Bruce Campbell’s Ash is a legendary cult character and this sequel is the reason why. The comedic elements implanted in Ash are far more apparent here, played to emanate much more evidently than before. They’ve managed to improve on the aspects of the first by amping it up to eleven, thanks partly to a much bigger budget. As everything is set up for moments of horror, Ash is locked-and-loaded to fight back against the Deadites attacking the cabin; chainsaw in one hand, shotgun on the other. Groovy!
Ash takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) up to a secluded cabin much like the one from the first. While there he accidentally plays back a recording of a professor reading out the Book of the Dead unleashing relentless evil which attacks the cabin. This leaves Ash alone in the cabin until the professor’s daughter Annie (Sarah Berry) arrives with Ed (Richard Domeier), Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePavia). Unbeknownst to them they continued on to the cabin to find Annie’s father to be under siege from flesh-possessing demons. This grotesquely comic battle that follows pays tribute to earlier B-movies yet mocking them. Its tongue is firmly in cheek throughout.
A horror can live or die on gore alone and Evil Dead 2 is packing a lot more than its predecessor to satisfy the most insatiable of gorehounds. Sam Raimi has managed to create moments of suspense and terror without having the self-referential mocking be dominating or distracting. Light-hearted moments are welcomed in what could be a gruesome, brutal bloodfest of devastating deaths. It’s managed to create an entire mythology with the Necronomicon and Deadites which works massively in its favour. Not everything is entirely explained. It’s reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing (or Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World) of random possession at any moment. Even with the effects being slightly outdated there’s still real horror, impressive effects and teeth-gritting tension.
One of the main problems is that it’s a sequel but a remake of the first film. Ash is back in cabin, back through the tunnel, back over the bridge but it’s never explained why. Why would he return to the cabin that lost him his friends? That is one of the main problems of Evil Dead 2 as it isn’t the second instalment in reality: it’s a rebirth with more money. This shortchanges those looking for a sequel to the original thrashing of the first film that is now rendered obsolete. Lingering in your head that this has already happened. A lot of déjà-vu. Yet it somehow makes it refreshing by only sending Ash and Linda first for the others to join later. This adds to some good comic moments while Ash is alone in the cabin.
This sequel/reboot/remake somehow accomplishes everything that sequels should. Its amplification of all the good parts of the original helps make this a sequel that’s much better than the original. There’s a bleak macabre dance scene early on, there’s the twisting of innocent songs to make them spine-tingling and chillingly eerie. These moments are shiver-worthy but there are moments of uproarious laughter that tickle the dark moments lest it overload the audience with morbidity. Developed from its own source, its originality still peaks above others, strengthening its obscenity and comic beats. Everything a sequel should be in terms of better but distractingly a reboot that means its predecessor should be wiped away. Two versions of the same thing by the same people is too many.
A documentary about the production of the film called Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead 2. There are photo galleries, a piece called Cabin Fever, archival footage and Road to Wadesboro. All of these extras are wonderful and if you’re a loyal Deadite then this should be on your shelf. Lengthy features for loyal fans as it should be.