s personal.
This just pisses his hand off more. Ash places a bucket on top of it and stacks some books on it, the one on top being “A Farewell to Arms.” Hardy har har. The sneaky little shit gets away and literally runs through a mouse hole in the wall and taunts Ash into opening fire. It’s fucking Tom and Jerry.
The walls start bleeding when he shoots them, because of course they do. Then they REALLY start bleeding.
The blood vanishes just as quickly as it appeared, the haunted rocking chair breaks beneath Ash when he tries to sit in it, and the mounted deer head laughs at him. Then the lamp laughs at him. Then the cabinets and the books. Everything from inside the castle in Beauty and the Beast is laughing at him and Ash is going completely nanners. He begins to laugh hysterically along with them and is visibly right at his breaking point, but all of the laughter ends abruptly when he hears a noise outside and immediately fires off a shot.
Turns out the sound was the dead meat 4 minor characters, and Ash just shot one of them. He hit hayseed idiot’s girlfriend in the shoulder. A quick rundown of who they are, even though they’re not Bruce Campbell so they don’t matter. Not trying to be mean, but in 3 movies nobody other than Bruce goes on to do fuck all in their careers, and Bruce's biggest role is a supporting character on fucking Burn Notice. It’s Annie, Professor Knowby’s daughter who is dressed like a tennis instructor, Ed, the other guy who was with them when they discovered the book, and the two country bumpkins who led them down the trail, Jake and his girlfriend Bobbie Joe. Jake is missing teeth and wearing overalls and Bobbie Joe’s name is Bobbie Joe. Such deep characters. The pathos…
Ed and Jake tackle and restrain Ash as Annie steps into the cabin and realizes this psycho who just blindly shot through a closed door is in her father’s cabin alone with a gun and bloody chainsaw. This does not look good for Ash, as she immediately assumes he murdered her parents and made chili out of em. They karate kick Ash into the cellar while they decide what to do with him.
The four people who aren’t Ash so who cares search the cabin but find no trace of her parents, so they do what everyone in this universe does when faced with a troubling scenario and listen to a tape recorder. They learn Knowby’s wife Henrietta became possessed and he was forced to kill her and bury her in the fruit cellar. Where Ash is. Whomp whomp.
Henrietta, who is Sam Raimi’s brother dressed like a dead woman, approaches Ash as the 4 in the cabin struggle to unlock the cellar door. Henrietta is about to swallow his soul, but Sam Raimi realizes he can’t have 45 minutes of fuckin Bobbie Joe fighting evil, so they free Ash just in the nick of time. Henrietta is locked in the cellar just like Cheryl in the first movie, although she doesn't spend half the film taunting them from there, which is a real missed opportunity. If you're gonna pick and choose moments from the first one to re-do, you gotta have that.
|I'd fuck me hard
Apropos of nothing, Ash has made the turn from bumbling idiot on the brink of a psychotic break to stoic action hero. Henrietta takes human form and tries to persuade Annie to let her out of the cellar by singing “Mommas Gonna Buy You A Mockingbird.” Ash sees through this bullshit and holds Annie back. Ed becomes possessed somehow for some reason and floats in the air and taunts the group, so Ash grabs an ax and hacks Evil Ed to shit. For some reason a bunch of green goop sprays out instead of blood, so it just looks like he did the Secret Slime Action.
|We're gonna take the physical challenge
Ash explains to everyone there’s demons and shit; there's no time to get into too much detail because it's been 4 minutes since Bruce Campbell has had corn starch thrown on him so we gotta move the plot along.
They hear a noise and go to investigate. In a normal horror movie it’d be a demon, but here it’s the giant floating ghost head of Professor Knowby. I’m serious. He tells them the pages Annie brought with her are the key to dispelling the…evil dead, then disappears to go watch over the land of Oz. Both of her parents are gone, so I guess this makes her little orphan Annie. Get it? You get it? I hate myself.
Bobby Jo tells Jake he’s squeezing her hand too hard but d’oh - he’s not holding her hand at all! She looks down and Ash’s severed hand is holding hers. She freaks the fuck out and runs into the forest for some reason, where she’s attacked by trees that look exactly like the trees in Legends of the Hidden Temple. Unfortunately, she only has a half pendant of life remaining so she suffers the most terrible fate of all - an off screen death.
|Not like it matters, there's no way any of these bumbling idiots would be able to put that fucking Silver Monkey together
Annie and Ash go through the pages she brought. They find a drawing depicting a hero in 1300 A.D., the year the book disappeared. The man was the “hero from the sky” who was prophecised to destroy the forces of evil. Ash thinks aloud he "didn’t do a very good job” as they find the proper passages to destroy the evil once and for all. Then they’re interrupted by Jake, who takes the shotgun and forces them to accompany him into the woods to find his boo. Ash tries to convince him she’s already dead, but Jake grabs the pages and throws them into the cellar. This shit right here is why the South has a bad reputation. Well, this and slavery.
|He's even got a boomstick
They head into the woods only to discover the trail has disappeared. A demon rushes towards them and heads straight towards Jake. Jake shoves Ash and Annie to the ground and screams for Bobbie Joe. Cut to demon going towards Jake. Cut to Jake yelling. Cut to demon going towards Jake. Cut to Jake yelling. Demon. Jake. Demon. Jake. Then it fucking possesses Ash for the third time. Demon Ash hulks out and throws Jake halfway across the forest as Annie stumbles to her feet and runs back to the cabin. She grabs the ceremonial dagger from the first movie and carefully makes her way through the cabin, waiting for Ash’s attack. Jake comes flying through the door and she mistakes him for Ash and stabs him right in the stomach. Kick rocks, nerd.
She drags his carcass inside as Ash pounds on the door. The tap-tap-tapping at her door stops suddenly, so she tends to the man she nearly murdered in cold blood. She drags him away from the door, but ends up leaving him too close to the cellar. Beautiful Henrietta emerges and KILLS THE FUCKING SHIT OUT OF HIM
Ash attacks Annie, ripping her necklace off in the process. As she lays unconscious, he sees the necklace and reverts to human form after being reminded of Linda. You notice how I never mentioned the necklace before? How it seems like a shitty cop out that shouldn’t have been done if Raimi couldn’t think of anything better? I'll give them this, they did establish earlier in the movie that she had a necklace. They established she had a fucking sweater too, I didn't expect that to come up in the third act.
Annie tries to murder him, but he convinces her he’s no longer possessed and they agree to team up. Ash converts the chainsaw into a chainsaw hand and saws off the end of his shotgun. It’s game time, bitch. It’s…groovy.
Ash goes into the basement to fetch the pages. In the pages are two incantations. The first manifests the demons into flesh, a physical being. The second passage creates a portal that acts as a rift in time and space. If I’m understanding this right, their plan is to make this unspeakable evil a living, breathing entity, and then send it through a giant interdimensional portal. This plan was constructed based upon information gathered by pages that are nothing but drawings from hundreds of years ago. Why the fuck not.
You know how this goes. It’s dark, he has to go further and further into the darkness, your bootyhole tightens up in anticipation of the attack, there’s a false scare, he gets all the pages, and right before he makes it out he gets attacked. You’ve seen a horror movie before.
They begin to fight, but this isn’t even Henrietta’s final form.
|Not since The Lost World has such harrowing action been caught on film
Ash and this clay monstrosity have a Jason and the Argonauts final showdown until Annie distracts Henrietta with the same lullaby from earlier. It looks pretty terrible, but I'll be god damned if I don't find it charming. I'll take claymation and stop motion over shitty CGI any day of the week. Ash seizes the opportunity by decapitating her with a chainsaw, then blowing her severed head to pieces with the shotgun. Annie is shaken but the trees have uprooted like Ents and begun to attack the cabin, so she begins translating the pages to manifest the evil into a physical form. This physical form is, as you probably guessed, a giant bloody head covered with the faces of those it possessed.
Ash fights it off as Annie recites the incantation to open the portal and rid the earth of the evil. Ash’s severed demon hand stabs her in the back, but with her dying breath she finishes the incantation and the portal opens outside the cabin and sucks in everything around it. Ash’s car, trees, the monster, and Ash himself thrown into the rift.
|Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again
Ash falls from the sky and lands in the middle of nowhere surrounded by medieval knights. They’re about to kill him when a giant winged demon flies in. Ash blows its head clean off. They gather round Ash and fall to their knees chanting "HAIL" as he realizes what has happened: it’s 1300 A.D. and he’s the Hero from the Sky. He screams "No" as the camera pans out to show the large army in his command. I can’t believe this ending. I haven’t seen any of these movies in their entirety before, the only parts I’ve seen are bits and pieces of Army of Darkness. I had no fucking idea that not only would they tease this ending throughout the movie, but he’d actually get sent back in time before it ended. If Raimi wanted to one-up himself from last time, he hit the nail on the fucking head.
I fucking love this movie. The Evil Dead didn’t do much for me at first, but grew on me after a couple of repeat viewings. I loved this immediately and was more than happy to watch it a second time. I knew it would lean more towards humor than its predecessor, but I didn’t know how far into Looney Tunes it would go. I always saw this listed on the top tier of horror films, one of those genre-defining seminal classics. But this is comedy first and horror second. There’s a couple jumps, but Ash's own hand attacks him for 10 minutes. If this movie was supposed to be horrifying, Henrietta would be a frail old woman in scary makeup, not Sam Raimi’s brother in a wig. This movie doesn’t seem like a true sequel, but more of a parody of the original. Less of seeing how much further they can take the terror with a real studio budget, but more of “can you believe how fucking silly this whole thing is.” I’d put it next to Shaun of the Dead before I’d put it next to Halloween.
That’s not a disparaging comment, though. It may not be straight up horror but it does what it does perfectly. I’m not going to be sleeping with the lights on after seeing this, but the mix of slapstick and self-aware satire is perfection. It walks that tightrope Shaun of the Dead did by being primarily comedy, but being clever about it with enough “realism” sprinkled throughout. It’s not Scary Movie or that kind of bullshit, it’s an intelligent send-up of the entire genre. It mixes the gore and violence with comedic elements in a way that puts it way above most horror comedies. Henrietta eating Jake is objectively funnier than a guy in a Scream mask saying wazzup. The comedy is well done, consistent, and most importantly, intended. It’s not like “Jesus Christ did they REALLY think this was gonna be scary” like dozens of other “funny” horror movies. I fully believe it's the perfect split of comedy and horror
You have to look at this movie primarily as a comedy because a lot of it just doesn’t make any god damn sense. How does possession work? Does the demon just choose someone at random, because there’s absolutely no explanation of how Ed got possessed. One second he’s unconscious, the next he’s a big fuckin’ demon monster. If it’s just from being attacked, why don’t we ever see Bobbie Joe again? And why the fuck is Professor Knowby a giant floating ghost head? Is he dead? Is his soul trapped in purgatory? None of it makes sense, even within the movie’s own rules. But it’s a comedy, it’s whatever services the joke within some form of reason. Demons and ghosts exist in this universe, so that’s reason enough. I just can’t believe when Ash was thrown into the tree in the beginning he didn’t look down, hold up a sign that said “HELP,” and then fall into the puddle and become possessed.
Finally, after all these years, I understand nerds’ obsession with Bruce Campbell. Nobody else in the movie can act, and like I said nobody in the trilogy has ever gone on to be anyone. His girlfriend is dead about 5 minutes in, and the rest of the cast doesn’t show up until about the midway point. You’re left with a solid 30-40 minutes of Bruce Campbell alone, and he carries it. It was his movie from the beginning and he is absolutely amazing.
I love it all. I love the makeup, the terrible stop motion, the dated practical effects, Bruce Campbell essentially winking at the camera in every scene, all of it. Raimi wasn’t as excited to return to this movie as I was. He didn’t want to go back to the cabin in the woods, he wanted this to be Army of Darkness. The camera flying at Ash at the end of the first one? That was supposed to send him back in time. It all sounded fine and good, and then he saw the budget. So back to the woods we go! Could you imagine going from The Evil Dead to Army of Darkness? All I know is I’m glad this movie is here, and it’s going to join my regular rotation with Halloween, The Shining, The Thing, and Poltergeist. How the fuck did I wait so long to see this? I guess I had more important things to watch, like The Howling IV.
Is this the funniest thing you've ever seen in your entire life? Is this the least funny, long winded piece of shit you ever sat through? Comment below and tell me how much you hated it.