Friday, March 29, 2013

Brandon Peters's Evil Dead franchise retrospective part II: Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Brandon Peters has returned! Leading up to the April 5th release date of the new Evil Dead remake, Mr. Peters will be doing his voodoo with the Evil Dead series. He continues with a look at Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. As only a casual Evil Dead fan, this was an extra-special treat as this isn't a film series that I've memorized by heart. This was as informative for me as I hope it will be for you. So without further ado...

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Ted Raimi
Rated R

We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw.  Does that sound “fine”?
                        ~Ash’s mirror image

The second installment of the Evil Dead trilogy is the bridge between the first film and Army of Darkness in terms of tone.  Whereas the first film was a straight horror film, the 2nd adds a level of humor while still able to maintain jumps, scares and intensity.  This film is definitely one of the earlier and most notable films in the splatstic sub-genre of horror. The film also serves as pretty much a big budget remake of the first film. 

Evil Dead 2 starts the tradition of retconning the events of the first film.  It drops three characters from the original and changes Ash’s trip to a romantic getaway.  We get a Cliff’s Notes version of the first movie’s deadite attack and transformation.  It keeps some of the things the same, gives Ash’s girlfriend Linda a some actions other characters took and settles down the climax linking us right up to Ash’s possession cliffhanger the first film ended on.  The things we didn't see in the recap are saved to replay throughout the rest of the film.  One could easily watch this film without seeing the first one, and it probably plays a lot better to novice eyes than someone who’s seen the original.  This entry does crank up the humor (always loved the eyeball popping up and shooting into the woman’s mouth).  It also fills in time with establishing a much richer mentality and setting up Army of Darkness

Sam Raimi originally didn't want to tackle a second Evil Dead or tackle it so soon.  His second film fizzled financially and critically, so he went straight back to the well.  He wanted to make what became Army of Darkness for this second story, but he didn't get the cash to be able to pull it off.  So instead, he went this route, setting it up so that hopefully he could return back to the Evil Dead and actually make it the next time around.  While there’s a spike in insanity, humor and gore in this film, there’s also an amping up of the Raimi.  There is all sorts of camera work and Three Stooge homages going on in the film.

Evil Dead 2 also throws a call back to another horror franchise of the time.  Freddy Krueger’s glove appears in the background of the tool shed in the film.  It’s the actual one too.  Here’s how this plays out.  In the cellar of the cabin in The Evil Dead, there is a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes (a Wes Craven film) as an homage to The Hills Have Eyes having a ripped Jaws poster in the background.  A Nightmare On Elm Street then responded by having Nancy watching The Evil Dead in that film.  And here we have Evil Dead 2’s response.  The next step, I believe, was the Necronomicon appearing in the Voorhees house in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.  So if you were EVER wondering, this is where Ash fits into all the Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash hub bub.

Speaking of Ash, here he is.  This Ash is a bit more confident in himself before his girlfriend turns.  He’s also more of that “schmuck” type that Raimi always refers to him as.  Once he’s greeted with our new cast he takes shape, rising above and wanting to face evil.  However, he’s just doing it because he’s watching out for himself.  As we see at the end when he’s called on to fulfill a prophecy and realizes its him, he’s quite upset and disappointed.

We get some new characters in this film.  And aside from Annie, they’re all pretty much fodder for the deadites.  And because Annie is tied to the events of the first film (her father was the one on the recording) and is a force to help fight, its quite shocking that she is killed at the film’s climax.  The other characters serve for goofiness, possession, death and to relive events of the first film.

If you’re not familiar with Evil Dead 2, its pretty much the same approach Terminator 2 took to making the sequel.  Figuring that the first film, while praised and reasonable a hit, was likely not seen by the masses, you basically wanna put more money into it.  You try and hit broader audience with a bigger, flashier version of the goods, retelling the story with a little added depth and in the end progressing ever so slightly further.  Its effective in that it can introduce a larger amount of people while also completely satisfying fans and newbies at the same time.

Evil Dead 2 is a very fun time, and I wish I would've had the opportunity to see this film at a midnight screening in a theater packed with horror junkies.  That would've been quite a treat.  The film has a bigger budget, but still maintains that feel of someone not having the money to do everything they want, but going for it anyway.  There’s a lot of fun moments and definite crowd-pleasers in this film.  Watch it by yourself, watch it with a big group, you’re bound to have a good time.

“Join Us” next time for ARMY OF DARKNESS

Hail to the King, baby!

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