THE EVIL DEAD (1981) & EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987) – The Dungeon Review!

I have a list a mile long of films to see, but this weekend I was in the mood to revisit an 80’s classic. Evil Dead 2 is not only my favourite film of Raimi’s trilogy but is in fact my favourite horror-comedy of all time! Evil Dead 2 raised the horror-comedy bar so high that 23 years later very few films have come close to touching it! Now, The Evil Dead on the other hand is the film in the trilogy I’ve seen the least often. I am far more likely to follow up a viewing of Evil Dead 2 with Army Of Darkness, but it rarely occurs to me to watch The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 back to back. So I did exactly that. It has been more than 25 years since the original Evil Dead was released and the franchise is one of the most successful in horror history. It has inspired video games, comic books, toys and even a musical. You can consider this more of a celebration than a review as I ramble on about everything Evil Dead 1 & 2. BEWARE! Tons and tons of spoilers!

Sadly, I was too young to see The Evil Dead at the theatre when it was originally released. But thanks to the invention of the VCR I was able to see it on video a few years later. During my tender pre-teen years all I watched were horror films. The Evil Dead was one of the first films I can recall that really blew my mind. Raimi’s original does have a pretty typical setup though. We are introduced to five friends, Ash, Linda, Scott, Cheryl and Shelly as they drive to a cabin in the woods site unseen. The place came cheap and the group joke about its possible state before they arrive. Adding to the foreboding setup, the group just barely avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle. Scott, our driver claims the wheel just jerked out of his hands to which Ash remarks he just took the car into the garage to have it fixed. Than there is the drive over the gnarly old bridge where a plank comes loose and their wheel becomes stuck for just a moment. When they pull up to the cabin the group get out of the car but they leave Scott to check out the place on his own. The four friends stand and watch as Scott slowly walks towards the spooky cabin. The camera flashes back at the group as the distance between Scott and his four friends grows. The place is silent with the exception of a swing banging against the house. Scott reaches up to the top of the doorframe to find a ring of keys. When he makes contact with the keys the swing stops hitting the cabin. A typical setup, yes, but so beautifully executed! It’s about 20ish minutes in before any Demon shenanigans take place, which is the first of the major differences between the original and its sequel.

For starters, Evil Dead 2 ain’t no freaking sequel! It is true that at the end of The Evil Dead we don’t know what actually happens to Ashley J. Williams. As he walks out of the cabin, the only survivor, we get a glimpse of his terrified face as something unseen rushes towards him. Of course one could imagine any number of possible scenarios that may have happen between the end of The Evil Dead and the beginning of Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. But the fact is, you ain’t going to learn it from the films themselves. There is no mistaking the two films are connected even though Raimi never bothers to explain, but like I said, Evil Dead 2 is not a sequel, if anything it is a remake. Not that any of this matters, both films are amazing fun! But I’ll always be partial to Evil Dead 2 and its non-stop action-packed awesomeness. Part 2 begins with a little Necronomicon history lesson…

“Legend has it, that it was written by the dark ones.”

“Necronomicon ex-mortis roughly translated Book Of The Dead.”

“The Book served as a passageway to the evil worlds beyond.”

“It was written long ago when the seas ran red with blood. It was this blood that was used to ink the book.”

“In the year 1300 A.D. the book disappeared.”

Cut to Ash and his girlfriend Linda driving over the same gnarly bridge and arriving at the cabin. Apparently the owners were supposed to be out of town. We soon learn that Ash was fed inaccurate information as Annie Knowby is embarking on a trip to the very same cabin to bring the missing pages of The Book Of The Dead to her professor father. Mere minutes into the film, Ash finds a tape recorder of the professor reading with phonetic pronunciation the passages of The Book Of The Dead. A window in the cabin breaks and when Ash runs to see what happened he finds Linda gone. There is basically no build whatsoever. It instantly gets into the action and doesn’t let up for a second! But the biggest difference between the two films is definitely the characterization of Ash. Oh, Ashley J. Williams, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways! If Raimi never made Evil Dead 2 and its follow up Army Of Darkness, Ash definitely would not be the iconic horror character he is today. In The Evil Dead, he is doughy and soft and frankly a bit useless. It is in Evil Dead 2 that the Ash I’ve come to know and adore really flourishes. The affable, cheeky, handsomely reluctant hero comes to life in Evil Dead 2. Most of the credit belongs to Bruce Campbell. Campbell pulls off some impressive physical comedy and endures a considerable amount of abuse in the process. He is possessed, stabbed, bashed, punched, kicked, thrown down stairs and is sprayed with blood with the intensity of a fire hose. One of the best horror-comedy scenes ever filmed is Ash’s possessed hand scene. Watching him wrestle with his own hand is a thing of beauty! I couldn’t possibly do the scene justice, so I included a youtube clip. Enjoy! Not included in the clip, but worth an honourable mention is Raimi’s use of the book A Farewell To Arms in the scene that follows. Funny Stuff!

Bruce Campbell plays Ash in both films. Ash’s girlfriend in both films are named Linda but are not played by the same actress. In both films Ash gives Linda the identical necklace and decapitates her with a shovel. In both films we get a first person view of the unseen menace moving rapidly through the forest accompanied by a loud, ominous hum. This visual accompanied by the sound is a very effective aspect of both films. Raimi really amps this up for part 2 and the first person views come faster and more often. Of course the recordings each set of characters discovers in the cabin plays an important part of getting the story rolling in both films. And there’s that gnarly dagger they find in The Evil Dead that manages to find its way into part 2. And finally the Necronomicon, aka Book Of The Dead with its beautiful cover made of human skin. It’s all about The Book Of The Dead.

Although Raimi apparently had a much larger budget to work with in Part 2, I certainly can’t take anything away from the effects in the original. Considering its modest budget the effects in The Evil Dead are that much more impressive. What we have here is possession by Kandarian demon that uses humans like they are marionettes. The demons in both films look wonderfully nasty and fantastic. Both films are highly visual, but Raimi really amps it up for Evil Dead 2. The creativity is really in abundance here. Evil Dead 2 is a wild ride from start to finish. The demons get a lot more screen time and the gore gags are outstanding. The aforementioned possessed hand scene is not the only bit of brilliance. Linda in this version has a pretty spectacular extended scene after she’s possessed. Ash decapitates her and buries her body and then watches as her torso rises from the ground to do a macabre ballet routine. And what happens after that is better seen than heard.

Wasn’t that beautiful? Linda #1 pales in comparison. Linda #1’s demon makeup looks pretty cool, but she spends too much time cackling in this high-pitched, psychotic tone that was a little more annoying than amusing. The Evil Dead features one of horror’s most memorable scenes. Love it or hate it, It’s not too often you see a woman raped by a tree. It’s a well-executed and original scene and it’s pretty damn warped. We like warped here in the dungeon. While I’m clearly partial to Evil Dead 2, both really are impressive examples of how to make a really fun and engaging horror film.

I’ve never read any of the comic books or seen the musical, but I have played the two Xbox games Evil Dead: Fistful of Broomstick and Evil Dead: Regeneration. I thought Regeneration was pretty fun but the graphics were a bit crappy looking and it started feeling redundant towards the end. I kinda suck at these games and even I found the game play in Fistful Of Broomstick mediocre. The deadites were easy to kill. I liked hearing Bruce Campbell spouting out Ash one-liners but otherwise I wasn’t terribly impressed. Even though Bruce Campbell voiced both games neither really captured the trilogies vibe to my satisfaction. Most of the Evil Dead memorabilia in my collection are actually from Army Of Darkness. My favourite by far is my talking 18″ MacFarlane Movie Maniacs Ash action figure. The MacFarlane toys have great detail and actually resemble the person they’re modelled after. I had to do some serious downsizing on the collection a few years back but I still have shot glasses, Lego ash, a lunchbox, smaller versions of MacFarlane’s Ash and Evil Ash and about a half a dozen different versions of t-shirts. I probably should have included a review for all 3 films, but the thought of taking that on in one sitting makes my head spin. I’ll save a review of Army Of Darkness for another time. But watching Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and Army Of Darkness back to back are worth missing the prom for.

The Evil Dead is a considerably more serious affair than its follow-up. The Evil Dead has great intensity and atmosphere, beauty effects, a dash of humour and plenty of unique and gory moments to validate it as a re-watchable classic. But I’m all about Evil Dead 2. It has everything The Evil Dead has plus it has great psychical comedy and gore gags that never fails to entertain me after countless viewings. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is the best horror-comedy ever made and is essential viewing. Groovy.

EVIL DEAD
Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly

EVIL DEAD 2
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier, John Peakes, Lou Hancock

19 Responses to “THE EVIL DEAD (1981) & EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. You are so right on the money. Horror comedy doesn’t get better than this

    • Hey 1sttimeOffender,

      Evil Dead 2 is a classic and ranks #3 of my favourite horror of all time. In my opinion, the only horror-comedy that can match EV2’s level of energy, theatrics and splatter (and it even tops it in the splatter category) is DEAD ALIVE.

  2. Yeah, I and II are terrific, essential, but I did not like Army of Darkness *at all.*

    • Will E-Army of Darkness is definitely my least favourite of the trilogy, but I still think it’s great! I actually understand why people would have a problem with Army if they love the first two films. It just barely qualifies as horror though and is heavy on the fantasy elements and it is pretty “PG”. But there are elements that are brilliant in the film! I particularly love the scene where Ash drinks the boiling water out of the kettle to kill the the mini Ash that jumped down his throat.

  3. oh come on!!! You didn’t even like it a little?

  4. There’s that great debate about Evil Dead 1 and 2 – and which one is better. I have to agree with you and say Evil Dead 2 – in fact, it’s also one of my favourite horror comedies (my favourite is American Werewolf).

  5. Dead Alive was fantastic also, but I don’t think I am a fair judge. I am really easily amused.

  6. Well, now that I think back on it, it was the last movie in the Evil Dead marathon some friends and I had years ago…maybe I was just purely exhausted.

  7. Evil Dead 2 may be my fave haunted house movie of all time.

  8. The Film Reel Says:

    I’m the complete opposite and Evil Dead is the film that I watch the most and Evil Dead 2 is the one I never think to watch. I may have to throw them into the Halloween mix for myself. I certainly need a refresher on the second one at least!

  9. some of the top comedies…

    […]THE EVIL DEAD (1981) & EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987) – The Dungeon Review! « GOREGIRL'S DUNGEON[…]…

  10. I’m actually one of the few that prefers the first Evil Dead to the sequel. I actually get a kick out of the clunkier qualities. Considering what Raimi had to work with when making the first, the results are that much more impressive.

    • Both films are awesome. Good horror-comedies are few and far between and Evil Dead 2 gets is sooooo right. Evil Dead 2 will always be the measuring stick for which I judge every other horror-comedy and will also have a warm special place in my cold horror heart.

  11. […] Evil Dead II “ain’t no freaking sequel“ and instead steps up as a horror comedy. It also featuring the inception of Ash, played by […]

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  13. […] 3. https://goregirl.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/the-evil-dead-1981-evil-dead-2-dead-by-dawn-1987-the-dungeo… 4. http://drnorth.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/the-evil-dead-randomised/ 5. http://stcatharines.cityguide.ca/army-of-darkness-is-back-on-029584.php […]

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