EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN

Empire (Australasia) - - REVIEW -

Sam Raimi’s ki­netic king of all hor­ror-com­edy hy­brids

HAILED BY STEPHEN King in 1981 as “the most fe­ro­ciously orig­i­nal hor­ror film of the year”, The Evil Dead eas­ily earned its rep­u­ta­tion as a blood-thirsty video nasty with a Grand Guig­nol dis­play of de­monic pos­ses­sion and bod­ily dis­mem­ber­ment. Made on a shoe-string bud­get by a group of young Michi­gan film­mak­ers in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Sam Raimi, pro­ducer Robert Tapert and star Bruce Camp­bell, the re­lent­less ul­tra-vi­o­lence de­lighted grind­houses and video store vis­i­tors the world over, but it would be six years be­fore the team cre­ated one of the finest hor­ror se­quels of all time.

The 1987 se­quel, built on the di­rec­tor’s love of The Three Stooges, went for slap­stick gags rather than gag re­flexes. Not that the film skimps on the axe-wield­ing car­nage, it’s just the re­sul­tant ar­te­rial sprays are now gloopy green slime and black goo rather than the gal­lons of the red stuff that made the orig­i­nal the bête noire of cen­sor’s scis­sors world­wide.

Raimi had only made one film since his no­to­ri­ous hor­ror flick, the un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated Crime­wave (co-writ­ten by Ethan and Joel Coen) so he was find­ing it hard fi­nanc­ing the se­quel. Once again, step in Stephen King. The au­thor, then di­rect­ing Max­i­mum Over­drive for the leg­endary Ital­ian pro­ducer Dino De Lau­ren­tiis, heard from one of the crew about the se­quel’s fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties and put in a call telling De Lau­ren­tiis he should fi­nance the movie. He did.

There was still a prob­lem over the rights for the orig­i­nal, so Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn kicks off with a recre­ation of the high­lights of the first film. It was a move that con­fused some view­ers who were un­sure if they were watch­ing a se­quel or a re­make (or a “re­quel”, as Camp­bell quipped), but what fol­lowed was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing thrill ride of which Em­pire once noted was “the gaudily gory, vir­tu­oso, hy­per-ki­netic hor­ror se­quel that uses ev­ery trick in the cin­e­matic book”.

In Dead By Dawn, Camp­bell once again plays Ash Williams, the sole sur­vivor from the first film. He is joined in the re­mote cabin within the woods by a group of strangers in­clud­ing An­nie Knowby, the daugh­ter of the ar­chae­ol­o­gist whose tape of in­can­ta­tions from the fleshy pages of The Ne­cro­nomi­con sum­moned the demons in the first place. And now she wants to know what hap­pened to her father.

De­spite ear­lier procla­ma­tions that the se­quel toned down the gutsy chills and spills, there is plenty of gut-wrench­ing vi­o­lence on dis­play. The cat­a­logue of car­nage in­cludes Ash’s de­cap­i­tated girl­friend’s body at­tack­ing him with a chain­saw; Ash chop­ping off his own pos­sessed hand, lead­ing to the film’s best gags and Hen­ri­eta (played un­der pros­thet­ics by Ted Raimi), the ar­chae­ol­o­gist’s wife, es­cap­ing from her base­ment prison only to have her arms and head sawn off be­fore be­ing blasted to bits by Ash’s “boom­stick”. Ash (Bruce Camp­bell) and friends have an axe to grind.

The FX crazi­ness was pro­vided by

Mark Shostrom, then hot off A Night­mare On Elm Street 3: Dream War­riors, lead­ing a team in­clud­ing KNB EFX Group founders Howard Berger and Greg Ni­cotero.

The fre­netic pace never lets up, as a Camp­bell on the brink of hys­te­ria trans­forms Ash from a whim­per­ing ner­vous wreck into a groovy chain­saw wield­ing, wise-crack­ing hero while Raimi uses ev­ery cam­era trick in the book to throw the au­di­ence, and Ash, all over the screen. Hor­ror and com­edy have al­ways been strange bed­fel­lows that of­ten fail to gel, but with Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, Raimi man­aged to cre­ate a ter­ri­fy­ing melange of mirth and may­hem. Groovy.

DAVID MICHAEL BROWN EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN SCREENS 22 AND 24 OC­TO­BER AS PART OF EVENT CIN­E­MAS’ ‘IN THE HOUSE’ PRO­GRAM. BOOK TICK­ETS AT EVENTCINEMAS.COM.AU

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