Evil Dead 2
Starz / Anchor Bay // R // $29.98 // August 29, 2000
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted January 13, 2001
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It's difficult to review a film like Evil Dead II (1987) in a public forum since inevitably there is someone who knows the film and loves the film far better than you. Not being an expert on the films of director Sam Raimi (although now that I think about it I have seen a bunch) puts me in a position to just go with my gut reaction and not with some studied perspective. Evil Dead II is a film that I saw many years ago once. It made me laugh so hard that I couldn't stop for days and, even though I never saw it again, just the thought of it could always elicit a chuckle. Seeing it again on DVD I was reminded of how incredibly clever and funny and loose it is. Have I had exactly the same reaction again? No. Is that the film's fault? No. I'm older and I know all the jokes. But still, along with Repo Man, I can't think of a better film to fire up with some popcorn and watch with a bunch of friends on a rainy happy psychotronic movie night.

What is Evil Dead II about, for those unfamiliar? Well, it's sort-of-a-sequel-to-but-sort-of-a-remake-of Raimi's earlier Evil Dead (1982), except with more laughs (Part three, Army of Darkness (1993), would emphasize the yucks even more, losing some core horror fans). This time the story involves Bruce Campbell's dunderheaded Ash trying to kick it to his girlfriend in a small shack in the woods. Minutes into the film they accidentally unleash an evil spirit and from that moment on all hell breaks loose, literally. Others show up and get creamed and lots of monstery demons cackle and spew goop. Is this material original? Of course not. Raimi borrows plenty from Romero's zombie movies as well as Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre and god knows what else. What turns Evil Dead II into an original, however, is its two other main inspirations: The Three Stooges and Warner Brothers' Loony Tunes. I don't want to give the best gags away, but there is a scene involving a possessed hand and a stack of dishes that could make Eddie Valiant crack up. There is also an evil demon that can't quite stalk fast enough and an eyeball that has perfect aim.

Story wise the film progresses pretty much according to schedule, with a few pit stops for craziness, but the ending is really a left turn (at Albuquerque?) Without knowing what's to come in Army of Darkness, the finale is completely nonsensical, which, of course, is exactly right.

To criticize Evil Dead II for anything is silly. It is absolutely perfect even if the seams show: Strings can be seen manipulating puppets, the ceiling of the set is visible, lighting rigs and all. If Evil Dead II didn't show-case it's humble origins then it would not be quite the great, fun experience that it is today.

The video looks good. The transfer is anamorphic and better than previous versions. It's still a little soft and doesn't have the same crispness of more recent films. There is a little dirt here and there, but not too distracting. A pan and scan version is also available on the disc, but who cares.

The audio also works well. There is a booming Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a more standard 2.0 mix.

There are two major extras: The 30 minute documentary The Gore the Merrier (Not to be confused with Mark Borschardct's The More the Scarrier for all you American Movie fans) which features the special effects crew reminiscing over their work on the film and showing some great home video footage of the preparations and the shooting. In some cases this home video is the only footage that exists of scenes left on the cutting room floor. They also point out the mistakes in the film, which is very entertaining.

The commentary track, featuring Raimi, Campbell, Co-writer Scott Spiegel, and make-up effects artist Gerg Nicotero, is also a hoot, with the guys ragging on each other and cracking wise at the film's expense. There is insight into the production process but there is also a lot of clowning. This track is more successful than a lot of group tracks because, even though it's a bit tough to tell who is who at times, there is never such a jumble of voices that it becomes incoherent. The commentary was originally recorded years ago, so they refer once to the film being on laserdisc, but it still sounds fresh and funny. (Too bad it's not newer; I'd love to hear Raimi take a ribbing for his Kevin Costner snooze-fest For Love of the Game)

The disc also features THX Optimode system calibration tests, a worn looking trailer, still galleries, bios, and a teaser for an Evil Dead video game that is too short to make any lasting impression.

Evil Dead II is a classic in its genre. The gore may be a bit too much for casual fans but the comedy makes this film much more watchable than, say, the ultra-grim Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hopefully it will tickle your funny bone the way it did mine.

Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]

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