EVIL DEAD 2 (1987) Dir. Sam Raimi
Late at night. A cabin in the middle of dark woods. Strange growling noises outside. Blissfully oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark, one couple passes time playing piano and dancing. An idyllic image is pretty quickly shattered as some ghost or other monster (most likely, the one lurking in the dark) shatters the window glass and kidnaps the girl. After literally several seconds, the poor and innocent creature is transformed into a zombie and throws herself at her frightened-to-death boyfriend. Fortunately, playing the piano is only one of many of his talents. The guy takes a shovel and cuts off the zombie-girlfriend’s head. (That is a razor-edged shovel, mind you.) Then, before the evil force also turns him into a zombie, the sun comes up and drives the evil away in an almost cleansing-the-soul moment. The guy is safe… for one scene.
This atmospheric opening is but a taste of what follows. What’s in store for us is lotsa incantations, otherworldly monsters, screaming chicks, zombie-mothers and ghost-fathers, and, on top of that, like a cherry on a cupcake, there is a chainsaw! When the couple from the opening, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Linda (Denise Bixler), play a weird recording, they hear incantations read by a Professor Raymond Knowby. The recording summons up some evil creatures from another world/dimension/afterlife (choose the correct). What the professor reads are the passages from Necronomicon (rings any bells, HPL fans out there?). Any child knows you never read from Necronimicon out loud, dah! And you most certainly don’t record it! (The professor should be renamed Knownot, not Knowby.) By the time things start to make twisted sense to Ash, there enters another four characters. Only one of them is important: the professor’s daughter Annie (Sarah Berry). The evil possesses different inanimate objects so our characters are pretty much in a deadly trap inside the cabin. Going outside is no good either since the evil also possesses the trees and the woods. They only thing left — to fight back.
Not to spoil you the undoubted pleasure of this gross and gory battle with gruesome spirits, I’ll just mention the concept behind the chainsaw strikes as brilliant. Anyway, spoilers or not, I bet you’ve all seen the movie. When Linda’s head pops up again, she bites Ash’s hand so maliciously, the hand becomes possessed by the evil. In a flawlessly acted out scene, Ash struggles with his own hand, which is definitely trying to kill him, at the same time, emitting all kinds of screechy sounds (the hand must’ve developed a mouth or other hole to make those noises in the first place, but who would pay any attention to those details). Ash gathers up courage to cut off his hand (yes, a classic scene way before the Saw series made it cool). Thus, he becomes a virtually Hemingway character. As you might expect, the hand is still alive. It runs off while Ash shoots it with a shotgun. I wonder — which spot exactly should Ash should to finish the hand? Does the hand have a “heart”? Or will it live/move even if he cuts off all of the five fingers? Never mind, the trivialities. Going back to the story. Ash replaces the hand with the chainsaw and becomes a psycho-hero almost single-handedly (no pun intended) fighting the evil monsters.
One of many reasons to watch this classic horror flick is Bruce Campbell. That sentence should suffice for an explanation. Bruce is in his top form. While we don’t have to listen to any dialogues, since they don’t add much to the story and are mere distractions between nicely grotesque, psychedelic sequences, everything what Bruce says adds humor and basically creates the atmosphere the movie is famous for. His face, big, terrified eyes, and crazy waco laughter make it all more fun to watch. We wouldn’t want any other hobo with a shotgun instead of Bruce. Plus, he manages to scream like a chick when he’s scared — we know because there are other chicks screaming in the movie, of course.
One thought crossed my mind when I was watching it. This movie would make a perfect video game. A bloody shooter with an original character, a horde of monster, a possessed hand, and an epic battle at the end. And the twist at the very end to make you crave for a sequel. You would play with Ash, choose your weapon (the chainsaw, the shotgun, a lame ancient dagger), protect the other characters, fight off monsters while Annie reads from the Necronomicon lost pages. It has this video game feel to it. The way Ash runs in the woods or in the cabin, uncovering hidden mysteries in the basement, tracking the evil hand, or beheading his girlfriend feels like game locations. Once one is covered, he moves to the next level. When he upgrades — replacing his hand with the chainsaw — he moves on to killing even bigger monsters until he faces the biggest, the creepiest and sure the ugliest of them all at the end.
So what are the other reasons for a classic screening of Evil Dead 2? It’s a take on Lovecraftian themes, for one. We go from Necronomicon to evil creatures from another world to insignificant humans who go mad and die in the face of the unknowable, the unnamable. Then, we have a great sense of humor that makes it a grotesque treat. A deadly-serious attitude would destroy this story. Instead of laughing how pathetic a movie like this could be, we wholeheartedly laugh with Ash, not at him. Surprisingly, we have blond chicks mindlessly screaming their lungs out, but we’re spared when it comes to obscene, tasteless sex scenes (beside the lewd tree scene when a tree ties a girl with its many raunchy branches). Lastly, we get to spend time with our guy Ash/Bruce: a survivor, a lover, a fighter, a loser, and a winner. If you haven’t seen Dead Evil 2 yet, get on with it. Or else, “I’ll swallow your soul!”
Long days, pleasant nights,