I’ll Swallow Your Soul
I adore Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, but my absolute favorite is 1987’s Evil Dead 2; Dead By Dawn. I saw this movie before seeing the first of the trilogy and immediately fell in love. It worked out since Evil Dead II is a retroactive continuity sequel, alternating the previous facts from the first film and better retelling the story. Ash, played by the brilliant Bruce Campbell, takes his new and in one piece girlfriend to a secluded and deserted cabin in the woods. The tape of an archeology professor is played, passages from the Necronomicon are recited, and the evil forces are released. Unlike the first film, II fully acknowledges the fact that it is campy and comedic, with the possessed Linda (Denise Bixler) dancing headless and prancing in the woods, Ash’s demonic hand mocking him and giving him the finger, the inanimate objects in the cabin laughing hysterically, and the infamous chainsaw arm.
Revisiting the first story meant that Raimi did not have to waste any time on character development or explaining the evil unseen forces. II jumps into the fright almost immediately, with Linda becoming possessed and eventually beheaded and buried by Ash. As he deals with the possession of his hand, the cabin owner’s daughter Annie (Sarah Berry), her boyfriend (Richard Domeier), and their guides (Dan Hicks and Kassie Wesley) arrive at the cabin to see a bloody stranger. Naturally, they suspect that Ash has murdered the professor and his wife, but they eventually learn through the recordings that the professor was forced to lock his wife, Henrietta, in the basement after she became possessed herself. Demonic forces claim person after person until Ash and Annie are the only two that remain. As Annie uses her dying breath to recite a passage to banish the evil, Ash is caught in the portal and transported back in time, opening the door for the third installment of the film series.
I love the comedic elements in this movie. When Ash decides to sever his possessed hand, he first pins it to the floor with a kitchen knife. Then, grabbing the chainsaw, he says “who’s laughing now?” As he cuts his hand from his body, blood shoots into his face, covering his manic expression. When the group tries to shove Henrietta back into the basement, one of her eyeballs pops out from her skull, shoots across the room, and gets stuck in the mouth of Bobbie Joe, one of the guides. Bobbie Joe, in her panicked state, rushes from the cabin only to be attacked by the trees and vines in the forest. Raimi spares us the tree-rape that we saw in the first film, killing the girl by slamming her into a large tree. Ash, not one to be hindered by losing a hand, quickly constructs a contraption to attach a chainsaw to his stump; the same chainsaw he used to cut Linda’s severed head in half after she bit his hand and wouldn’t stop mocking him in her quest to capture his soul.
The film uses a good deal of stop-motion animation, running film backwards to show fog retreating into the woods, makeup and bodysuits on the possessed people, and lots of blood which is generally thrown into Campbell’s face. Yes, there are mistakes and errors in the effects, but it doesn’t matter. Raimi and crew gave the audience raw and real effects. With so much CGI in movies nowadays, it’s refreshing to see a film where CGI is totally absent and the creativity of the crew is what matters. If an effect was desired, they had to build it from scratch. I know that all films can’t do this, as CGI effects are sometimes the only route to go to achieve certain visual effects, but it is definitely an overused medium. Seeing a film like Evil Dead II is a nice reminder that a kick ass movie can be made without the assistance of computer graphics.
Evil Dead II is and probably always will be my favorite film from Raimi and the greatest thing Bruce Campbell has ever done. It’s over the top, funny and frightening, and tells a fast paced scary story that is sure to captivate any viewer. You can’t help but fall in love with this movie and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it since discovering its existence in college. This movie is a must watch in October as you prepare for Halloween, as well as any other time of the year that you want a good laugh. As Ash would say, it’s GROOVY.