The Test of Time: Evil Dead II (1987)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, and Dan Hicks

I can’t lie. Like so many horror fans of the last 30 years, the movie that truly captured my interest (and heart) is the greatest sequel ever made. Sure, some folks might argue that GODFATHER II or ALIENS or THE DARK KNIGHT remain the best Part IIs ever constructed. But another film out there fails to get the true respect it deserves. A film that Oscar never gave a damn about. A film that AFI left off the top 100 greatest of all time. A film that forever will remain my personal favorite. After almost 30 years, however, does it still hold up against the Test of Time?

Under the examination: EVIL DEAD II.

That looks painful.

THE STORY: EVIL DEAD II starts off much like the original film. Actually, it’s exactly the same, more or less summarizing the events of that movie and quickly propelling us into the sequel. Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) ends up dead and Ash (Bruce Campbell) is attacked and thrown through the woods after they listen to a professor’s recording (it was his cabin) that narrates the Book of the Dead, releasing a whole lot of evil into their world. The story picks up with Ash now alone in the cabin, slowly losing his mind. Meanwhile, Annie (Sarah Berry), the daughter of the professor, arrives with two locals to see what happen to her father. Things get strange real quick when the evil spirits attack and Ash gets real nutty (and bloody).

Pay attention to the dirty shirt throughout the movie.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Look, I know many, many movies before EVIL DEAD II combined horror and comedy, but somehow it was never captured quite like this. Between Bruce Campbell’s (why do I feel the need to always state his first and last name) goofy, nearly over-the-top acting and the Raimi brothers (Sam and Ted – Ivan came in later) love for the THREE STOOGES, they created something never duplicated since. While ARMY OF DARKNESS took the comedy to a whole other level, EVIL DEAD II remains a horror movie first, and that’s what I still love about it. It’s genuinely funny, but it still plays for extreme horror and gore.

Then there’s the style. No surprise Sam Raimi ended up being one of the best directors in Hollywood. Much like the Coen Bros, Raimi has a style all his own and it hasn’t changed even as he ventured into blockbusters. Peter Deming is listed as cinematographer (he worked again with Raimi years later on DRAG ME TO HELL and OZ), but we all know those weird camera angles and “dead cam” as Raimi’s signature. It still looks fresh and cool as ever.

How do his eye sockets ever get normal again?

What I love about EVIL DEAD II comes from all the imperfections, from all the wacky energy that makes it what it is. Sure, quality acting lacks (“Bobby Joe!”), but who cares as EVIL DEAD II contains so many damn classic moments. The laughing cabin. The dancing corpses. Ash lobbing off his hand. Ash attaching a chainsaw to his hand. The flying eyeball. The severed head in the lap. Annie repeatedly smashing hillbilly Jake in the door after stabbing him. Or the greatest throwaway line ever in “work shed.” There’s just too damn many parts to love.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Nothing. Ok, lots of flaws and errors obviously show, but as stated before those flaws end up making EVIL DEAD II a true classic. And let’s face it, like punk rock, a horror movie shouldn’t be smooth and perfect. It should play rough, raw.

I'm sure he's fine.

THE VERDICT: Last time here I examined the impact that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT had on horror, something that cannot be denied. However, the impact of EVIL DEAD II no doubt surpasses it as discovery continues year after year, generation after generation. It has become one of those rights of passage. If you love it, you’re part of the club. A true horror fan. And with ASH VS  EVIL DEAD back on the small screen, the longevity of the franchise will only keep scaring for decades to come.



Bruce Campbell looks like he needs a nap.



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