No 49 - Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Director - Sam Raimi
It was my little sister who said "I feel glad to live in a world where Evil Dead 2 was voted into the top 50 films of all time" and you know what? She is totally correct to feel glad. This is not a film I would have imagined to appear in such a list. But I'm oh so happy it has.
When I was a lad of 12 or 13 I used to go to my friend James's house and watch films where I would then go home and my mum would look at me suspiciously - convinced that I was watching horrifically violent 18 rated films and that James was a bad influence on me. Well, as a decade or so has past (and my Mum does read this blog) I feel I should confess. Despite all my protests and the shock when you brought up the subject.... we WERE watching horrifically violent 18 rated films and James has always been a terrible influence on me. Ha Ha! This feels like therapy. Whilst Evil Dead 2 wasn't one of those films (we were going through a John Carpenter phase for quite a lot of our youth), it was a film which James and my best friend Richard had seen when they were younger still and it was spoke in hallowed tones. Mainly referred to as "The film with the horrible creepy lady in the fruit cellar".
So when I finally got round to watching it (I can't remember when I first saw it), it was wit great trepidation as I was expecting something that was going to fuck me up. I was not however expecting the frankly amazing streak of pitch black comedy that runs throughout.
This film is deeply comic, but isn't a parody as it doesn't send up the rules of the genre - instead it creates a situation so ridiculous that the comedy comes from the character interaction. Character interaction and the talents of one sublime legend. I don't think you can really talk about the Evil Dead films without making sure that your first topic is the man, the legend, the chin.... Mr Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell is the greatest actor of his generation.... well, probably not but he is amazing and he dominates this film like a dominatrix. With a chainsaw and a wild eyed stare.
The character of Ash is excellent, and his descent into insanity that you see within this film really allows Campbell to gurn and overact and raise his magnificent eyebrows with great aplomb. Also, let us not forget the sheer manliness of Ash. Ash is officially hard as nails. By the end of the film his blue shirt is just blood stained tatters hanging off his rippling abs, his left hand clenches onto a sawn of shot gun and his right hand is a chainsaw. The only way he could be any manlier is if he was smoking a big fat Havana cigar at the same time.... But, before we get sidelined and distracted, let me return to a point you may have just overlooked. Ash's chainsaw hand. This is a feature that is so cool... so... groovy.... that it is hard to explain the joy when he straps it on for the first time (yes I'm aware of the terribly gay undertones in that last sentence). 20 years later and another film would attempt something almost identical. As (the admittedly far more attractive (even than Bruce)) Rose McGowen's character Cherry has her leg replaced with a military grade machine gun in the film Planet Terror. It is the next step up from a mere chainsaw but you can see the influence.
When the word influences appears, I am instantly led to one person, Edgar Wright. My sad geeky Spaced knowledge means that I am aware that Evil Dead 2 is one of his favourite films. However, that fact should be made instantly clear just by comparing directing styles. Sam Raimi's camera crashes through windows, destroys doors, swoops and swerves and dives around like a rabid twitching beast. That, combined with the film's quick and frantic editing has to have been a strong influence in the almost identical directing style used within Spaced.
The final thing of note within this film could be viewed as either a good or bad point depending on opinion. Hooray for films being subjective! I love the fact that this film has almost no progression. The characters have hardly any emotional arc to go through (Ash especially, seeing the amount of shit he has to go through flits between wisecracking bad ass and sobbing nervous wreck without any thought of actual emotion or stress), the plot is basically the plot of the first Evil Dead but slightly expanded. The film is solely about the here and now. If and how these people will escape the situation they are in. It is a brave mood and not one you see that frequently. Films these days seem almost too keen on back story providing reasons and motivations. The only film I can think of in recent times which follows the situation path is Cloverfield, a film that was both lauded and hated for that exact reason.
All in all I love this film. I love the prat falling, I love the manic giggling deer's head, I love the evil hand and I all out adore Bruce Campbell. I just wish the special effects hadn't aged so badly. It is hard to be scared when the monsters look like they're from Beetlejuice!