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Evil Dead II (also known as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn) is a American cult comedy horror film. Standing as a sequel to 1981's The Evil Dead, the film was directed by Sam Raimi, written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel, produced by Rob Tapert and starred Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. The film was followed by a sequel of its own in 1993 entitled Army of Darkness.

Plot

The film opens with a very rough re-play of the important events of the first film. Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda take a romantic vacation to a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods. While in the cabin, Ash plays a tape of an archeology professor, Professor Knowby (the cabin's previous inhabitant), reciting passages from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (or "Book of the Dead"), which had been discovered during an archaeological dig. The recorded incantation unleashes an evil force that soon takes possession of Linda, turning her into an undead, demonically possessed creature. The possessed Linda chases Ash into the woods and knocks him to the ground near a shovel; he seizes a nearby shovel and decapitates her.

Here the film picks up where its predecessor ended. The unseen evil spirit lifts Ash off the ground and tosses him into a tree, where he is temporarily possessed by a demon. Luckily, the sun rises and drives the demon out of Ash. The next morning, he tries to escape the woods in his car but finds the entrance bridge has been destroyed.

Suddenly, night falls and Ash senses that a demon is after him. He drives back to the cabin, where he crashes his car and flies through the windshield. The demon then chases Ash throughout the cabin, portrayed on-screen from the point of view of the demon. Eventually, Ash escapes, and the demon, unaware of Ash's whereabouts, retreats back into the woods.

Meanwhile, Professor Knowby's daughter Annie and Knowby's research associate Ed (both archaeologists) are trying to reach Professor Knowby's cabin with newly discovered pages from the Book of the Dead. When they discover that the bridge to the cabin is destroyed, they enlist the help of a local mechanic named Jake and his girlfriend Bobby Jo, who tell them about a dirt road that leads to the cabin.

Back at the cabin, Ash sees Linda's dead body coming back to life in a twisted dance. When Linda attacks Ash, he seemingly awakens, believing that he had been dreaming, but then Linda's head falls into his lap and bites his hand. Ash rushes to the shed and secures her head in a vicegrip, but he is then attacked by Linda's body, which is wielding a chainsaw. Ash defeats the body and uses the chainsaw to destroy Linda's head.

Upon returning to the cabin with a shotgun, Ash is further frightened by an unseen entity moaning on the rocking chair. Dropping the shotgun, he tries to console himself by telling his reflection in the mirror that everything is fine. However, his reflection suddenly comes to life and contradicts him, laughing at Ash's predicament and then throttling him before vanishing.

Finding himself alone in the cabin again, Ash's hand suddenly becomes possessed with a mind of its own. Ash battles to maintain control of his hand, but his hand knocks him unconscious and then drags him across the floor to a meat cleaver. Before it reaches the cleaver, however, Ash pins the possessed hand to the floor with a knife and uses the chainsaw to amputate it. He traps his amputated hand in a tin, but it escapes and hides inside the wall. Ash fires several shells into the wall in an attempt to kill it, and the walls begin to bleed.

Suddenly the blood vanishes back into the walls, and Ash falls backwards into a chair that breaks under his weight. A deer head mounted on the wall suddenly begins to laugh at Ash, and other items in the house, such as lamps, cabinets, and books, join in. Ash momentarily snaps and laughs along with them.

The laughter ends abruptly when Ash hears movement outside the front door. Ash shoots through the door, grazing Bobby Jo. Ed and Jake restrain Ash as Annie notices the absence of her parents in the cabin. After seeing the blood on the chainsaw and on Ash, they come to the conclusion that he killed Annie's parents. The four newcomers throw Ash into the fruit cellar.

Annie, Ed, Jake, and Bobby Jo listen to recordings of Professor Knowby's, where they learn that Knowby killed Henrietta (Annie's mother) after she became possessed, and buried her body in the fruit cellar. The demon form of Henrietta appears in the cellar and attacks Ash, but he is rescued by the others. The demon then takes the human form of Henrietta in an attempt to influence Annie to release her from the cellar. When Ash stops Annie from releasing her deadite mother, a demon possesses Ed. The demonic Ed explains that the demons desire life and that everyone in the cabin will be dead by dawn. He attacks Bobby Jo and Jake, before Ash kills him.

The spirit of the professor appears before Ash and the others, telling them that the pages Annie possesses are the key to dispelling the evil dead. Bobby Jo then discovers Ash's possessed hand holding hers, and she runs into the forest, where she is attacked and killed by the trees.

Annie and Ash find a drawing in the book depicting a hero said to have dispelled the evil; the hero appears as a figure with a chainsaw-like hand and a "boomstick". Hysterical with fear for Bobby Jo, Jake picks up the shotgun and forces everyone to go after her. Ash tries to convince Jake that Bobby Jo is dead, but Jake grows furious and throws the book pages into the cellar. The group goes into the woods, only to discover that the trail has disappeared. A demon rushes them, again possessing Ash, and throws Jake into a tree. Ash chases Annie back to the cabin. She grabs the bone dagger from the first movie and accidentally stabs Jake as he is trying to get back into the cabin.

She pulls Jake's body inside and shuts the door. Ash pounds on the door, then suddenly stops. Annie removes the dagger from Jake and then drags him to the cellar door, where Henrietta attacks and kills him. Ash attacks Annie, accidentally ripping her necklace off her neck. As she lays unconscious, Ash looks at the necklace and reverts to his normal self after being reminded of Linda. After convincing a terrified Annie that he is no longer possessed, Ash and Annie agree to vanquish the evil together. They go out to the woodshed, where they modify the chainsaw and attach it with clamps to Ash's severed wrist and fit him with a holster, into which he places a sawed-off shotgun.

Ash and Annie return to the cabin, where Ash enters the cellar and finds the pages strewn about the floor, seemingly leading him deeper into the darkness. Henrietta leaps out of the cellar door and attacks Annie. Ash emerges from the cellar and begins fighting with Henrietta; he has the upper hand until Henrietta transforms into a more vicious demonic form. Ash is saved when Annie distracts Henrietta by singing a lullaby that Henrietta sang to her when she was a girl. While Henrietta is focused on Annie, Ash uses his chainsaw to decapitate the demon, then deals the final blow by delivering a shotgun blast to its head. Annie takes the pages and begins translating the text to manifest the evil, which appears in the form of a large bloody head covered in the faces of those it has possessed. While Ash fends off the creature, Annie recites the incantation to rid the earth of the evil. A large vortex opens up just outside the cabin, gravitating everything around into it, including Ash's car, a large tree, and the evil itself. Annie is then stabbed in the back by Ash's severed hand. With her dying breaths, she speaks the last words of the incantation, and Ash is sucked into the vortex before it disappears.

Ash suddenly falls from the sky and lands on a large block of rock. He looks up and finds himself surrounded by medieval knights. The knights are about to attack Ash when a winged demonic creature swoops down from the sky, terrifying the knights as they scatter. Ash reaches for his shotgun and blows the creature's head off. The knights gather around Ash as he prepares to defend himself, and fall to their knees and begins chanting "hail" as Ash realizes that he is in fact the prophesied "Hero from the Sky." The movie closes with Ash shaking his head in disbelief and screaming "No!" as the camera pans out to show the large army that now awaits Ash's command.

Cast

Actor Character
Bruce Campbell Ash
Sarah Berry Annie
Danny Hicks Jake
Kassie Wesley Bobby Jo
Ted Raimi Possessed Henrietta
Denise Bixler Linda
Richard Domeier Ed
John Peaks Professor Knowby
Lou Hancock Henrietta
William Preston Robertson Voice


History

The concept of a sequel to The Evil Dead was discussed during the location shooting on the first film. Sam Raimi wanted to toss his hero, Ash, through a time portal, back into the Middle Ages. That notion eventually led to the third installment, Army of Darkness.

After the release of Evil Dead, Raimi moved on to Crimewave, a cross between a crime film and a comedy produced by Raimi and Joel and Ethan Coen. Irvin Shapiro, a publicist who was primarily responsible for the mainstream release of The Evil Dead, suggested that they next work on an Evil Dead sequel. Raimi scoffed at the idea, expecting Crimewave to be a hit, but Shapiro put out ads announcing the sequel regardless.

After Crimewave was released to little audience or critical acclaim, Raimi and Tapert, knowing that another flop would further stall their already lagging careers, took Shapiro up on his offer. Around the same time, they met Italian movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, the owner of production and distribution company DEG. He had asked Raimi if he would direct a theatrical adaptation of the Stephen King (written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym) novel Thinner. Raimi turned down the offer, but De Laurentiis continued to be interested in the young filmmaker.

The Thinner adaptation was part of a deal between De Laurentiis and King to produce several adaptations of King's successful horror fiction. At the time, King was directing the first such adaptation, Maximum Overdrive, based on his short story "Trucks". He had dinner with a crew member who had been interviewed about the Evil Dead sequel, and told King that the film was having trouble attracting funding. Upon hearing this, King, who had written a glowing review of the first film that helped it become an audience favorite at Cannesmarker, called De Laurentiis and asked him to fund the film.

Though initially skeptical, De Laurentiis agreed after being presented with the extremely high Italian grosses for the first film. Although Raimi and Tapert had desired $4 million for the production, they were allotted only $3.6 million. As such, the planned medieval storyline had to be scrapped.

Script

Though they had only recently received the funding necessary to produce the film, the script had been written for some time, having been composed largely during the production of Crimewave. Raimi contacted his old friend Scott Spiegel, who had collaborated with Campbell and others on the Super-8 films they had produced during their childhood in Michiganmarker. Most of these films had been comedies, and Spiegel felt that Evil Dead II should be less straight horror than the first. Initially, the opening sequence included all five characters from the original film, but, in an effort to save time and money, all but Ash and Linda were cut from the final draft. This argues against the "remake" theory (see below), because it makes clear that the events of the first film are meant to take place within the time frame of the beginning of the sequel, and that everything that happens after Ash is hit by the invisible force is new.

Spiegel and Raimi wrote most of the film in their house in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, Californiamarker, where they were living with the aforementioned Coen brothers, as well as actors Frances McDormand, Kathy Bates and Holly Hunter (Hunter was the primary inspiration for the Bobby Jo character). Due both to the distractions of their house guests and the films they were involved with, Crimewave and Josh Becker's Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except, the script took an inordinately long time to finish.

Among the many inspirations for the film include The Three Stooges and other slapstick comedy films; Ash's fights with his disembodied hand come from a film made by Spiegel as a teenager, entitled Attack of the Helping Hand, which was itself inspired by television commercials advertising Hamburger Helper. The "laughing room" scene, where all the objects in the room seemingly come to life and begin to cackle maniacally along with Ash, came about after Spiegel jokingly used a gooseneck lamp to visually demonstrate a Popeye-esque laugh. Scott Spiegel's humorous influence can be seen throughout the film, perhaps most prominently in certain visual jokes; for instance, when Ash traps his rogue hand under a pile of books, on top is A Farewell to Arms.

Filming

With the script completed, and a production company secured, filming could begin. The production commenced in Wadesboro, North Carolinamarker, not far from De Laurentiis' offices in Wilmingtonmarker. De Laurentiis had wanted them to film in his elaborate Wilmington studio, but the production team felt uneasy being so close to the producer, so they moved to Wadesboro, approximately three hours away. Steven Spielberg had previously filmed The Color Purple in Wadesboro, and the large white farmhouse used as an exterior location in that film became the production office for Evil Dead II. Most of the film was shot in the woods near that farmhouse, or J.R. Faison Junior High School, which is where the interior cabin set was located.

The film's production was not nearly as chaotic or strange as the production of the original, largely because of Raimi, Tapert and Campbell's additional film making experience. However, there are nevertheless numerous stories about the strange happenings on the set. For instance, the rat seen in the cellar was nicknamed "SeƱor Cojones" by the crew ("cojones" is Spanish slang for "testicles").

Even so, there were hardships, mostly involving Ted Raimi's costume. Ted, director Sam's younger brother, had been involved in the first film briefly, acting as a fake Shemp, but in Evil Dead II he gets the larger role of the historian's demon-possessed wife, Henrietta. Raimi was forced to wear a full-body, latex costume, crouch in a small hole in the floor acting as a "cellar", or on one day, both. Raimi became extremely overheated, to the point that his costume was literally filled with liters of sweat; special effects artist Gregory Nicotero describes pouring the fluid into several Dixie cups so as to get it out of the costume. The sweat is also visible on-screen, dripping out of the costume's ear, in the scene where Henrietta spins around over Annie's head.

The crew also sneaked various in-jokes into the film itself, such as the clawed glove of Freddy Krueger, the primary antagonist of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series of slasher films, which hangs in the cabin's basement and toolshed. This was, at least partially, a reference to a scene in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street where the character Nancy Thompson (portrayed by Heather Langenkamp), watches the original Evil Dead on a television set in her room. In turn, that scene was a reference to the torn The Hills Have Eyes poster seen in the original Evil Dead film, which was itself a reference to a torn Jaws poster in The Hills Have Eyes.

At the film's wrap party, the crew held a talent contest, where Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell sang The Byrds' "Eight Miles High", with Nicotero on guitar.

Sequel or Remake?

Sam Raimi, for legal reasons pertaining to the rights, could not show any footage from the first Evil Dead film. Instead, an extremely simplified recap of The Evil Dead (spanning 7 minutes and 7 seconds of Evil Dead II) was shot and used as the opening to the film. It edited out several of the characters and major events for timing reasons, leading some fans to think that the implication was they "never existed" within the timeline of Evil Dead II, and that it was a remake rather than a sequel. Sam Raimi did clear up the sequel-VS-remake debate in the DVD commentary for the third film, Army of Darkness, in which he states that if the recaps from the second and third films were edited out, all three could be watched back-to-back as one movie, confirming that Evil Dead II is intended to be a sequel. Nevertheless, fans are split, as some prefer to look at Evil Dead II as a remake, while others prefer to view it as a sequel.

Reception

Evil Dead II received very positive reviews from critics and audience members; it has a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Empire magazine praised the film saying "The gaudily gory, virtuoso, hyper-kinetic horror sequel/remake uses every trick in the cinematic book" and confirms that "Bruce Campbell and Raimi are gods" and Caryn James of the New York Times called it "Genuine, if bizarre, proof of Sam Raimi's talent and developing skill". Entertainment Weekly ranked the film #19 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films".Sight and Sound ranked it #34 on their 50 Funniest Films of All Time list. In 2008, Empire magazine included Evil Dead II in their list of 500 greatest movies of all time, ranked #49.

Notes

  1. Mentioned in Evil Dead II audio commentary


References



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