Director: Sam Raimi

Outside of Morristown, Tennessee, in the winter of 1979, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell would begin work on a film that would start them on a path to becoming B-movie icons: The Evil Dead. Shot over the course of several years on a showstring budget, The Evil Dead wouldn't see any mainstream success, but it became a big success on the drive-in circuit and the burgeoning home video market. Such a success, in fact, that the braintrusts behind it saw fit to make a sequel, the appropriately titled Evil Dead II. One of the rare sequels that is genuinely better than its predecessor, Evil Dead II shows just what you can do with a low budget and a lot of passion.

EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)We start with a recap of the original Evil Dead, though slightly retold. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) head to the abandoned cabin, discover the Necronomicon, and unleash the fury. Poor Linda loses her head over the matter, leaving Ash alone to his own devices as he slowly goes insane. But we can't have one guy all by himself for ninety minutes, can we? It would get boring after a while. What we need is some victims, and we get them.

At a random airport, Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry) gets off a plane carrying some missing pages from the Necronomicon, and she's picked up by Ed (Richard Donner). I think Ed might be her boyfriend, but they never really say. But it doesn't matter much, since he'll be a puddle of goo by the end of the movie. Anyway, they're heading to Annie's father's cabin, where he was translating the Necronomicon. You guessed it, Ash is gonna have some company. On the way, they meet Jake (Danny Hicks) and Bobbie Jo (Kassie Wesley), who are the biggest rednecks this side of Deliverance. The only difference, and a good one at that, is Jake and Bobbie Jo don't sodomize anybody. The bridge is out thanks to the evil dead demolition crew, so for the super-low price of a hundred bucks, Jake and Bobbie Jo agree to guide Annie and Ed to the cabin.

Meanwhile, things aren't going too well for Ash. Linda's severed head bites his hand, so he snaps and introduces Linda to the business end of a chainsaw. Unfortunately, the bite wound gets infected, and his hand becomes the tool of the devil. It starts beating Ash over the head with plates and beer bottles, then starts reaching for a meat cleaver. This doesn't sit too well with our hero, so he pins his hand to the floor with a knife and hacks the killer hand off at the wrist with his trusty chainsaw. And you know what he uses to take care of the wound? A dirty rag and duct tape. This is why the Evil Dead movies are so awesome, because Ash is hardcore. Annie and the crew arrive at the cabin, see the bloody chainsaw, and notice that the Knowbys are missing. They put two and two together, and beat the snot out of Ash before throwing him into the basement. That's not good, because they discover that Mrs. Knowby was possessed by the monsters, and Mr. Knowby killed her and buried her in the basement. And wouldn't you know it, she pops up out of the ground and she's hungry for a fresh soul. Ash escapes from the basement, and the fun begins.

Evil Dead 2 is one of my all-time favorite movies. Why? How many other movies has a guy cut his hand off and attach a chainsaw to the stump? The movie's a great mix of horror and humor, and it's backed up by good acting (or in some scenes, so bad it's good) and a great script, as well as inventive camera angles and great effects (courtesy KNB EFX Group). If you ask me, Evil Dead II is light-years better than its predecessor. If you haven't seen it yet, why not?

Final Rating: ****