Evil Dead II
|Evil Dead II|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Raimi|
|Produced by||Robert Tapert|
|Music by||Joseph LoDuca|
|Edited by||Kaye Davis|
|Distributed by||Rosebud Releasing Corporation|
|Box office||$10.9 million|
Evil Dead II (also known in publicity materials as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn) is a 1987 American comedy horror film directed by Sam Raimi, and a parody sequel to the 1981 horror film The Evil Dead. Written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel, Evil Dead II was produced by Robert Tapert and stars Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams, who vacations with his girlfriend to a remote cabin in the woods. He discovers an audio tape of recitations from a book of ancient texts, and when the recording is played, it unleashes a number of demons which possess and torment him.
After the critical and commercial failure of Crimewave (1985), Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell began work on a sequel to The Evil Dead at the insistence of their publicist Irvin Shapiro. Having endorsed the original film, author Stephen King brought the project to the attention of producer Dino De Laurentiis, with whom he had been making his directorial debut Maximum Overdrive (1986); De Laurentiis agreed to provide financial backing, and assigned the filmmakers a considerably larger budget than they had worked with on the original film. Although Raimi had devised a premise set in the Middle Ages and involving time travel, De Laurentiis requested that the film be similar to its predecessor.
Evil Dead II was shot in Wadesboro, North Carolina and Detroit, Michigan in 1986, and featured extensive stop-motion animation and prosthetic makeup effects created by a team of artists that included Mark Shostrom, Vern Hyde, Doug Beswick, Greg Nicotero and Tom Sullivan, the latter of whom returned from the original film. The finished film was released in the United States on March 13, 1987; due to its high level of violence, it was released through a pseudonymous distributor to curb an anticipated X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. Like The Evil Dead, it was widely acclaimed by critics, with praise being reserved for its humor, Raimi's direction and Campbell's performance; despite being given a somewhat limited release, it was a minor box office success, grossing just under $6 million in the US alone.
As with the first film, Evil Dead II has accumulated a large, international cult following. A direct sequel utilizing Raimi's original premise, Army of Darkness, followed in 1992. It was later followed by a soft reboot and continuation, Evil Dead, which was released in 2013, and a television series, Ash vs Evil Dead, which aired from 2015 to 2018.
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 archaeologist Raymond Knowby, the cabin's previous inhabitant, reciting passages from the Book of the Dead, Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which he has discovered during an archaeological dig. The recorded incantation unleashes an evil force (also known as the Kandarian Demon) that kills and later possesses Linda, turning her into a "deadite". Ash is then forced to decapitate his girlfriend with a shovel and bury her near the cabin.
At dawn, the evil force throws Ash through the woods. Ash briefly becomes possessed by the demon, but when day breaks the force is gone, and Ash returns to normal. Ash attempts to flee the area, but finds that the bridge leading to the cabin has been destroyed. The spirit chases Ash back to the cabin where Linda's revived head attacks him, biting his hand. Ash brings Linda's severed head to the shed, where her headless body attacks him with a chainsaw. Ash gains the upper hand and slashes the deadite Linda to death, killing her a second and final time. Ash's right hand becomes possessed and tries to kill him, and Ash severs it with his chainsaw. Ash then attempts to shoot the severed hand with a shotgun. The hand mocks him and ultimately gets away.
Meanwhile, Knowby's daughter, Annie, and her research partner, Ed Getley, return from the dig with the missing pages of the Necronomicon in tow, only to find the destroyed bridge. They enlist the help of locals Jake and Bobby Joe to guide them along an alternate trail to the cabin. The four of them find an embattled Ash at the cabin. Mistakenly concluding that Ash murdered the Knowbys, they lock him in the cabin's cellar.
The four new arrivals listen to a recording of Knowby detailing that his wife Henrietta was possessed by the Kandarian Demon, and that he killed her and buried her in the cellar. Henrietta, now a deadite, possesses Ed; Ash dismembers him with an axe. Bobby Joe tries to escape but is attacked by the demon trees and dragged to her death. Annie translates two of the Necronomicon's pages before Jake turns on them and throws the pages into the cellar, forcing them at gunpoint to go look for Bobby Joe. Ash becomes possessed once again and incapacitates Jake. Annie retreats to the cabin and accidentally stabs Jake (mistaking him for the possessed Ash) and drags him to the cellar door, where he is killed by Henrietta. Deadite Ash tries to kill Annie, but returns to his normal self when he sees Linda's necklace.
With Annie's help, Ash modifies the chainsaw and attaches it to the stump where his right hand had been. After finding the missing pages of the Necronomicon in the cellar, Ash kills Henrietta. The trees outside begin to unleash destruction on the cabin. Annie reveals that she has only read the first half of the incantation. The woods attack the house as Annie starts to read the second half. As she reads it, she is stabbed in the back by Ash's severed hand with the Kandarian dagger. She falls to the floor and manages to complete the incantation before succumbing to her wound. The incantation opens up a whirling temporal vortex/portal which not only draws in the demon, but nearby trees, Ash's Oldsmobile Delta 88, and Ash himself.
Ash and his Oldsmobile land in the year 1300 AD. He is then confronted by a group of knights who initially mistake him for a deadite, but they are quickly distracted when a real deadite appears. Ash blasts the harpy-like deadite with his shotgun and is hailed as a hero who has come to save them, at which point he breaks down and screams in anguish.
- Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
- Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
- Dan Hicks as Jake
- Kassie Wesley as Bobby Joe
- Denise Bixler as Linda
- Snowy Winters as Dancing demon Linda
- Richard Domeier as Professor Ed Getley
- John Peaks as Professor Knowby
- Lou Hancock as Henrietta Knowby
- Ted Raimi as Possessed Henrietta
- William Preston Robertson as the voice of the Evil Dead
The concept of a sequel to The Evil Dead was discussed during location shooting on the first film; Irvin Shapiro, the film's publicist, pushed writer/director Sam Raimi to devise a premise for such a film. Working with screenwriter Sheldon Lettich, Raimi settled on a story in which Ash was sucked through a time portal to the Middle Ages, where he would encounter more deadites. Shapiro loved the concept, and in May 1984 took out advertisements in trade magazines to promote the project, then titled Evil Dead II: Evil Dead and the Army of Darkness. After Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox passed on it, the sequel was shelved in favor of Raimi's next film, Crimewave (1985), a comedy/crime film co-written with Joel and Ethan Coen.
After Crimewave was released to critical and audience disinterest, Raimi and his partners at Renaissance Pictures, producer Robert Tapert and actor/co-producer Bruce Campbell, took Shapiro up on his sequel offer, knowing that another flop would further stall their already-lagging careers. Development of Evil Dead II initially began in collaboration with Embassy Home Entertainment, which had co-financed and distributed Crimewave, but the filmmakers eventually felt that they were being stalled after five months' pre-production work, and began conducting interviews with prospective cast and crew members. Around this time, producer Dino De Laurentiis, the owner of production and distribution company De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), asked Raimi if he would be interested in directing an adaptation of the Stephen King novel Thinner. Raimi turned down the offer, but De Laurentiis remained in touch with the young filmmaker.:135
The Thinner adaptation was part of a deal between De Laurentiis and King to produce several adaptations of King's successful horror novels and short stories. At the time, King was directing the first such adaptation, Maximum Overdrive (1986), based on his short story "Trucks". He had dinner with a crew member who had been among those interviewed by Raimi and his colleagues about Evil Dead II, 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 Cannes, called De Laurentiis and asked him to fund the film.:104 Although initially skeptical, De Laurentiis met with Renaissance, who highlighted the first film's extremely high revenue in the Italian market. Within twenty minutes, De Laurentiis agreed to finance Evil Dead II for $3.6 million. Raimi and Tapert had desired $4 million for the production, but De Laurentiis requested a film that was similar to its predecessor instead of their original medieval-themed proposal, which was instead used for the second sequel, Army of Darkness (1992).:106
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 mm films they had produced during their childhood in Michigan. 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 of the original film's characters; however, in an effort to save time and money, all but Ash and Linda were cut from the final draft. The film went through several other drafts, including a group of escaped convicts holding Ash captive in the cabin while searching for buried treasure.:109–110
Spiegel and Raimi wrote most of the film in their house in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California, 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 a long time to finish.:109
Among the film's many inspirations 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. 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.:111
While Raimi and Campbell have stated that Evil Dead 2 was intended as a direct sequel, there are differences between the first movie and the recap at the beginning of the second: for example, the Necronomicon is destroyed in a fire by Ash during the conclusion of The Evil Dead yet remains intact in Evil Dead 2. The corpses of Ash's friends from the first movie are absent, and they are never mentioned. The cabin itself remains perfectly intact until the events of this film despite much of it having been destroyed in the original film.
With the script completed, and a production company secured, principal photography began. The production commenced in Wadesboro, North Carolina, not far from De Laurentiis' offices in Wilmington. 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.:113
The film's production was not nearly as chaotic or strange as the original film's production, 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 "Señor 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 briefly involved in the first film, acting as a fake Shemp, but in Evil Dead II he gets the larger role of the historian's demonically-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.:125
The crew sneaked various in-jokes into the film itself, such as the clawed glove of Freddy Krueger (the primary antagonist of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street series of slasher films) which hangs in the cabin's basement and tool shed. 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), dozes off watching 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. The real life clawed glove appearing in Evil Dead II has been attributed to Mark Shostrom, who was also working on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors at around the same time as Evil Dead II, suggesting he borrowed it from the Dream Warriors set for a day.
Release and reception
Like the original film, Evil Dead II had censorship difficulties due to its high level of violence. As DEG was a signatory to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Raimi was contractually obliged to shoot the film with the intention of it earning an R rating. Upon reviewing the completed film, DEG's executives felt that Evil Dead II would almost certainly receive an X rating, thereby limiting its commercial prospects. Lawrence Gleason, the company's president of marketing and distribution, felt that if it were to be cut for an R, the film "would have been about 62 minutes long" and that both Raimi's vision and the audience's enjoyment would have been sabotaged as a result.
Ultimately, DEG decided not to submit Evil Dead II to the MPAA for review or be credited onscreen for their involvement in it. Instead, a shell company run by De Laurentiis' son-in-law Alex De Benedetti, Rosebud Releasing Corporation, was set up to handle the film's US release, allowing it to be shown unrated. Although Rosebud technically did not have a distribution network, DEG had already booked the film in 340 cinemas across the country, and had created and paid for the film's advertising campaign. Rosebud's logo, a rose blooming in time-lapse photography against a painted sky backdrop, was designed and shot by Raimi himself.
Evil Dead II opened on March 13, 1987 to an unimpressive weekend gross of $807,260, due to its limited release in 310 cinemas at the time. However, after spending a little over a month in theatres, the film ultimately grossed $5,923,044 domestically and $10.9 million worldwide. The premier showing of the movie was the midnight showing on March 13, 1987 at the Mann Westwood 4 (now a Whole Foods Market), where some of the cast signed autographs before the show and many of the viewers dressed up in costumes. There was an early screening for the Academy of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror that took place at USC before the movie was released.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 60, with an average rating of 7.75/10. The site's consensus reads: "Evil Dead 2's increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good – if not better – than the original." On the similar website Metacritic, it holds a score of 69 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Empire magazine praised the film, saying "the gaudily gory, virtuoso, hyper-kinetic horror sequel uses every trick in the cinematic book" and confirms that "Bruce Campbell and Raimi are gods". Caryn James of The New York Times called it "genuine, if bizarre, proof of Sam Raimi's talent and developing skill." Leonard Maltin originally rated the film with two stars, but later increased the rating to three stars.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, describing it as "a fairly sophisticated satire, that makes you want to get up and shuffle." He praised the film's sense of surrealism, comedic timing, and "grubby, low-budget intensity." Ebert states that "if you know it's all special effects, and if you've seen a lot of other movies and have a sense of humor, you might have a great time at Evil Dead 2." Richard Harrington of the Washington Post wrapped up his review stating that "the acting is straight out of '50s B-movies. The exposition is clumsy, the sound track corny, the denouement silly. Then again, who said bad taste was easy?" Conversely, Pat Graham of Chicago Reader disliked the mix of horror and comedy, writing in his review that "The pop-up humor and smirkiness suggest Raimi's aspiring to the fashionable company of the brothers Coen, though on the basis of this strained effort I'd say he's overshot the mark."
J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote, "Equal parts remake and sequel, the second film brought back Bruce Campbell as Ash and was every bit as gory and horrific as the first film with more tree rape and dismemberment and blood splatters than ever. On the other hand, Evil Dead II is also an absolutely hilarious and uproarious intentional comedy."
|Saturn Awards||Best Horror Film||Sam Raimi||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Vern Hyde, Doug Beswick, and Tom Sullivan||Nominated|
|Best Make-up||Mark Shostrom||Nominated|
|Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival||Best Film||Sam Raimi||Nominated|
The film was released on VHS by Vestron Video in 1987. Another VHS release came from Anchor Bay Entertainment on February 17, 1998. In a similar fashion to the first Evil Dead film and Army of Darkness, there have been numerous DVD releases of Evil Dead II. The film was released on DVD by Anchor Bay on August 29, 2000 in the form of a Limited Edition Tin, and was re-released by Anchor Bay on September 27, 2005, designed to look like the Necronomicon. On October 2, 2007, the film was released on Blu-ray, and on November 15, 2011, it was re-released on Blu-ray and DVD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment in the form of a 25th Anniversary Edition. On September 13, 2016, the film was re-released on Blu-ray by Lionsgate. A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of the film was released on December 11, 2018.
The film was released on DVD in the United Kingdom in 2003 as part of a region 2 Evil Dead trilogy box set. In 2013, the trilogy saw another UK release on Blu-ray, released by StudioCanal. A 25th Anniversary Wood Edition was released in Germany by StudioCanal in 2007. The film was released on Blu-ray in Australia in 2014 alongside The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and the 2013 reboot, as part of an Evil Dead Anthology box set. The film has been released together with the first Evil Dead film by Green Nara Media in South Korea in region A.
- The Elvis Dead, an English comic stage show which retells Evil Dead II in the style of Elvis Presley.
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- Mentioned in Evil Dead II audio commentary
- Blais-Billie, Braudie (May 31, 2017). "Evil Dead 2 Soundtrack Gets Vinyl Reissue". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
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- Maltin, 2001, p. 426.
- Maltin, 2009, 424.
- Ebert, Roger (April 10, 1987). "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn". Chicago Sun-Times. rogerebert.com. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
- Harrington, Richard (April 30, 1987). "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn". Washington Post. washingtonpost.com. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
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- Miska, Brad (October 10, 2011). "'Evil Dead II: 25th Anniversary Edition' Dated for Blu-ray". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
- "The 500 greatest movies of all time". Empire. Archived from the original on November 19, 2008. Retrieved September 14, 2009.
- Maçek III, J.C. (April 26, 2013). "Books of the Dead: The Followers and Clones of 'The Evil Dead'". PopMatters.
- Charisma, James (March 15, 2016). "Revenge of the Movie: 15 Sequels That Are Way Better Than The Originals". Playboy. Archived from the original on July 26, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
- Evil Dead 2 [VHS]. Amazon.com. ASIN 6304819935.
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- "Lionsgate: 4k Restoration of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 Coming to 4K Blu-ray". October 15, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
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- "Tanz der Teufel 2 - 25th Anniversary Edition/ Extended Cut [Blu-ray]". Amazon.de. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- Raimi, Sam. Spiegel, Scott. Nicotero, Greg. Campbell, Bruce. Evil Dead II DVD, audio commentary.
- Campbell, Bruce. If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. ISBN 0-312-29145-0
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