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March 21, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #64 - Evil Dead II

(Note from The Mike: The MMOTW is coming at you a little early this week.  I assure you, there's a very good and very awesome reason for this.  Prepare yourselves, because MARCH MIDNIGHT MADNESS at FMWL starts very, very soon.....)
I do not believe that it is possible for me to choose Evil Dead II as Midnight Movie of the Week and only talk about Evil Dead II.  It simply can not be.  To me, the three Evil Dead films are about as closely intertwined as any trilogy out there.  Sure, the likes of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings shine as linear narratives, but the Evil Dead films represent one of the most unique triads out there due to their overlapping narrative and the shift in tone throughout the series.
Raimi's trilogy not only fascinates me due to its content - because they're certainly three of the most unique films in the horror 'verse - but due to the impact they've had on me at different times of my life.  When I started digging into horror films in my early high school years, I knew of Bruce Campbell's Ash only through my friends.  So when I did finally find a copy of Raimi's original The Evil Dead, I'm not quite sure I was ready for it.  The Ash I'd heard of was funny, but this was a dark, demonic tale that was full of splatter and tree rape.  I knew what I was seeing was something different and special, but it wasn't at all what I expected.  When I told my friends that I had seen it, they shrugged and said something like "Nah, man, you need to see Army of Darkness!"
It didn't take much prodding to convince me to check out that film, which is 100% my kind of movie.  I wasn't even sure what my kind of movie was at this point, but that didn't matter.  It was my kind of comedy, mixing a slew of sight gags and practical effects with Campbell's over the top hero and that ridiculously fist-pump inducing finale.  (Note from The Mike: Sam Raimi, I love you...but the theatrical ending is about one million times better than your drops of potion ending.  Sorry, it's true.)  But it also kept me involved with its bit of horror, which is admittedly a Grand Canyon's width goofier than Raimi's first film yet not far from the likes of some of my faves like Tremors and Gremlins.  I'm not saying it was instant love, but lets just say I geeked out hardcore when I saw the Evil Ash dummy at Planet Hollywood in Orlando and made the theatrical poster one of the first things to adorn my first dorm room's walls.
It wasn't long after I experienced Army of Darkness that I, now acting on my own accord, hunted down a copy of Evil Dead II, and not just because of that fantastic VHS box cover that it had back then, which came complete with a three-star endorsement from no less than Roger Ebert.  Some may find it odd that I watched the series completely out of order, but in retrospect I think it may have amplified everything I would come to love about Evil Dead II.  Raimi's sequel isn't exactly in line with the films that would bookend it - both the prologue and epilogue only loosely match the other films - but it somehow manages to feature most of what I had already come to love about these films.  There's the ridiculous violence and extra splatter of the first film, but there's also a ton of the comedy of the latter.  And when Bruce Campbell finally truly becomes Ash in the final act...well, it's nothing short of GROOVY.
Throughout the years, my relationship with the trio of Evil Dead films has undergone some dramatic change.  After seeing part two, it instantly became my favorite of the trio due to its ability to balance the horror and comedy.  Later, my love of Army of Darkness pushed it back up the ladder, thanks to a thrilling midnight showing at the theater I once haunted.  Then, as college passed and the real world set in, I suddenly felt myself developing a connection to the grittier original film.  No, I don't know why I a) care about which is my favorite when I love them all dearly or b) have such a hard time sticking to my opinions on these films.  They're just all too special to me, and I can't settle on one of them.
Of course, now that I've said that....I'm settling on Evil Dead II as this week's Midnight Movie of the Week.  I've already mentioned my main reason for loving it as part of the series, but as I look at the film now I also think there's a bit more poetic artistry at work here than in the other two films.  There are plenty of shots of blowing fog and other scenery that just seem to match up perfectly with the sound effects that permeate the film.  The demonic howling and blowing winds set the scene for untold horrors, which might be why the slapstick comedy gets to me so easily.  All three of these films are about untold horrors being released upon the Earth, but Evil Dead II seems more intent on creating the feel of a nightmare on screen.  There are few films - Suspiria and The Shining come to mind - that do a better job of imitating what a great night terror might look like.  And then it adds in a scene where Bruce Campbell laughs with a lamp. 
I guess this means that Evil Dead II sits atop my heart at the moment, though I'm not sure where the trio will rank tomorrow.  And as long as I can keep watching any of them whenever I like, I don't really care.  Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, if you're out there, you've adequately rocked my socks.  Well done.


Box Office Boredom said...

What would you think if I said,
"I haven't seen Evil Dead 2 yet."
True story.

R.D. Penning said...

There is someone who hasn't seen EDII yet?! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Hands down (pun intended) my favorite from the series. To this day the Evil Dead Trilogy is still has the most replay value of any of the films I own, and they even have commentary that is hysterical and I can listen to it all the way through!