Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness are some of the most popular cult horror films in existence and defined the horror/comedy genre. What makes these movies great? Well…everything. Sam Raimi‘s obvious love for the horror genre, his dedication to make Evil Dead on a shoestring budget in any and all conditions, which resulted in an opportunity to round the film out with not only one, but two sequels. Let’s not forget the most important part of the likability equation, his best buddy Bruce. The effects are so bad they’re good and nothing created in CGI could ever come close. I even saw a shower of sparks for goodness sake, do you have any idea how longs it’s been since I’ve seen that and what ridiculous emotions were brought forth by seeing it again? What other film could use trees and fog to such a horrifying end? And I really think the yuppie zombie should get his own spin-off. The ridiculous nature of these films makes them lovable and still delivers scares along the way, not to mention buckets of blood whether it be red, green or black. I loved reading about the friendship that Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi forged as teenagers and carried through into adulthood to the success of both men. This is detailed in Bruce’s autobiography, “If Chins Could Kill” along with all the secrets and major struggles of making the Evil Dead series of films. If you’re a fan, this is a must read.
I was seven when Evil Dead II was released and I was still oblivious to the talents of Raimi and Campbell as none of their work was even on my radar. I had just had the pants scared off me by Ghostbusters and had to walk out of Spaceballs with my dad because it wasn’t “age appropriate”, not to mention both parents’ squeamishness when it came to horror films. Early exposure to the genius of Sam Raimi was never even an option. I was a teenager when I was introduced to these films. Among those in my age group, everyone who has seen any of the Evil Dead movies has been introduced to the trilogy by someone. I don’t care who that person was to you or is to you now, they will always have a certain elevated level of cool by being credited with this introduction. I don’t particularly like the person who introduced me to Campbell and Raimi’s cult phenomenon, but for sharing this with me at the time in my life that they did, I will be forever grateful.
I have personally used these films as something of a social compass. No doubt if you love the film(s) you have probably done the same. I find myself using people’s reaction to figure out where they fit in my wheelhouse. Don’t like the Evil Dead films? I don’t like you. Not really, I might like you, but there is a camaraderie that comes along with that shared love of all things Evil Dead. Essentially when meeting me I just wouldn’t lead with your disdain for the films. I can forgive not having seen it because you didn’t know about it, but if you refuse to see it we have a problem. The reason for this refusal usually has something to do with someone thinking its too ridiculous or too low budget or some such snootiness. If these films taught me anything, it is not to take myself so damn seriously. They are pure and simple fun.
As for the aspects of this particular film in the series, despite being so ridiculous, this animated doll-corpse at the beginning creeps me out, and there is no creature better than Ted Raimi‘s portrayal of Henrietta, the demon in the cellar. I’m not sure after re-watching this film after becoming a parent that I’ll ever be able to sing “Hush Little Baby” to my son again. No one in Hollywood has the facial theatricality of Bruce Campbell and it is put to excellent use in all the Evil Dead films, but particularly in Evil Dead II. While we’re on that subject, Bruce Campbell is just delicious as Ash. As I watched the film it started becoming apparent to me, if to no one else that Ash’s mannerisms and character reminded me of Captain Mal from the Firefly series. I do have the same adoration for both Bruce Campbell and Nathan Fillion, and they are both badasses. I don’t think either man would balk at the comparison.
So many films came to mind as I watched Evil Dead II with similar moments or scenes and I am envious of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell for creating such an amazingly iconic film and character. Of course Idle Hands came to mind as Ash fights his own body and eventually just lops of the evil appendage. The most recent film to come to mind is the squeal-worthy, giddiness-enducing Cabin in the Woods with it’s completely blatant and flattering homage to this series. House and House 2 come to mind as the house and everything inside are subjected to their own short lived possession. Particularly as the mounted deer head comes to “life” I am reminded of the fantastic New Zealand foray into comedy/horror: Black Sheep. Watching Bruce’s expression as he truly seems to start losing it amidst these suddenly animated objects I even see shades of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Bruce taking influence from such an iconic moment. As great as all these films are in their own right, they still aren’t Evil Dead, Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness. That’s the beauty of these films, no one can ever recreate them (thank goodness that held true recently) but anyone can pay tribute to them and the fans are okay with it, even encourage it in some instances. That in itself goes back to the community that the films create, we get it, you love the movies too, we would totally get along if we met.
I love this film, I really do. I can’t say that it is part of my childhood as so many other eighties films are, but I can say it definitely fanned the flames of my spark of interest in horror films. It is the perfect transition between Evil Dead and the greatest marriage of horror, comedy and sci-fi ever made; Army of Darkness. These films are the be-all end all in cult horror and I hope they are never marred by someone’s misguided attempt to recreate the magic that is Evil Dead II or any of the others. Keep making your own movies, tip your hat to Raimi and Campbell and move along, I implore you!
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