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EVIL DEAD 2 (1987) (***1/2)

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This film isn't really a sequel to the first EVIL DEAD, but more of a re-envisioning of it. EVIL DEAD 2 takes parts of the original and re-works them with much more success. The story is tighter and moves further away from just lining up teenagers to be killed. This film works wonderfully as a subtle satire of slasher and horror films. This is the film that EVIL DEAD wanted to be.

The story follows Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) as they take a trip to a secluded cabin in the woods. Turns out, the location is the place where a scientist unleashed the demons of the Book of the Dead. As Ash battles the evil spirits, the scientist's daughter Annie (Sarah Berry), her research partner Ed (Richard Domeier, DIE HARD 2), redneck Jake (Dan Hicks, DARKMAN) and Jake's girl Bobby Joe (Kassie DePaiva, TV's GUIDING LIGHT) venture out to the cabin, which is now cut off from its main entrance/exit. When they find Ash he has been nearly driven insane by the demons. To free themselves, they must find the pieces of an incantation and recite it before the evil spirits kill them all.

EVIL DEAD 2 relies more on story and tone than the original, which was more of an experiment by students on what kind of cool effects they could pull off. This film has the classic scene where Ash must cut off his own possessed hand, which then attacks him. Later, Ash attaches a chainsaw to his stump. Groovy! Campbell is great playing the campy material straight. He perfectly delivers some lines that would have been eye-rollers from almost anyone else. As for the effects, they are much better than the original. When the tree attacks Bobby Joe, it's very similar to the same scene in the first film, yet slicker. Some of the stop-motion effects stick out like a severed head at the prom, but they add an odd school Ray Harryhausen charm.

Director Sam Raimi pours on the gore, but it's the extreme level of the excess that makes this film satire. To the less observant, it looks like your typical dead teenager flick, but a more knowledgeable viewer will see the jokes and the filmic references. It's really a surreal, slapstick subversion of the conventions of various sub-genres of horror. It's campy, but the actors play it straight, and that's exactly why it works so well.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
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