Oct. 18: Evil Dead II (1987):
Director Sam Raimi is very well known now for helming the Spider-Man movies, but horror buffs have known him for years because of another series, the incredibly fun Evil Dead films. Evil Dead II is my favorite in the series, scaring you and making you laugh in equal measure as it serves as a bridge between the straight horror of The Evil Dead and the almost pure comedy of the third film, Army of Darkness.
Evil Dead II works as a sorta sequel, sorta remake of the first film. The first 10 minutes basically recap the events of The Evil Dead, albeit streamlined down to two characters. God among men Bruce Campbell plays Ash, a man who takes his girlfriend Linda to a cabin in the woods for a nice weekend. Once there, they find that a professor and his wife had recently been at the cabin, and the professor had left behind the Necronomicon, or Book of the Dead. Ash findss a tape of the professor reading aloud from the book, which when he plays it raises some nasty demons from the surrounding woods. They quickly get Linda, and then set to work on Ash.
There is an astonishing amount of gore on display, with heads rolling in the moonlight, bodily fluids of various colors being splashed around and dead bodies (and a few live ones) being possessed by the evil forces. Ash eventually arms himself with a shotgun and a chainsaw, though he has to use the latter on himself when his own hand gets possessed and turns on him. After being severed, though, the hand still keeps coming.
You can see how some of this skews toward humor, I hope. The movie is a very successful blend of horror and comedy. It can be very tense, but it also becomes remarkably silly at times. Raimi makes the gore so slapsticky and over the top that at times the movie seems like an homage to the Three Stooges.
The film feels unique largely due to Raimi'92s acrobatic camerawork, most notably the point-of-view shots of demons racing toward the cabin and demolishing anything in their paths. Raimi achieved these '93shaky-cam'94 shots by having two guys mount the camera on a couple of two-by-fours and run as fast as possible.
For a film that spends at least half its time with just guy in one place by himself, Evil Dead II keeps the tension ratcheted up nicely, and Raimi stages the movie'92s various set pieces with aplomb '97 whether it'92s the aforementioned chainsaw scene or a sequence in which the entire cabin and everything in it seems to turn on Ash at once.
But Raimi isn'92t the only reason for the movie'92s success. This is the film that introduced most of us to B-movie legend Campbell, and he is terrific. Ash is more of a macho buffoon here than he was in the first film, and Campbell follows suit, spitting out a series of excellent one-liners as he battles the demons. He truly has to carry the movie, since he spends so much of it alone onscreen, and he also proves particularly adept at the physical comedy involved, as in a scene in which his possessed hand beats the shit out of the rest of him.
One of the few horror-comedies that manages to be successful at both, Evil Dead II is relentlessly fun, and its over-the-top mix of gore and slapstick humor is guaranteed to delight moviegoers.
If you liked this, then check out:
'97 The Evil Dead (1980): The first in the series is far more of a straight horror film than its sequels, but it will creep you out and it contains plenty of Sam Raimi'92s trademark frantic camerawork.
'97 The Deadly Spawn (1983): A great low-budget '9280s fright flick, it'92s surprisingly effective, and breaks some of the rules that a more expensive movie might adhere to. The plot concerns some evil alien beasties that have come to Earth, and the group of teenagers that has to stop them.
'97 Maniac Cop (1988): Another Bruce Campbell starrer, this mean little flick was written by Larry Cohen and concerns a vigilante in a cop'92s uniform that'92s terrorizing the streets of New York, and may or may not be a legendarily brutal cop who'92s come back from the dead.
'97 Bubba Ho-Tep (2002): Bruce Campbell again owns you in this bizarre horror-comedy from director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm). Imagine that Elvis and JFK aren'92t dead; they faked their deaths and are living at a nursing home in East Texas. And imagine further that the nursing home is being besieged by an evil, soul-sucking mummy. Campbell plays the aging King, who teams with Ossie Davis'92 surprisingly black JFK ('93They dyed me this way!'94) to take down the mummy before it'92s too late.