Thirty years ago today, Sam Raimi gave us Evil Dead II. He was working with a much bigger budget than he had for 1981's The Evil Dead, so the demons were amped, the gore was amped and the insanity was amped, leading to one of the most famous horror movies ever made. With Bruce Campbell still reprising his role of Ash three decades later, let's talk about how revolutionary Evil Dead II was at the time — and how it's inspiring blockbusters to this day.
The original 1981 Evil Dead, about a few friends who stay in a strange cabin in the middle of the woods to have some fun — but unleash a bunch of demons by reading the Book of the Dead — frankly didn't age well. The acting was pretty corny, the characters (including Ash) were idiots, and some things go on for way too long.
Sam Raimi must have come to the same conclusion, because Evil Dead II is more of a remake than a sequel, recapping the events from the first film in a prologue while changing them. Instead of friends, it is just Campbell's Ash and his girlfriend spending time in the cabin, until Ash accidentally unleashes the demons from the Necronomicon.
People still quote this movie on a regular basis, and the question comes to mind: Why? Why does Evil Dead II hold up so well after 30 years? Well, I think I have the answers.
Amazing Practical Effects
While the effects for the Deadites in the first film were impressive for such a low budget, they weren't exactly convincing — whereas the sequel gave us these grotesque and disturbing designs for when a Deadite possesses a person and goes all out. The effects are still astonishing to this day, and while they don't measure up to movies like David Cronenburg's The Fly or John Carpenter's The Thing, Sam Raimi's monsters have remained a staple in horror for a reason.
Whether it was a deformed face or a giant monster, the effects in Evil Dead II are still the best in the original trilogy. As directors and audiences are rediscovering lately, low-budget practical effects can be more powerful than millions of dollars worth of CGI.
An Improved And Badass Main Character
In the first film, Bruce Campbell's character's name wasn't even "Ash" (it was Ashley) and he was not that impressive of a hero, considering that whenever the Deadites would attack he'd get knocked around or freeze in the corner scared. It wasn't until the very end that he started fighting back, and even then he was still getting his ass kicked.
When Evil Dead II came along, we were dealing with a completely different character: he lost his girlfriend to these demons, and now he has to fight them off. There's no cowering in corners or freezing up; Ash took these things on with a shotgun, a chainsaw for a hand, and plenty of one-liners that made Arnold Schwarzenegger look second-rate (and which Ryan Reynolds surely learned from).
Combine all of this with the king of cool, Bruce Campbell, playing the character, and you basically had the greatest horror hero of all time.
It Perfectly Blended Horror And Comedy
The fist film's tone was all over the place: it tried to take itself seriously but threw in comedic moments (both intentional and unintentional) out of nowhere. Sam Raimi fixed this by making Evil Dead II a perfect blend of horror and comedy, pretty much giving birth to the fusion of genres.
The scene where the furniture in the cabin starts laughing hysterically, making Ash laugh along, works as comedy (because it can make any audience member bust up) but it also works as horror (because the demons are trying to break Ash's mind). The possessed hand scene is something straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, but it is also terrifying, because the idea of being forced to saw off your own hand is still pretty damned disturbing, as Deadpool would gladly tell you:
Anything comedic done in Evil Dead II is backed up with a disturbing undertone, so that you are not taken out of the moment; you can laugh but you're still scared. This combination of previously unlinked genres later appeared in Scream, Shaun of the Dead, The Cabin in the Woods, Zombieland and most recently Get Out.
It Started A Common Horror Trope
A bunch of friends go to a cabin in the woods where horrific events happen? Sounds pretty generic to the horror genre today, right? Well yeah, but back in the '80s this was a brand new idea in horror. After these movies came out, we had movies like Cabin Fever and Pumpkinhead, which borrowed elements from the Evil Dead franchise. (Hell, The Cabin in the Woods was a parody and tribute to these movies.) It may be a tired cliche today, but it all came from Evil Dead.
There Is No Other Movie Like It
Many have tried and failed to replicate what Evil Dead II did for horror; it just cannot be done. Sam Raimi's bizarre cinematography, the awesome main character, the freakish designs of the monsters, the blend of horror, comedy, and action, the lore featuring the Necronomicon...it all just came together to create something truly unique. Not even the 2013 remake, produced by Raimi and Campbell, could reproduce the magic.
That's why Evil Dead II is a landmark, not just in the horror genre but in all of cinema. And that is why it is still loved after 30 years.
Is Evil Dead II still as groovy as you remember or do you think it aged like 30-year-old milk? Let us know in the comments below!