Friday, October 02, 2009

“I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!”

Continuing with our decent into the madness of Sam Raimi, 1987 brought forth Evil Dead II. Ash Williams returned, but due to…legal issues, footage from the first film couldn’t be used. This is relevant information because as a recap, the movie features a highly abridged version of the events of the first film with only two characters, raising questions as to whether it is a direct sequel or a remake. The chaos this has left among the fan base is delicious for a discerning palate, particularly as there are those that refuse to acknowledge Raimi’s statements that it is in fact a true sequel.

The sole survivor of a horrific night in a cabin infested with ancient Evils finds himself trying to survive their continued assault upon him. Alone in a cabin where nothing is safe for long, the strain on his sanity takes its toll just in time for the daughter of the archeologists who translated the text of the ancient Necronomicon arrives with several others curious to find out what happened. Those poor, poor fools.

Ashley J. “Ash” Williams: Bruce Campbell returns as Ash. The character is still the sole survivor of the cabin “incident” and his girlfriend’s death during the prologue does indeed help drive him over the edge, something that the Evil is happy to exploit. He receives much more character development this time, being shown as smarmier and much, much, much more slapstick oriented and a bit of an asshole. Ash actually develops as a character quite nicely in the film, from a sole survivor to someone who is willing to take the fight to the enemy with chainsaw and shotgun. He makes ample and effective use of a chainsaw throughout the film. His hand gets infected by the Evil and tries to kill him. Well, he won’t sit idly by to let that happen. No, no. Ash quite clearly becomes the film’s badass through the events that take place, and it is indeed “Groovy.”

Linda: Denise Bixler is Ash’s ill-fated girlfriend and Michigan State fan. While not in the movie as much, she does do some different things after becoming a deadite, such as dancing with and without her head attached to her body.

Annie Knowby: Sarah Berry plays the daughter of Professor Raymond Knowby and his wife Henrietta, she arrives in town to find out what happened to her parents who have gone off the grid. She travels to the cabin and is able to shed some light on how to get rid of the Evil infesting the place, though she also causes more than enough trouble as well.

Ed Getley: Richard Domeier plays Annie’s associate/boyfriend/whatever. It is not something clearly defined as he does not stay among the living for very long at all.

Jake: Dan Hicks plays a local who meets Annie & Ed as they arrive at the busted up bridge. He helps lead them through a hidden path in the woods to the cabin.

Bobbie Joe: Kassie Wesley plays Jake’s daughter, and she does not like Annie one bit when they meet.

Henrietta Knowby: The professor’s deceased wife, and a deadite. Played by Ted Raimi under a lot of makeup. (and actress Lou Hancock for a brief, human-looking time). Locked up in the cellar of the cabin, Henrietta assumes a Cheryl-like role as a lurking evil. The question you should be asking, though, is “does it count as a Ted Raimi death scene when the character is already dead?” Indeed it does, should be your subsequent answer.

This movie, benefiting from a larger budget, is able to go bigger with its effects, and Raimi himself utilizes more daring camera tricks. The Evil-charging-forward point-of-view gets more elaborate, as the Evil chases Ash through the entire cabin. After his hand is possessed, Ash struggles with it in a very Looney Tunes way as it smashes dishes over his head and other indignities. At one point, Ash faceplants to the ground and the hand begins crawling toward a nasty looking cleaver. The camera shifts to another POV, this time at the ground level of the cabin as the hand inches forward. Incredibly effective. Stop motion is used much more in this film. At one point, Ash is fighting a stop-motion monster in a very Harryhausen-esque manner.

Written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel, the tone of the sequel is much, much lighter and goofier than the first movie. Ash himself is much funnier and the physical abuse the character (and actor) undergo reach ludicrous levels. This does not mean the movie doesn’t get serious. Characters die, gore is readily available, and the stakes escalate dramatically.

Joseph LoDuca returns to score the film, and does a good job of creating a foreboding and evil atmosphere. The sound effects editing on the film continues to be positively excellent for the mood

Evil Dead II is a tonal departure from The Evil Dead, but it is in many, many ways a superior film. Important characters are more fleshed out, the action starts several minutes into the movie and barely gives the audience time to breathe, and the gloriously insane action scenes are equal parts awesome and hilarious. Many prefer the sequel to the first, but I see them as equal but slightly different siblings in a daring franchise. Most definitely recommended for the genre it occupies.

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