No.2 Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
It’s up for debate whether the second installment of the Evil Dead trilogy is more of a remake than a sequel. Instead of having all five characters from the first film, we have only Ash (role reprised by Bruce Campbell) and Linda (Denise Bixler) on a romantic getaway to an eerie abandoned cabin deep within the woods, much to Linda’s moderate caution.
As before, Ash finds an audio tape of an archeology professor reciting incantations from the Necromonicon Ex-Mortis (or The Book of the Dead). The more fleshed-out playback unleashes the spirits of the dead in a familiar fog-form that kills and possesses Linda. At this point, the audience realizes that the Evil Dead trilogy should just be called Women Are Evil Demons.
In Women Are Evil Demons 2, Ash is forced to decapitate his girlfriend and bury her body. If anyone has any complaints with Dead By Dawn, you certainly can’t say it’s slow-moving; all of this happens within the first six minutes of the film.
Ash is then possessed by the demon that inhabited Linda’s body, in a sequence that’s both comical and creepy as Bruce Campbell’s face is proved to be made of Silly Putty. The demon leaves Ash’s body once the sun comes up, leaving him understandably confused about what in the hell just happened. He settles on trying to leave the woods, but finds that the bridge they crossed to get to the cabin has been conveniently destroyed, leading us to a beautifully hammy scene of anguish.
When night falls again, Ash is chased through the forest by the evil spirit and amazingly manages to outrun it for the time being. The scene cuts away to a young woman and man getting off of a plane. It turns out to be Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry), daughter of the archeology professor on the tape, and her research partner, Ed Getley (Richard Domeier). The WASP-ish duo have just returned from the original dig site and have more pages of the Necromonicon.
Somewhere in the meantime, all is not well at the Knowby family cabin. Linda has resurected herself from the grave in a big way, her corpse now completely rotted. She ballet dances her way from the grave in a creepy claymation sequence that I believe Tim Burton pays homage to in some of his movies. For a minute the audience doesn’t really know if Ash is going insane and his dead girlfriend has just magically reattached her head to her body, but in the end, it’s definitely a combination of the two.
Linda’s severed head attacks Ash with comical little gnashing noises and bites him on the hand. It probably wasn’t the kind of head Ash wanted when he took his girlfriend up there, but hey. Just as Ash begins to win his battle against Linda’s head by taking it to the workshed and putting it into a vice, he realizes that the chainsaw is missing – and then he finds it when Linda’s reanimated body comes through the door with it. Before it can attack Ash, it cuts itself up and sprays some kind of weird black tar blood spooge all over him.
Finally, Ash manages to seal the deal and dispatches Linda for good. Ash quips to himself in the mirror, “We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound… fine?”
Annie and Ed’s path back to the professor’s cabin is thwarted when they discover that the bridge has been destroyed. In a moment of less than flawless logic, Annie asks if there’s another way around, and not how in the hell that happened. They’ve enlisted the help of redneck Jake (Danny Hicks) and Jake’s way-too-hot-for-him-but-still-trashy girlfriend Bobby Joe to help them find an alternate path into the woods.
Back at the cabin, Ash is harassed by his bitten hand in some of the best slapstick comedy you’re going to find in anymovie. Ash is forced to sever his right hand and fixes himself up with some gauze and duct tape. Make no bones about it, Ash is a manly man and rightfully so – up until the movie gets somewhat cartoonish when Ash starts doing battle with his reanimted severed hand. It hides in mouse holes as Ash chases it with a shotgun. The hand is certainly much less amiable than Thing ever was in The Addams Family.
Upon reaching the cabin, the group automatically assumes that the deranged, blood-covered man is a murderer since he shoots at them through the door and Annie can’t find her parents. They’re set straight when they listen to an audio tape that reveals Annie’s mother was the host of a demon… and is in the cellar. Annie’s mother, Henrietta (Ted Raimi), utters, “I’ll swallow your soul!” as she attempts to attack the group.
Ed is soon turned deadite and quickly bludgeoned to death with an ax by Ash, resulting in oodles of green gore that reminds me of a certain kids’ TV channel’s trademark slime. Jake points out that the trail that they came in on isn’t there anymore “like the woods just swallowed it up.”
The spirits that have been unwittingly unleashed torment the group and Annie is treated to a cameo appearance by her father, who tells her that in order to dispel the evil, she must recite passages from a book. Instead of just doing that, Bobby Joe flips out and takes off running through the woods – because that’s worked out so well for others in the trilogy. She’s killed in a manner similar to Cheryl, a la the original movie, sans the creepy violation.
Jake flips out and turns a shotgun on Annie and Ash, deciding that they need to go look for Bobby Joe in the woods. Ash gets possessed by the spirits once again and incapacitates Jake, who is then finished off by Annie via an accidental stabbing – sort of. She drags him to the cellar where Henrietta does god only knows what with him, resulting in a geyser of gore that almost had to have inspirted Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive in 1992.
Ash tries to kill Annie, but is stopped short by the sight of Annie’s necklace, reminding him of his newly deceased girlfriend, Linda, and making him non-evil Ash anymore. At this point in the film, we’re treated to one of the most iconic montages of badassery to make it’s way to any screen: Ash gets a chainsaw for a hand. Groovy. After his new hardware gets installed, he makes his way into the cellar to retrieve the missing pages of the Necromicon and kills Henrietta, but only after she turns into something that vaguely resembles a skeletal tapeworm. Annie begins her incantations and opens a large rift in the very fabric of the universe; a swirling portal that draws in the ugly evil force, the forest itself, Ash’s Oldsmobile… and Ash too. Ash’s long-forgotten hand manages to stab Annie with a Kandarian dagger.
The end of the movie sets us up with the plot for fan-favorite Army of Darkness, with Ash being transported to Crusader-era medieval times. He shoots a harpy-like monster with his shotgun and is hailed as the new hero by the villagers, which of all things, causes Ash to have a massive breakdown. Go figure. And on to…
Read about Army of Darkness after the jump…