Face-Off: Evil Dead vs. Evil Dead II

In last weeks Face Off, our tribute to the new breed of monster film in a match between Super 8 and Cloverfield provided an interesting discussion. When the dust settled, although Cloverfield put up a hell of a fight due to it's brilliant marketing campaign and unsettling moments, our readers that were enchanted by the magic of Super 8 gave the victory to the nostalgic gem.

This week, in a last ditch effort to capitalize on the spirit of the October, we've decided to show love to the latest horror franchise to spawn a remake. That's right folks, it's time for Evil Dead versus the sequel that shifted its tone in all the right ways in Evil Dead 2. A couple trailers for the aforementioned remake have hit the scene, and it surprises me to say that it looks like it may have maintained what made Sam Raimi's original so loved. Now the sequel happened to establish the known legacy of the kick ass, humorous character that Ash became. There's arguments to be made for both films that could make either the better film, let's dissect shall we?
Simply put, this film was terrifying. It knew just what to present us with to make us never want to step foot into a cabin in the middle of nowhere ever again. I don't think I need to go into detail about how f*cked up a certain scene featuring a tree was, and the possession scenes freak me out to this day, but screwed with my sanity as an adolescent little shit. This film reminded me of Alien in its sense of isolation with nowhere for our characters to go. It's a formula that works, and the buckets of blood enhanced the experience. Evil Dead was horror in its purest form.
The beloved sequel took a turn for the campy in all the ways that camp can be positively tolerated. The comedic notes this movie managed to hit rivals that of straight up comedy films, mainly physical. Bruce Campbell's performance in the famous possessed hand scene would make Charlie Chaplin proud. Not to mention the payoff in the end that lead us into what became Army of Darkness. Dead by Dawn would have worked as another tale of straight up terror, but pulling away from a rehash giving it a spirit all its own was much appreciated.
Ash played the classic every man put into a shitty situation in the original film. He brought the Bruce Campbell charm but played it straight, and that fit for the route this film took. He was essentially the male version of Ellen Ripley, a character we had to get to know, who came into their own and who was forever changed by the f*cked up stuff they just saw. Easy to relate to in a way that we all would start off as cowardly as Ash did until we realized what we had to do, and do it. And Ash's evolution just took a turn for the awesome from here.
Bruce Campbell had a lot more meat to chew on in the sequel. We get Evil Ash, and an Ash that is tired of putting up with the shit and turns into a chainsaw wielding sawed of shotgun rocking hero for the books. Campbell's comedic chops shined through, and he got everything an action hero caught in a horror film requires, mainly awesome one-liners. Evil Dead was a great intro to the character, but Evil Dead II is the film that cemented Ash Williams as the cult hero that landed himself #24 on Empire's 100 Great Movie Character's list.
When possession ensued, the goods followed. As redundant as it may seem, the tree that makes rape its MO needs to be brought up again...it had never been attempted before, and it floored all of us. Creepy stuff. Also, for me anything in a horror movie that has to do with sharp objects being inserted into ankles...game over. If you have a decent decapitation or two, you have a winner. Without the comedic undertones that the sequel presented, all we're have left with when it comes to our gore in the original is its terror.
Nobody can direct gore like Sam Raimi. Clever tricks to avoid those MPAA bastards, but it didn't shy away from delivering the goods. Just like the pencil meets ankle gag, an eyeball popped out of its socket to find its way into my gaped open face hole happens to be another moment that invokes fear (hey it could happen). Ted Raimi's cameo as the possessed Henrietta who gets its outstretched neck chopped off in a very ceremonious way (slow motion) was a sight to behold. Bottom line, the gore here was comedic, but no less gory. And for that, horror fans were pleased.
Sam Raimi cemented himself a name in a big way with Evil Dead. With a directorial style that was praised by European critics for embracing the art of surrealism. While the character of Ash had not yet made a name for himself as the character we all love today, all the other elements this film had let us know we had something special on our hands. Great performances, great location, and diabolically evil. As with the Alien/Aliens argument, I appreciated this film for its serious tone, it became a classic for completely embracing its genre.
Evil Dead II was slapstick comedy at its finest, without betraying its horror film routes. Raimi was a huge fan of the three stooges, and he applied that love to the direction he wanted our hero to take. The physical humor here was great. The best thing to come out of the sequel was the evolution of Ash from the bumbling hero he was in the first to the ultimate bad ass he was here. The entertainment value was amped up for this sequel, it can't be denied. In a word, Evil Dead II was...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes....groovy!
Evil Dead II
I went back and forth and what film I actually considered my favorite of this particular debate, I finally had to settle on Evil Dead 2 for its sheer entertainment value. Sure, the horror may not be as terrifying here for the sake of comedy...but that's not to say it didn't deliver on the gore we all loved from the first in a different form. Plus, Bruce Campbell made the character of Ash come into his own, so much so that we wanted him involved in any capacity possible for the remake. Evil Dead paved the way by being truly evil, Evil Dead II brought the evil with the fun. Bravo. If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which film is your favourite?
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