Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blast from the Past Movie Review: Evil Dead II (1987)

For our podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood, we decided to watch the movie Evil Dead II, the second film in the Evil Dead series for of our usual horror-themed month of October. It's been a long time since I saw this one--I think I saw it in high school, as part of a Hollywood Video double feature with the original, in the late 1990s. I remember enjoying the film then, especially in comparison to the execrable original film with its gouts of oatmeal-gore. Considering how Starz is putting out a new television series called Ash vs. the Evil Dead, this was a rather appropriate time to do the movie...

How did it hold up? Well, here's the podcast. And now for the review...

The Plot

Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda visit a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods for a romantic weekend, but it turns out a professor of ancient history was using it as a site to translate an ancient evil book bound in human skin. Ash plays a recording of the incantation and unleashes all sorts of slapstick-undead horrors just as the professor's daughter, her boyfriend, and a couple locals show up completely coincidentally. All of them must now survived the murderous (and sometimes hilarious) horrors of the Deadites...

The Good

*The movie avoids the "a bunch of friends go to the cabin in the woods to smoke weed and have sex" cliche of 1980s horror films. Instead it's Ash and his girlfriend basically breaking into someone else's cabin for the weekend and then the actual owners (or at least their relatives) show up, not knowing the craziness Ash accidentally unleashed.

*Ash's first encounter with the undead is a mildly-effective "Jump Scare." Given how inured I am to most horror films, it's probably a lot scarier for most people.

*At times Ash is remarkably genre-savvy. He knows sticking around a haunted cabin where a scientist recited incantations from a book bound in human skin is a really bad idea and at first chance he gets the hell out of there. Or let me rephrase that--he tries.

*There's a fair bit of good slapstick humor in this one, including a lengthy sequence involving Ash's hand getting possessed. Who's laughing now indeed? :)

*Who knew the book A Farewell to Arms could be so amusing? You'll laugh when you see the context.

*I never really thought about what might happen if you soak a room's sole light source in blood...

*There's a nice bit of Reality Ensues when Ash starts blasting around with the shotgun. Sometimes you don't know where the shells will end up.

The Bad

*The first twenty or thirty minutes of the film really aren't that entertaining. To be blunt, a lot of the film just isn't entertaining, although there are certainly some good moments.

*Ash's first killing of a possessed character could be played for either horror (it's a brutal necessity that traumatizes him) or comedy (slapstick violence, hammy overreaction to the deed). It doesn't really work as either.

*The film's sense of time is wonky. It doesn't take long for Ash and Linda to get to the cabin from the Scary Ominous Bridge (TM), but Ash leaves the cabin the morning after they arrive and arrives there just in time for the sun to set?

*In the scene where Ash sees a character reanimated after having been possessed and killed, they've only been dead a day or two, if not just a few hours. It would have been better (and likely much cheaper) to have the original actor wearing zombie makeup reviving and misbehaving rather than having a mediocre claymation monster.

*For someone who starts out showing some intelligence, Ash displays some fairly stupid behavior at times, especially later in the film.

The Verdict

Not as funny as I remember and it hasn't aged very well. I wonder if the remake is more technically adept, although a friend of mine tells me it's really, really gory. Unless you really like 1980s horror, 1980s comedies, or combinations thereof, don't bother with this one. 5.0 out of 10.

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