Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II ★★★★½

Now this is groovy.

The difference between The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II reminds me of the difference between A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More; the initial film is a rough cut - a prototype - hampered by its budget and a director searching to find his style. The follow-up is fully realized, supremely confident, and trimmed of all fat - so much so that it's hard to believe both films in either set were directed by the same person. Evil Dead II is all the best parts of The Evil Dead, and, as it borrows liberally and literally from the first, its retakes on some of the so-so or hokey parts from the first become infinitely better and more cohesive. As much fun as the last half-hour of The Evil Dead was, Raimi is able to sustain that energy for a full hour-and-a-half here.

A large part of why Evil Dead II works (for me, at least) is that it is so over-the-top, so extreme, that it is no longer a horror movie. Sure, it throws in plenty of gore and a few jump scares, but it does so with such an obvious wink that I can't see it as anything other than satire. It pokes fun at everything from the horror genre, to the decadence of '80s cinema, even to itself in The Evil Dead. It's making fun of all those things by pointing out the ridiculousness of it all. It's a parody and subversion of hedonism as a virtue.

Yet, even as it makes you laugh at how silly those concepts are on a fundamental level, it does so with obvious love and admiration. Satire cannot exist without the ideas it seeks to lampoon. Raimi's love of B-movie tropes like their chiseled, infallible leads and earnestly cheesy effects are what allow Ash and his very bad night to feel so good. I believe Raimi truly loves those otherwise sub par aspects, else Evil Dead II would come off as mean-spirited (heh) and derivative. At its core, Evil Dead II is both Raimi's interpretation of the appeal of 'bad' movies and his celebration of them. It's ironic that in satirizing them, he actually does so with a movie commendable both technically and meta-textually.

And I would be remiss not to mention that Bruce Campbell here is absolutely mesmerizing (and more than a fair bit groovy himself).

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