MOVIES THAT DON’T SUCK: Sam Raimi gives us gore-spattered slapstick in ‘Evil Dead 2’

It is my hypothesis that within us all lies a 13-year-old boy (yes, even girls). It’s not exactly an inner child, per se, but rather something inside us that finds the idea of a guy with a chainsaw for a hand slicing apart the undead strangely appealing.

This phenomenon is most likely why the “ Evil Dead” series has garnered such a huge following since it began in 1981.

For those confused about why I’m focusing on the second in the trilogy, “Evil Dead 2,” allow me to explain the series’s mythology.

In 1981, director Sam Raimi released a slapped-together, haunted house horror film called “The Evil Dead.” Despite its mediocre acting, the film became an unexpected classic due to Raimi’s excellent filmmaking and a surprisingly show-stealing performance by (unintended) star Bruce Campbell.

Six years later, Raimi released the semi-sequel that was “The Evil Dead 2.” Capitalizing on Campbell’s talent, Raimi rewrote the story to feature only Ash (Campbell’s character in the first film) and his girlfriend and basically replayed the first “Evil Dead” in the film’s early minutes.

However, whereas the previous film was quite serious, “ The Evil Dead 2” is a  spoof of horror films.

What makes “The Evil Dead 2”  fantastic is that it doesn’t get its humor in the ham-fisted way we’re used to in today’s spoof movies ( I’m looking at you, “Scary Movies” 1-5.), but rather through Raimi’s use of blood and gore as slapstick comedy.

Whereas other horror films might turn the audience’s stomachs with spurts of fake blood as a serial killer slashes his way from one 20-something to the next, it’s hard not to crack a smile when a character is knocked off their feet by enough fake blood to fill an Olympic-sized pool.

Of course, every story needs a protagonist, and, damn, is he awesome.

Ash is having a bad day.

He has to behead his girlfriend after she is possessed, cut off his own hand after she comes back from the dead and bites him, and put up with a particularly unhelpful group of strangers, all of which is happening whilst he is being attacked by whatever evil force is haunting the woods.

Thankfully, Ash isn’t your average forgettable horror movie character who simply runs away to hide under a bed when confronted with something scary. He’s the kind of guy who replaces his hand with a chainsaw, uses that chainsaw to make a sawed-off shotgun, and charges head first into whatever unimaginable horrors he is confronted with.

Boy, am I glad that Campbell and Raimi are friends, because Campbell is perfect for the role in every way.

He portrays Ash as a flat, rugged and infinitely competent paragon and  caricature of every ’80s action movie hero. Ash makes  “The Evil Dead 2”  one of the only horror movies wherein the character fighting the monster is more memorable than the monsters themselves.

Think about it. Who is it we remember? Freddy Krueger or the hapless inhabitants of Elm Street? Jason or the teenagers?

With “Evil Dead 2,” we only remember Ash and that calm, collected “Groovy” he utters before going to fight evil.

Well, maybe a close second goes to the basement zombie for the “I’ll swallow your soul” line. (See the movie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

In the previous film, Campbell was good, while his costars were mediocre. You can expect much of the same in “The Evil Dead 2,” except that Campbell is great and the others are just okay.

Midway through the film, Ash is joined by Annie (Sarah Barry), a researcher and daughter of the archaeologist who finds the Necronomicon; Ed (Richard Domeier), her research partner; and white-trash couple, Jake and Bobby-Joe (Dan Hicks and Kassie DePaiva). Of those four (spoiler alert) one is almost immediately killed, and the other two serve as monster bait.

Like I said before, easily forgettable, but that’s sort of the point. They’re just one more obstacle.

The only real standout is Annie, who is actually quite good despite the restricting role of “the sidekick” once everyone else has kicked the bucket.

Unfortunately for her, she’s still just as disposable as anybody in the movie who’s not Ash.

If you want to watch the films the “right” way, you’d begin with “The Evil Dead” and proceed through the trilogy. However, not all of us were born with the same patience for mediocrity. Watch “The Evil Dead 2” and then “Army of Darkness.”

Then if you’re feeling adventurous, go back and watch the first one.


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