Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Double Feature: The Evil Dead (1981); Evil Dead II (1987)

The Evil Dead (1981); Evil Dead II (1987)

Director: Sam Raimi

It is a no-brainer to group these two films together. Though Evil Dead II doesn't act as a normal sequel to The Evil Dead, the two films feature Ash Williams being driven into madness by the horrors unleashed in a remote cabin the woods. While The Evil Dead is meant to have been a straight horror film, the utterly ridiculous amount of goo, and the over-the-top performances of the cast, sent the film into disgustingly enjoyable camp horror; a tone Evil Dead II takes as a starting point and exploits to great humour.

Raimi's brilliantly sick mind is on full display in both films. Only a sick mind would come up with a girl getting raped by trees, and well as brilliantly use a simple technique to create the iconic shots of the camera zooming along the forest floor, the viewpoint of some unknown terror. The use of stop-work animation is obvious, but I prefer it to modern CGI; there is something charming and also unsettling about its jerky movements. The make-up is also funny in its low-budget quality, but again feels real.

Of the two I liked The Evil Dead a tad more than its sequel, though both are great and really should be watched together. The greater amount of gore and spurting fluids may explain my preference. The sequel worked best when it is Ash by himself in the cabin, trying to overcome the evil spirits. This section strays into silent film comedy, when Ash's hand becomes possessed and starts beating him around the head.

These two films are a world away from the depressing darkness of 1970s horror, or the poetic sadness of Eyes Without a Face. Yet they are an immense amount of fun, with moments of true horror thrown in for good measure. If you are squeamish, don't watch on a full stomach.


  1. Evil Dead and Brain Dead were stapples back on campus in the nineties. We watched them so often we could quote the entire movies. Not sure how much I love them today, they are VERY camp.

    1. I enjoy a bit of camp, especially in horror films, so I liked them. I could imagine drinking games being developed around them: each time someone gets blasted in the face by goo, skull your choice of beverage (hopefully colour coordinated!).

  2. If you haven't seen Army of Darkness, I recommend it as the conclusion to Ash's story. It's much less a horror movie than the first two--it's pretty much campy slapstick and aside from a little language and a few moments of comic gore, it's pretty much PG-13 and pretty funny.

    I also recommend tracking down Bruce Campbell's autobiography (If Chins Could Kill) if you get the chance. He explains a lot of Raimi's filming techniques that were so innovative and done on the cheap, like attaching the camera to a plank of wood and having people hold onto each end and run through the forest.

    I love both of these movies, of course. Since they are so different (the sequel is far more horror comedy), I find it difficult to compare them in a meaningful way.

    1. Thanks, I shall add both things to my viewing/reading list. I feel like Ash is one of the unluckiest lucky people in horror films: he keeps getting attacked by these spirits, yet survives.

      They are hard to compare, partly because they approach their stories so differently. But both are so much fun!