Better Viewing Through Cosmic Cognizance By Fred E. Frederick
(a.k.a. Cosmic Charlie)
I wish every movie I review could be Evil Dead 2. It’s almost depressing to think that this is the one and only review I’ll be able to add to my long list of infallible film critiques. Like that one magical summer you can spend with your child making Cubanos on a food truck, it has to end sometime, even if he continues helping you on the weeknights and weekends, eventually you have to make good with the critic who ruined your career and get back in a real kitchen and live happily ever after. Wow, what a weird analogy.
Evil Dead 2 is its own brilliant affair that lets you jump on without having to have seen the first film. Never before has a 2 meant so little to a movie. Like Aliens or Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the goal of this film was to practically remake the first movie, but make it bigger, harder, faster, longer, and full of more of that crazy crap we all know and love. No, this wasn’t James Cameron’s doing, though now I am mentally enjoying a James Cameron version of Evil Dead 2, which, like my version of Labyrinth starring Michael Jackson, will unfortunately never make it into the realm of reality.
When I first saw this film, it was part of my “I just turned 18, have some money to spend, and I want horror movies” collection. I had just watched The Evil Dead, and fell totally in love with that film. “Now, to continue the journey and see what all this hype for Evil Dead 2 is about!” But lo, the film is not a direct sequel that picks up where we left off. In the early eighties, you weren’t renting movies yet, you were seeing them re-released in theaters, and for The Evil Dead, you would have to had gone to some midnight showing or catch the film around Halloween time. Point being, the makers of this film knew that they wanted people to see their sequel without having to have seen the first. So not only do we get an abridged version of the first movie, now with only Ash and his girlfriend going to the cabin instead of 5 friends, but we get to read tons of morons on the internet insisting that Evil Dead 2 isn’t a sequel and that it’s a remake and that people should stop calling it a sequel. *GROAN!*. The movie takes about 20 minutes to bring you up to speed with the first film, and then has a scene just like the last scene of the first movie, that you could splice the films together at that point, and if you ignore the part where Ash already knew the bridge was out, it fits perfectly.
But this movie is not in the same vein as it’s predecessor. While the original is hilarious in all its badness, this film is totally aware and embraced its Three Stooges inspiration to the fullest effect. Like, when I first saw this, I was caught off guard and didn’t think it was the masterpiece that Jack Black had led me to believe. But there lies its charm. The film is unlike ANY other horror movie you’ve ever seen. It’s total insanity. It doesn’t make any sense and it lets you know that’s totally what it totally wanted. Just watch the behind the scenes, where the strive for realism is complete disregarded and the quest for fun and ridiculousness is pursued without a second thought. It’s this mentality that became highly influential in the horror film world and solidified Bruce Campbell as the king we all hail. It’s certainly a niche genre, as John Q. Public usually isn’t comfortable with laughing at the goofy misery the hero is being put through in the movie. It’s practically a fourth-wall-breaking kind of deal, because to actually laugh at this film as if it were reality would probably make you a terrible person, but when you know it’s Sam Raimi having fun torturing his ruggedly handsome, lady-killer childhood friend Bruce, you get to feel like you’re part of the gang, and suddenly it’s like you’re watching the ultimate high school video project that most nerds never even get to finish the script to.
If I ever hear someone call this film overrated, they’d better hope I’m hearing them through some sort of technological device, because if they are physically present, they’d better prepare themselves for an out of body experience. There are several video games inspired by this movie, and how many mid-eighties horror movies that weren’t hugely successful franchises could say that?
Seriously, the fan base was so dedicated, that 10 years and more later, the film is getting life in the digital realm with no other media being produced to support those video games, just that one amazing film that nerd love so much they demanded it in pixelated form, THREE TIMES! I have a feeling that the chainsaw hand and shotgun (not yet called a boom stick) had a lot to do with gamers salivating for a chance to blow up and saw in half a horde of Deadites on their own.
There’s also an episode of the children’s show Reboot that is a direct homage to Evil Dead 2. It’s bizarre how many many places this film is referenced in popular culture by geeks who think it’s the coolest thing ever, but I can’t think of a more deserving movie. Sadly, there is no Evil Dead 2 pinball (not even an Army of Darkness!!!) and so just like my James Cameron version of the film, I’ll have to retire to the happy place in my brain if I want to experience what could have been if only people had shown the correct dedication and love to the art of pinball. Chainsaw multiball, soul swallowing ball lock, Deadite drop targets, dead by dawn timed skill shot, MMMMMMMM, Groovy.