Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II starts out like any classic horror film, with some lore, a cast of well-meaning characters, and of course a cabin in the middle of the woods. Discovered and studied by a family of archaeologists, the Necronomicon, otherwise known as the Book of the Dead, unleashes an ancient evil when read aloud, bringing forth the chilling creatures that torment and kill off the inhabitants of a secluded cabin one by one as the night drags on.
There are witches, demons, sinister tress, the undead, and disembodied limbs that attack our terrified characters. Each time one horror seems to have been dispatched, it comes back or a new one takes its place. As opposed to being just malevolent, each of the evil entities that wreak havoc in the movie seem to enjoy toying with the dwindling survivors. Tricks of the mind and of perception are played too as the first survivor, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), catches himself falling into vivid nightmares before waking himself up from them. No gore, possession, or body horror scene is left out, so if you’re prepared for a demonic, haunting movie, then know you’re getting all of that and more.
One of my favorite devices in the movie is the fast-moving camera shots putting us into the place of this evil that hunts for characters as they run through the cabin and the woods. These shots increase the tension in scenes since we only see the characters’ reactions of shock and desperation as they run from the entity. While there are plenty of other visible demons onscreen, this artistic choice allows us to combine our imagination within the story.
There are plenty of practical effects too, with minimal reliance on CGI to manifest the monsters. The blood is bright red and is splashed about the house and people’s faces at different intervals. Everyone is confronted with unimaginable ordeals as the night drags on and sanity becomes frayed as their numbers dwindle in the third act. While this move is a remake and sequel to the original Evil Dead, as stated by the creators, it differentiates itself by virtue of the two genres it contains. Billed as a horror comedy, it makes the switch between the two with zero transition. There are some darkly comedic bits, but you’re so scared of what waits in the cellar, or the woods, or the walls that you’re put a little more on edge when jokes are introduced. One of the better scenes that really blends this line occurs in the first act — which I won’t spoil — where you yourself are questioning if the character is trying to scare you. It’s very meta, and it’s wildly unexpected, which is what makes it such a must-see moment. Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel’s script does not stray away from challenging expectations of what a continuation of the Evil Dead series looks like and does not disappoint when it comes to delivering a jump scare for every person in the audience to enjoy.
A new 4K restoration of Evil Dead II will be screened at IU Cinema on April 26.
Noni Ford is a freelance writer based in the Midwest and a graduate of the Indiana University Media School. She’s worked in voice coordination, independent film, and literary management, and primarily writes film criticism and short stories. She’s currently pursuing a Masters degree at IU’s Luddy School and is an IU Libraries Moving Image Archive Fellow.