Evil Dead II

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The first Evil Dead movie was scary. Okay, I know that's not a universally shared view - but at least it made the effort. Introduce a cast of teens, strand them in the woods, let us get to know them. *Then* start with the gore and special effects. Admittedly it's an old formula, but there's a reason why it's lasted this long. That first Evil Dead film also took time out to give us quiet moments even once the action was under way (e.g. Ash burying his girlfriend). It *tried* to scare us. Even if you don't personally think it succeeded (and I do), at least give it points for effort.

However this is a Tom and Jerry cartoon. (And, yup, I also like cartoons. I'm not slagging the film off, just describing it.) The entire first act is strictly Ash-only and we know he's gonna survive. Thus no scariness. Instead it's outrageous non-stop action, the kind of thing Tom and Jerry did to each other with mallets, axes, ten ton weights and the like, except that here the victims don't bounce into their usual shape afterwards. I mean, look at the scene with Ash's evil hand. Don't tell me that's not deliberate comedy. Man, I was on the floor.

Even when the cannon fodde... er, other characters, turn up, the laughs just keep coming. The eyeball-swallowing is a scream. There's also the bit where the wrong guy gets stabbed and then gets a door slammed on him repeatedly, though that was probably funnier at the script stage. The actors haven't quite descended into Naked Gun spoofery. I expected her to keep apologising every time she hurt him, though even as it stands that sequence gets funnier every time you watch it.

Bruce Campbell is rightly famous for his portrayal of Ash, the actor's macho equivalent of those cartoon characters who express surprise by whacking themselves with mallets until their eyes pop out. That's a compliment, by the way. Going over the top like that without ruining the material takes skill. Just watch any adult actor in a British children's TV show and you'll see what I mean. Urrrrgh. Whereas an example of an actor doing it well is the guy who got about two minutes of screentime in Batman and Robin and acted everyone else off the screen as Professor Jason Woodrue (Uma Thurman's evil boss at the beginning). He's ridiculously over the top, but in a good way. He's worked out what kind of film he's in.

The secret for the actor is to have *fun*. It blazes from the screen that Bruce Campbell is loving every minute of portraying a man going through living hell. And his "groovy" is up there with "get away from her, you bitch" in the pantheon of classic movie one-liners.

There's not much else to discuss. Bruce Campbell and special effects. That's about all there is to this movie, and it's plenty. Evil Dead 2 is a laugh riot. However one can make random observations. Personally I thought the professor's daughter looked really evil, just as an ordinary non-Deadite person. Maybe it's the teeth. She's got this piranha mouth. And the stop-motion animation viewed in this CGI era... it's not even as if it's *good* stop-motion animation. Beetlejuice got away with it, but here it's as if the dancing skeleton is *trying* to look fake. But the sequence still looks better than it would have if computer-generated.

No, on second thoughts I'm being unfair. I think the trees were stop-motion and they worked fine.

All I can say now is... when's Army of Darkness due on R2 DVD?

Reviewed by Finn Clark