Stuff I Watch in October: Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Evil Dead II

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi. We’ve been through his resume already, but if “The Evil Dead” got him noticed, then this was the film that put his name in lights.

WHAT IS IT?: If you ever found yourself saying “You know, ‘The Evil Dead’ was good but I wanna know what it would have been like if Sam Raimi had a larger budget”, “Evil Dead II” is, without question, your answer.

People call this a “sequel”. It’s kinda that. It’s also more of a re-boot…before Hollywood knew what those were or knew what to call them.

THE PLOT: Oh, you want a plot? Ash (the hero from the last film) drives to a remote cabin in Kentucky with his girlfriend. They find a weird-looking book. Ash reads from the book. Demons awaken. They come for Ash’s girlfriend and possess her. Ash goes looking for her in the woods. He does away with his girlfriend after she becomes possessed. He tries to flee the cabin only to find that the bridge is now completely destroyed. He’s trapped. He goes back to the cabin to face the demons — until the translator’s daughter shows up with some uninvited guests.

There’s your plot.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The most important critics liked it. Both Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four (though Maltin originally gave it two). The New York Times and the Washington Post liked the film and Sam Raimi’s use of 50’s B-movie tropes.

evil dead II

WHAT DID I THINK?: Dino DeLaurentiis helped to produce “Halloween II” which John Carpenter wanted nothing to do with. Carpenter said that he had moved on. I don’t blame him at all. But the film turned out to be a mess.

Dino returns here, increasing the budget Sam Raimi had for the original “Evil Dead” film 10 times over.

It shows.

The make-up and special effects are far more convincing. The photography is less amateurish and more controlled. The story is more cohesive and isn’t just “teens chopping each other up in a cabin”. The editing is better.

And Raimi injects “Three Stooges”-esque humor into the proceedings, which I don’t think ANYONE saw coming.

The movie features entire sequences where Ash does battle with his own hand. I’m not making this up. In a low-budget film, a director with no skill, an actor with no talent, this is suicide.

Here, it’s comedy gold.

Watching Bruce Campbell wrestle around, smashing himself around a kitchen, smashing plates over his head, only to lose the battle and watch as his hand drags him, ever so slowly, toward a heavy cleaver (the hand makes the most grotesquely cute little grunts) is an absolute RIOT.

I cannot spoil what happens here. Suffice to say there’s ANOTHER fight between Ash and his hand — AND it has a Looney Tunes-esque punchline.

But that’s not all.

I’m not going to go into the acting. The acting in this film is exactly what it needs to be. It feels real. Nobody’s going for Oscar gold. They just need to be convincing.

“Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn” is a film which is a massive improvement on the original film. It’s not QUITE the roller coaster of blood, guts, and gore that was the original. It’s better than that, subbing a lot of the gore with a unique sense of humor one wouldn’t think to find in a horror film.

I love this movie.


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