Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II ★★★★★

Belfast Film Festival showed a special screening of Evil Dead 2 in the park last night, surrounded on all sides by tall trees it was the perfect setting.

Evil Dead 2 has always been one of my favourite films. It had a huge influence on my taste back in my teens and I probably wouldn't have been anywhere near as enthusiastic about horror if I hadn't seen it back then. However, I hadn't watched it in such a long time, I'd forgotten quite a lot.

The first thing I noticed is the film's pacing and economy of storytelling. Having sat through countless modern horrors that take far too long establishing insipid, uninspired characters, it's so refreshing and startling to see a film that wastes no time at all in getting to the point. In roughly five minutes you know all you need to know, you're filled in on the Book of the Dead, you know Ash and his girlfriend, Linda are visiting a cabin in the woods and then boom! Linda gets taken and the kinetic, manic horror is dialled up to 11 before you've even had time to take a bite of popcorn.

I had forgotten just how relentless the pace is in this movie, you're never given a moment to catch your breath as Sam Raimi and his team throw absolutely all they can at Ash. The first half hour of the film has more action that all the Paranormal Activity films put together and then just as it hits it's highest point, the focus switches to Annie's arrival at the airport and you're finally given a chance to relax.

I don't think I'd ever noticed before how cleverly designed the structure of the film is. Without the introduction of Annie to slow the pace down, it would been very easy to give the audience sensory overload. There's so much happening for such a sustained amount of time in the first act that, had it continued, could have desensitized viewers but the second act is timed perfectly and the four new characters add an extra dimension and more cannon fodder for the demons. The third act is bookmarked extremely well too as it sets up what's soon to come simply by letting the camera drift down to the cellar and settling on the witch's cackling face. From that small moment you know exactly what's going to come next.

I'd always loved the physicality of the film making and Bruce Campbell's willingness to take a beating but seeing it on the big screen just drives home the impact further. From the start we see the threat attacking Ash from the monster's point of view, smashing through car windows and cabin doors and Raimi really does make the camera itself as big a threat to Campbell as anything else he's faced with. This adds greatly to the appeal of the film for me and really makes you believe that absolutely anything in those woods could be the next thing to try and murder Ash.

After all the energy and jets of multicoloured blood, it would be very easy to end on an anticlimax, how the hell do you follow all that up? Again, Raimi has you firmly in his grip, just when you think Ash has emerged victorious, it all gets ripped away in the most ludicrous but perfectly fitting style.

I'm so glad I got to see Evil Dead 2 in such great surroundings. As you can probably tell, I fell in love with the film all over again. It's totally flawless, a bloody masterpiece.

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