Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Evil Dead II - review

1987 (USA)

Contains mild spoilers.

I'm going to start by extolling the virtues of this film. It's manic, hilarious and gratuitously over the top; a none-stop entertainment thrill-ride with a virtuoso slap-stick acting performance from Bruce Campbell, and it oozes style and vision at every turn. Honestly it's probably the best horror/comedy ever made and if you don't like it there's something wrong with you. Yes, I quite like this film.

Ok it's basically a rehash of the first, with a weak attempt at a recap, Ok Ash is more the crazed manic hero than the cowardly oddball reluctant survivor, and Ok the effects are still hilariously bad compared to the hyper-realistic stuff we're now used to, but honestly none of this matters a jot. Also is it really a zombie film? Probably not but I'll go into this in a bit and I still think has a place on a blog such as this.

Sam Raimi is still a genius. I loved The Evil Dead declaring it probably as good as it gets horror. Stylish, ambitious, an eye for action and suspense, and perfectly paced. Always on the edge of turning into a full on over the top farce, it trod quite the precarious line. Gratuitous gore, shocking sequences and hammy dialogue were all present but I always felt it understood restraint; knew when to pull back, and more or less, it stuck to a horror narrative. With Evil Dead II Raimi and Campbell haven't showed such restraint, fully embracing the slapstick humour and ridulous nature that was present in the first, but never fully allowed to flourish or take centre stage. Bruce Campbell was always a bit of a clown exaggerating his actions and behaviour but here not only is he allowed to throw himself about with as much gusto and abandon as he can, he has a script and director that go out of their way to positively encourage his antics at every opportunity and it all comes together flawlessly.

From probably the best chase sequence ever put on film to the ludicrous 14th Century climax the pacing is relentless and like its predecessor the cinematic aesthetic ambitious and audacious. This is a film with a true identity, understanding what it is, what it's trying to do and executing it all with breathtaking ease and simplicity. Nothing ever feels forced, action and dialogue flow and each increasingly over-the-top sequence merges into the next with ease and comfort. There's also no trying to push an ensemble cast, who do a sterling job of not being totally eclipsed by Campbell, as anything other than shallow parodies there to meet unfortunate ends. It's brilliant, cohesive and authentic.

Evil Dead II like its predecessor is a possession film which turns people into zombie like monstrosities. It's not a clear cut die, reanimate sort of story and I don't think you could ever call them zombies per se. The Evil Darkness unleashed by reading from the Book of the Dead takes peoples souls and possession of their bodies, and whether they're dead or not is irrelevant. They're puppets to be controlled and thrown about; they can not only shrug off being shot, stabbed smashed, but severed heads can still taunt and mock and like in The Return of the Living Dead severed limbs scuttle about with a life of their own. There's no undead rabid drive for flesh or vacant soulless instinctual reanimation, these are bodies fully alive with the sentience and will of their possessor and bestowed the ability to levitate, reanimate and metamorphose into fantastical monsters. Zombies? Only really in that they're still active and possessed even after death, and the way to shut them up is the traditional, tried and tested brain mash.

Evil Dead II, is bloody good ride; a relentless farcical rush into the bizarre and twisted. A showcase for the brilliance of Bruce Campbell, Raimi and Co. took the over-top of the first, and put it front and centre creating a seminal horror/comedy that I can't praise enough. Brilliant, entertaining and stupid, 10/10.


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