Before we get into ‘Evil Dead II’, I want to give you all some context.
The year is 1978. Long-time friends, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi created a short film called ‘Within the Woods’ which told the story of two couples spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods and naturally, it doesn’t go that well. Demons show up, people are possessed and then chopped up with axes. ‘Within the Woods’ was a concept film for they actually wanted to do and was used to secure funding.
Raimi succeeded in securing almost the amount needed and so set out to make a better version of ‘Within the Woods’ with his frequent collaborator, Bruce Campbell to star as Ash Williams; Ellen Sandweiss as Ash’s sister, Cheryl, Hal Delrich as Scott, Betsy Baker as Ash’s girlfriend, Linda and Theresa Tilly as Shelly.
The plot was largely the same as ‘Within the Woods’. A bunch of teenagers arrive in a cabin in the woods for a holiday. One small difference is that the ‘evil’ from ‘Within the woods’ came from disturbing an Ancient Indian burial ground, ‘The Evil Dead’ took a more ‘original’ approach with the introduction of the ‘Necronomicon’ or ‘the Book of the Dead’. When certain passages are read, it awakens the deadites and possessions begin. In ‘The Evil Dead’ and the sequel, the passages are played on a tape recorder and as you’d expect, things go wrong. At the end, Ash is the only survivor and in the very last scene, when it seems like the worst is over, Ash is attacked by the evil and his fate is left unknown.
Released in 1981, ‘The Evil Dead’ had a considerably higher budget and greater production value along with a substantial advertising campaign. The film exceeded expectations by making $2.4 Million in the US and another $261,944 internationally.
The film was given an X-Rating due to its graphic violence which limited it’s audience. Had the film been given an R-rating, it would have done better but may not have received the notoriety as a cult classic.
Then it came time for a sequel.
Despite the logical assumption that a sequel to ‘The Evil Dead’ would continue the events of the first film but the opening scene really quashes that assumption.
The film starts with Ash (Bruce Campbell) vacationing in a cabin in the woods (naturally) with his alive girlfriend, Linda (Denise Bixler).
So… Ash survived being attacked at the end of the first film and escaped. He then recovered from the PTSD that he no doubt suffered from after enduring such a horrific event, started dating another girl called Linda and decided to take her to what must be a very similar cabin (since the cabin in the first film was largely destroyed) where three of his friends and his sister died horribly and seems to be fine with it. In fact, he’s so fine with it, that he never mentions any of this to his new girlfriend called Linda.
Ash then finds a tape recorder along with the ‘un-burnt’ Necronomicon, plays the tape and… you know what happens.
How about this. Since the ‘sequel’ has virtually no connecting elements to the original, why don’t we just say that this film is another version of the first film. The original gave the this film some context so the events can carry on without too much explanation. This makes more sense. OK? Moving on.
Linda becomes possessed and attacks Ash wherein he decapitates her with a shovel. After trying to escape the cabin but finding that the bridge they crossed is destroyed, Ash is attacked by the evil until he returns to the cabin where he is once again attacked by Linda. Linda’s head bites Ash’s hand and her body attacks him with a chainsaw. Nevertheless, Ash gains the upper hand and dismembers her body, killing her once and for all.
‘Evil Dead II’ got a bigger budget with $3.5 Million and it definitely shows as the film has a larger cast and shows other locations other than the cabin or the woods. The other characters are Annie (Sarah Berry) who is the daughter of the Professor that studied the Necronomicon and previously occupied the cabin, her research partner, Ed Getley (Richard Domeier) and locals Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley) who Annie and Ed trick into carrying their bags.
In the meantime, Ash’s infected hand begins to attack him and so he cuts it off with a chainsaw which is funny because he screams as he’s doing it but he doesn’t show any pain for the rest of the film which made me think. If the first film did happen, wouldn’t it have been a great twist if the Necronomicon wasn’t there because Ash burned it and the ‘evil’ is a figment of Ash’s imagination because Ash has had a psychotic break after the events of the first film. He’s forever trapped in his own mind and has to constantly relive killing his possessed girlfriend and facing the evil. If you’re looking for a connection, then that would make sense because all while Ash is alone in the cabin, a lot of what he experiences would suggest that he’s losing his mind. The moments that spring to mind are when Ash looks at himself in the mirror and he’s attacked by his own reflection and when inanimate objects begin laughing at him.
The film could have gone in that direction except the other less interesting characters show up and then the film becomes a guessing game as to which order all these new characters will die.
In the end, it comes down to Ash and Annie who need to retrieve some pages of the Necronomicon which will put an end to the evil that were thrown down into the basement with Annie’s demonic mother, Henrietta by Jake. Everyone with me?
After the iconic sequence where Ash and Annie get him ready for action by modifying the chainsaw to attach to his arm and Ash cuts the end off the shotgun which isn’t how guns work but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to how ridiculous the franchise became. Ash faces and defeats Henrietta but the cabin is attacked by the trees. Despite being stabbed in the back by Ash’s infected hand, Annie completes the incantation to stop the evil but instead opens up a portal which sucks up Ash and his car and sends them to 1300 AD. Ash defeats a deadite and he is hailed as a hero as he realises that the drawing of the hero from Medieval times in the Necronomicon was in fact him.
‘Evil Dead II’ had a limited release and a disappointing opening weekend with $807,260 but went on to gross $5.9 Million in the US and $10.9 Million worldwide.
It is my opinion that ‘Evil Dead II’ is more memorable than the first. It had better practical effects and more entertaining set pieces. Others hail the original as the best as it’s more of a horror film and that’s fine, but I do think that ‘Evil Dead II’ is where the franchise found its feet as to leaning more towards outright absurdity than horror. It’s also more iconic with its very quotable lines and could arguably have been the film that put forth Bruce Campbell as ‘King of the One Liners’ to his fans. I’m a fan. Hail to the King.
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