Evil Dead II Dead By Dawn - dir: Sam Raimi
Recently a friend of mine satiated
my quest for 80ís kiddie porn by lending me a copy of the Molly
Ringwald classic, 16 Candles. Upon its return my friend insinuated
that I should reply to the favor by lending her a copy of one on
the many fine films in my video collection. "How about Evil Dead
II?" "I asked. "Itís just like 16 Candles, but with more
In truth, Evil Dead II - Dead By Dawn is undoubtedly one
of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Sam Raimi (Of current
A Simple Plan fame) and starring his childhood friend, Bruce
Campbell (a modern day Buster Keaton) the film is essentially a
remake of the first Evil Dead with a much bigger budget.
Really more of a comedy than a horror flick (albeit a comedy where
all the characters either die or are hideously tortured) the plot
ghosts the story of its predecessor - young people arrive in spooky
house, summon forces of evil and then wackiness ensues. A lot of
what keeps the film becoming a clichť of the Friday the 13th
part 7 variety is Campbellís wonderful overacting; he seems
to have a continual body tick that offsets his "boy next door" good
looks with spastic twitching. He then proceeds to heighten that
effect with quietly mumbled curses in the flavor of Elmer Fudd.
Also impressive is the pure physical abuse Campbell takes during
the film: heís thrown from a car window, repeatedly smashed into
trees, maniacally saws off his own demon-processed hand and has
enough dishware smashed against his head to knock out Iron Mike.
One gets the feeling that if Campbell wasnít available for the role
it would have gone to Roger Rabbit.
Despite the underlying farcical nature of the film, there is a
moody eerieness. Raimi is one of the few directors who can use a
fog machine in a way that doesnít remind you of a 1989 Whitesnake
concert and also has some patented violent camerawork that continually
disorients the viewer and creates the illusion of panic. His "rushing
along the ground" shot that represents an evil force we never really
see is perhaps the most instantly recognizable and identifying camera
shot of any director. (Though I just recently read the idea wasnít
Raimiís but some forgettable AD or something.) Thereís also some
great claymation work right out of the Ray Harryhausen catalogue
that it its own way seems far more impressive than the computer
generated effects of films such as Deep Impact or Jurassic
Park. You can see the elbow grease that goes into claymation;
itís strikingly obvious that the only way to create such effects
is to diligently manipulate clay and camera for what must be days.
The purity of the effort overcomes the obvious limitations on realism.
So the film moves along, humorously eliminating its human characters
while Bruce Campbellís alter ego, Ash, progresses from a nervous
simp, to a kick-ass, battle ready simp. The plot leads directly
into what was essentially the third Evil Dead, Army of
Darkness. All three films are vital to any connoisseur of cult,
but I do believe it is the second Evil Dead that stands the strongest.
Evil Dead II also made a minor contribution to pop culture that
I never really noticed until a visit to my friend Danís House, this
past summer. "You know," I mentioned. "I donít think you really
saw zombies with eyeballs until Evil Dead II" (A large grinning
and eyeballed, zombie stares out from the EDII poster.) And this
is true. The old style zombies of the Christopher Lee mummy films
to even Ed Woodís work have no apparent vision devices. But a few
years after Evil Dead II, films like Return of the Living
Dead (another classic, the film that got me into Punk Rock)
or Scooby Doo on Zombie Island appeared, featuring zombies
with full ocular abilities. I know many of you have often wondered
when the undead first appeared with functioning eyeballs and hopefully
this goes a long way towards answering your question.