Horror Sequel Marathon: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

Expertly mixing horror and comedy, “Evil Dead II” is everything you’d want out of a sequel to the original classic– more slapstick gore, more self-parodying and above all– more Bruce Cambell as Ash.

Written as a parody sequel, “Evil Dead II” begins with a shortened recap of the events of the first movie, wherein Ash bringing his girlfriend to a cabin for a romantic retreat, before discovering a audiotape that unleashes a legion of demons. The tape was recorded by the cabin’s previous inhabitant Professor Knowby, an archeologist who discovered and studied the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (or Book of the Dead).

Ash later teams up with Professor Knowby’s daughter (also an archeologist), her boyfriend and two road workers to combat the spirits of the cabin– all while Ash struggles to combat a demon that’s already inside him. This time around, the Necronomicon plays a more important role both in understanding the mythology behind the evil dead and how to send it away.

“Evil Dead 2” is silly in a way that only viewers of the original will be able to fully appreciate. But the scares remain consistently bold and effective. Like few other horror/comedy series, “Evil Dead II” is a balanced mix of both. When the violence and gore grows tiresome, the comedy replenishes the purpose of the creators– to provide self-parodying slapstick bloody fun. The end result is a film that’s both funnier and scarier than the original.

Bruce Cambell in "Evil Dead 2."
Bruce Cambell making a sawed-off shotgun with his chainsaw arm in “Evil Dead 2.”

Bruce Cambell is perfect for this role. It’s hard to imagine the character played by anyone else. Cambell, at the time, was not a particularly talented performer. But that amateurish, campy acting adds to the series’ b-movie charm. For much of the first half, Cambell is by himself in the scene– reacting to the evil that torments him. In one scene, his hand becomes possessed and attacks him. The Ace Ventura-level physical comedy adds humor to an otherwise sadistic set-up.

In the world of b-movie cinematography and special effects, Raimi is a god. Few directors can provoke screams and laughter within one short clip. Raimi is one of them. In one of my favorite scenes, Ash’s dead girlfriend rises from the ground, dances while her decapitated head rolls back to her body, then prances off into the darkness. The entire scene is shot in jaw-droppingly chilling stop-motion animation.

It’s remarkable to witness the growth in Raimi’s abilities as a filmmaker from “The Evil Dead” to “Evil Dead 2.” While many other manic-style slasher flicks will often show a chase scene in quick, violent spurts, Raimi will give viewers a long, uncut take from the perspective of the demon chasing Ash through the house– back through narrow corridors, diving through windows. When Raimi directs, no shortcuts are taken.

“Evil Dead II” is both a worthy sequel and an equally worthy precursor for a third installment, one reboot and even a horror sitcom (Ash vs. Evil Dead beginning October 31 on Starz network). “Evil Dead II” proves that Bruce and Raimi are a match made in hell.

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Evil Dead 2 is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here on Amazon; and the original here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!