Monday 6 August 2007

Evil Dead II (1987) Sam Raimi

Six years on, Bruce Campbell has turned from being just some guy that Sam Raimi knows who's willing to play the lead to being the Great Chin, a real actor who has more fun being deliberately and delightfully B-movie wooden than any ther actor in the history of film. He can act here, but he can also act the fool and he does it so well. In only a few years he reached what William Shatner took years to master and Shatner could never beat himself up with a possessed hand. Not gonna happen.

He plays Ash again, but some sort of different parallel universe Ash who comes back to the cabin in the woods without having a clue about the Book of the Dead and the Professor's translation on tape and the rest of what we learned about in film one. His girlfriend gets killed off in about five minutes flat and he's on his own. In fact the first ten minutes are basically a stripped to basics remake of the entire first film. Then, just as Ash becomes possessed and dumped in a mud puddle, the sun comes out to rescue him, complete with buzzing insects and pastoral music. The evil retreats and we can settle down to the sequel part of this remake.

We find out a lot more detail here. The Book of the Dead is a few millennia old and holds the key to another world. We see a little background about Professor Knowby's discovery and then translation of the book and we get to see his daughter and her boyfriend continue the work with the few remaining lost pages. We get scares as well timed as the first movie, we get lots of cool low budget animation and we get laughs a plenty. Only in Crimewave did Sam Raimi's Three Stooges obsession get more attention and it's still awesomely fun here.

It's twenty years since I saw this in the cinema and it feels as fresh and funny now as it was then. Only Peter Jackson's Bad Taste matched this film on those fronts. I think if I watched this another fifty times I could make a Grindhouse-esque double bill mashup version that switched the dialogue around so that Ash was Derek and Derek was Ash. I'd love to have the imagination either of these guys had to come up with, from eyeball swallowing to toffee hammers, from A Farewell to Arms to exploding sheep, from ballet dancing animated headless corpses to drinking chuck. I'm in awe of both Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson and am not surprised at all that these low budget horror pioneers are now making some of the best movies to come out of the major studios today.

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