Evil Dead 2 follows a grand tradition of horror movie sequels. It has more of almost everything. It has more blood. It has more gore. It has more characters. It has more Evil-Vision™. It has more laughs. About the only thing it doesn’t have more of, is fright. You see, since The Evil Dead found so much success by not being taken seriously, Raimi directs resident ham Bruce Campbell in a slapstick comedy that features tons of laughs, blood and gore. This new formula works very well. The movie is wall to wall cheese, but unlike most intentional cheese, Evil Dead 2 is actually funny.
The story starts out as a kind of Incredible Hulk-esque soft reboot. This time ’round, Ash and Linda are alone in what they believe to be an abandoned cabin. He’s not the shy wimp he was in The Evil Dead, he’s confident bordering on cocky. She’s still received the Love Monocle, but this time off camera. Ash discovers the reel-to-reel on a desk in the next room, and turns it on, alone. Evil-Vision™ has been summoned, and possesses Linda. Less than a minute later, it’s Flying Somersault Decapitation time. Ash digs a grave, pausing for only a couple frames to pine for his lost love while looking at the Love Monocle. He sticks her two-sticks-cross marker into the ground and lightning strikes. This time ’round, though, it’s much more stylized, and filmed on a Dutch angle.
The scene ends with Evil-Vision™ rushing through the woods, and breaking down the doors of the cabin to reach Ash. It’s actually the ending of the first movie, but this time it continues, throwing Ash through the air and into a puddle. He wakes up demonically possessed, at least he is until the sun rises.. then he returns to his senses, and passes out. Meanwhile, new characters, Fresh Meat Daughter and Fresh Meat Boyfriend, detail some plot points. They don’t really matter, unless you really enjoy finding humour in ridiculous plot points. They eventually meet up with Fresh Meat Redneck and Fresh Meat Whore, who take them to the cabin, which belongs to Fresh Meat Daughter’s parents.
While all that goes on, Ash is having a rough go of things. If in The Evil Dead, Ash decends into madness… then in Evil Dead 2, Ash drops into madness like a fucking rock. He fights his imagination, possession, memories, dead girlfriend, and even his reflection. By the time the Fresh Meat Quartet show up, he’s gone completely off the deep end. Ash shoots at them, and gets tackled. He’s covered in blood, with a blood soaked chainsaw in the corner, and Fresh Meat Daughter’s parents are nowhere to be found. They lock him up in the cellar in the world’s most completely understandable misunderstanding.
From there, pretty much everyone gets possessed, except for Fresh Meat Whore who almost gets tree raped. (I’m pretty sure she gets tree raped off camera, though). The blood soaked shit hits the fan, and Ash basically becomes a full fledged super hero. In the end he gets sent back in time by a magic spell. You know, typical zombie movie stuff.
I point out the plot, and mostly the differences that make this partly a soft reboot, because they’re not just plot points that have changed. The entire tone of the movie has shifted towards comedy. Where The Evil Dead is funny because they kind of tried to take themselves seriously, and make a “real” horror movie, Evil Dead 2 is funny because it’s a comedy dressed up as a horror movie. It almost mocks the attempts made at sincerity in the first film, and goes whole-hog on the over-the-top gore and cheese that was more of an added bonus in the previous entry.
It hasn’t been quite as long since I watched Evil Dead 2. I think I watched it maybe a year or two afterwards, so maybe 10 years instead of 14. But what was interesting for me this time is that The Evil Dead was much more engaging watching it alone, because I got to enjoy the horror aspects more, since I wasn’t mocking it with a group. Where Evil Dead 2 is intended to be more of a comedy, though, it really suffers watching it alone. Laughing along with others really adds strength to this film. It’s much more enjoyable in a group.
Even alone, though, it’s still a blast. Raimi does all his usual tricks, playing with the camera as much as he can. Directing Bruce Campbell was probably quite easy for him here (all he likley had to say was “Okay, Bruce, go nuts.”) so I think that gave Raimi a bit more freedom to focus on making the ridiculous that much more ridiculous. There’s at least three times the amount of Evil-Vision™ sequences, and this movie’s Build Sequence is the Build Sequence to end all Build Sequences.
The film is quite quotable, with some golden lines like “I’ll swallow your soul!”, “That’s right! Who’s laughing now? WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”, and “Swallow this.” So much of the movie’s action is memorable, too. This movie is probably the gold standard that any B-movie, horror comedy would hold itself to. While it’s definitely only really achieved cult classic level success, it’s still had a pretty big influence on other movies, that even seeps its way into more mainstream titles.
Raimi’s influences are also clearly noticeable. You can see Bruce Campbell trying his damnedest to give his best solo impression of The Three Stooges in several scenes. They’re clearly fans of slapstick comedy and, like Peter Jackson’s Dead-Alive, that’s arguably a better genre description fit for this movie.
Evil Dead 2 is one of the most funny, gory and enjoyable movies out there. It’s not better, nor worse, than its predecessor. It’s just a different kind of great. Both of them should be watched by everyone that enjoys a good horror movie now and then. Choosing which is just a matter of what you’re in the mood for, and who you’re with.