Retro Review – Evil Dead 2 (1987)

With Evil Dead 2, director Sam Raimi introduced the world to the SPLATSTICK movie.

Sam Raimi’s cult classic The Evil Dead, released in 1981, was a somewhat serious affair – a horror movie intended to be taken as a horror movie. The story now is commonplace; a group of friends take a vacation to a cabin in the woods, only to have things go terribly awry. The gore in it was intense. The chills were abundant. Six years later, Raimi is back with a sequel, and it successfully overshadows the first by all regards.

Evil Dead 2, starring longtime friend of Raimi Bruce Campbell as Ashley Williams, takes what happens in the first film and puts a spin on them which can only be described as “insane.” It’s an experience that those who are lucky enough to have seen it will not soon forget, and that’s probably not because it’s too scary. In fact, it’s really not even that scary at all.

Instead, it is gory. Extremely bloody. The movie practically drips from whatever screen the film is being shown on. But it’s not even gory in a way that even a green, inexperienced horror initiate would have to shield his or her eyes from; you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose eyes weren’t glued to the screen. Blood and all. While it may seem contradictive, the explanation behind this makes total sense. But to understand this first, you need to know about director Sam Raimi.

Raimi loves the Three Stooges. The masters of slapstick comedy made such an impact on the young director that when even bringing a horrific display of gore to life, he could not shake the influence of Moe, Larry, and Curly. So he did something new; something unique. Sam Raimi, in his own words, created the first “Splatstick” movie.

The idea behind Splatstick is very much the same as what goes into creating slapstick comedy – just replace the silly gags with violence so horrific and extreme that it becomes hilarious. Hands are severed and come back to life, flipping the bird. Blood sprays like fire hydrants from holes in the walls every color you could think of. Eyeballs pop from character’s heads and zoom across the frames into other character’s mouths. Everything about the violence contained in Evil Dead 2 is so bizarre, so over the top, that it becomes laugh out loud funny.

At the core of it, the movie is still a horror film. There are no two ways about it. Despite the violent gags and purposefully insane premise, the film rests on a sturdy foundation of fear. The manifestation of this mainly comes in the form of the “spirit in the woods”, something that is never explicitly shown, but instead is created by the viewpoint of a camera smashing through car windows and doors to ensure the viewer that none of the characters here are safe. It’s genius filmmaking; something that’s been heavily borrowed from, but never truly replicated. You can never see what the spirit looks like, but you know damn well what it sees. It’s fast, moves purposefully, and is always coming to get you – sort of like the thought process behind 2015’s It Follows.

The original and the sequel of these two films should be watched to back to get the full experience. It’s amazing to see the growth and differences in style between the two, while also noting the similarities. Bruce Campbell has solidified himself since as the King of B-Movies, and after watching the first two movies in the Evil Dead franchise, you’d be a fool to dispute that.

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