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Review: Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Premise: A sequel and partial remake of The Evil Dead. Ash (Bruce Campbell) is trapped in a cabin in the woods while evil spirits lurk outside. Armed with a shotgun and a chainsaw, Ash must fight off the evil until daybreak.

What Works: Evil Dead 2 is a unique sequel in that it is superior to the original picture and can be viewed as a film in and of itself; the opening ten minutes of the picture summarizes the original film and then moves on, allowing viewers who missed the first installment (which, frankly, is not nearly as good) to pick up the series here without missing anything. If The Three Stooges and Roger Corman had ever worked together, this is probably what they would have produced. Evil Dead 2 takes a haunted house story in a deliberately fun direction, filling it with physical comedy, sharp humor, and dull-witted characters. Ash is a unique character and Bruce Campbell brings him to life in ways that make him very likeable and even sympathetic. Like John McClane of Die Hard, he is a deeply flawed character who grapples with a situation that he does not want to be in. In a genre that often celebrates its villains, Ash stands as one of the only franchised heroes. Evil Dead 2 is as successful at mixing laughs and scares as Ghostbusters and often the two bleed together. This is a fun house of a movie, with ghosts and zombies literally jumping out of the woodwork and director Sam Raimi skillfully executes the special effects, many of which remain impressive two decades later.

What Doesn’t: Viewers who expect their horror to be utterly serious or need some substance beyond laughing and screaming their guts out will not find it here. Evil Dead 2 just isn’t that kind of film.

DVD extras: There have been many DVD releases of the Evil Dead films. The Anchor Bay Special Edition includes commentary tracks, a documentary, talent bios, and trailers.

Bottom Line: Although Sam Raimi has gone on to much bigger box office success with mainstream films like Spider-Man, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn remains one of his great contributions to cinema and it is a terrific meld of scares and laughs.

Episode: #207 (October 5, 2008)