Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II ★★★★½

Simultaneously building from and disavowing the events of its predecessor, Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead 2" is a brilliantly over-the-top and engaging semi-sequel to the seminal "Evil Dead." A bone-jarring thrill ride, the film is not only a great horror film but a solid, legitimate comedy as well.

Raimi, this time paired with a larger budget, takes his audience back to the cabin in the woods wherein lies a book of the dead and its power to unleash all manner of demonic monstrosities. As the genre demands, said demons are, indeed, unleashed, and that is where the fun begins. Though it apes and expands on the premise of the original film, the sequel is faster moving and offers more wit. The narrative is compelling and nicely develops its own greater mythology.

Bruce Campbell returns and provides a performance that is classically heroic and physically comedic. Campbell's charisma anchors the film, and his willingness to sacrifice his body for a gag is reminiscent of Buster Keaton or, at least, John Ritter.

All of Sam Raimi's budding trademarks are on display in "Evil Dead 2." The crash zooms, flying cameras, uncomfortable closeups, and focus on dripping, oozing grotesqueries are all here, and are all effective. Raimi throws buckets of blood, solid stop-motion effects, and great creature designs at the screen, and they all stick.

"Evil Dead 2," with its cartoon energy, clever wit, and sloppy gore, is the ideal cinematic haunted house ride. While the original film seemed to comment on 60 years of horror films, this film is designed and executed to be only about itself and the visceral, nerve-shaking fun it can provide. Smart and jolting, dark and gripping, "Evil Dead 2" is a masterfully done near-masterpiece of its genre.

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