The Reviewinator: Evil Dead II – Dead By Dawn (1987)

evildead2poster“Are you listening to me? You hear what I’m saying? I’M ALL RIGHT!!!………I’m all right.” Bruce Campbell returns in fine form in this superior sequel to the classic Evil Dead. For legal reasons, Sam Raimi and friends couldn’t use footage from the first movie, so they had to remake it, so to speak, in the first seven minutes of this movie. But after that seven minutes are done, the real Evil Dead II finally begins.

Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) travel to a remote cabin in the mountains. On a desk is an archaeologist’s latest find: the Necronomicon Ex Mortus; roughly translated, “Book of the Dead”. The book awakes something dark in the woods, something…evil. It takes Linda. Then, it comes for Ash. It gets into his hand and it goes bad, so he… Oh I don’t want to spoil the rest, even though it’s stupefyingly awesome!

This sequel makes sequels look great. It’s faster-paced, has more energy, and the threat is significantly bigger than it was the first time. A lot of that could be owed to the larger budget they had, but a bigger budget is meaningless without the talent to use it wisely. Sam Raimi’s direction also really comes into its own here. While we saw what he was capable of in the first Evil Dead, here we get a much more confident presentation. The camera twists, the extreme close-ups, and that amazing POV chase through the cabin are just some of the brilliant techniques he uses in this film.

But I must take my hat off to the man himself, Bruce Campbell. He spends a big chunk of this movie completely alone, and it takes some serious acting chops to keep the audience engaged when there are no other characters and little to no dialogue for several scenes in a row. But in typical Bruce Campbell fashion, he makes it look effortless. From running from the evil “force”, to investigating the creaky sounds in the cabin, to fighting with his own possessed hand, he keeps the audience riveted throughout. He doesn’t just star in Evil Dead, he BECOMES Evil Dead. And he earns it.

Horror movies rarely get good sequels, much less superior ones. And while this one enters horror-comedy territory, it still honors its roots with artistic splendor. Ash’s evolution from coward to one-handed chainsaw-wielding Deadite-killer is both believable and reminiscent of superhero origin stories (which says more than a little about the director’s future). From the amazing opening to the unbelievable twist ending, Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and Rob Tapert have created something truly amazing here. Yeah, truly amazing.

5 out of 5

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