Sharing the spotlight amongst some of the greatest modern horror films of all time, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn has endured the test of time as the series continues to encroach various outlets. The success of Raimi’s Evil Dead II has prompted the franchise to extend its influence from film, comics, and video games; The television series Ash Vs. Evil Dead is currently airing on Starz.
Various publications have dubbed Evil Dead II as not only a classic horror masterpiece, but a highly influential piece of work as well. A landmark in horror cinema, Evil Dead II’s delirious cinematic approach proved originality could lead to success, rather than following a generic formula to filmmaking. Today, March 13th, marks the 31st year Raimi’s Evil Dead II has graced audiences around the globe with its gut wrenching horrors, complimented by slapstick comedy.
For the uninitiated, the synopsis of the film is as follows: The second of three films in the Evil Dead series is part horror, part comedy, with Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again battling horrifying demons at a secluded cabin in the woods. After discovering an audiotape left by a college professor that contains voices reading from the Book of the Dead, Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) becomes possessed by evil spirits that are awakened by the voices on the tape. Ash soon discovers there is no escaping the woods.
Directed and co-written by Sam Raimi, Evil Dead II initially followed the plot to what we know today as the Army of Darkness. In an attempt to tie loose ends from the first film Raimi had planned on sending Ash back to medieval times in Evil Dead II. Due to Financial constraints and budget cuts, Raimi would eventually rewrite the script to bring our characters back to the cabin. Childhood friend and Evil Dead II co-writer, Scott Spiegel (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money), encouraged Raimi and Campbell to embrace a more comedic approach to help market the film to a broader audience. Bruce Campbell, stated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “I think I can speak for all of us: We’d rather be doing slapstick comedy. But because we were so concerned, at the time, with getting our work into theaters, we thought: ‘Eh, horror films. That’s a good way in.“
Necronomicon Ex Mortis. Roughly translated – Book of the dead.
The making of this celebrated classic was not without its challenges as funding for Evil Dead II proved futile. Pre-production commenced with an already tight budget, and further cuts during production led to a portion of the crew being laid off.. A particular crew member, once being asked to leave the Evil Dead II set, had moved on to work with Stephen King on his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive. As a fan of the original Evil Dead movie, once King caught wind of the troubled production, he was interested in lending a helping hand.
In an interview earlier this year with Consequence of Sound, Bruce Campbell recounted the story as such: “She gets on the crew of Maximum Overdrive, directed by Stephen King. Stephen was like, ‘What are you up to?’ And she was like, ‘I just came from working with these guys trying to get money for Evil Dead 2.’ He goes, ‘Evil Dead 2? They can’t get the money for that?’ She goes ‘No.’ He calls Dino De Laurentiis [film producer] and goes, ‘You should make this movie.’ I think we had a deal.”
Someone’s in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soooul!
Box office turnaround was a moderate success, bringing in roughly $5.9 million dollars (domestic US box office), ranking #14 in 310 theaters across the country. Roger Ebert felt that Evil Dead II had a sort of genius quality with its comedic undertones splattered across a gory horror film. In his review with the Chicago Sun Times, Ebert stated, “It looks superficially like a routine horror movie, a vomitorium designed to separate callow teenagers from their lunch. But look a little closer and you’ll realize that the movie is a fairly sophisticated satire. Level One viewers will say it’s in bad taste. Level Two folks like myself will perceive that it is about bad taste.”
Evil Dead II maintains its status as a classic horror masterpiece within the genre. Held in high regards, Evil Dead II possesses (no pun intended) so many great qualities, giving it a replay value so few films truly have. From its memorable scenes to quotable lines, the film seems to remain eternally fresh. Fortunately for us Evil Dead fans, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell continue to expand on the universe that many have come to love. Here is to 31 years of Evil Dead II! Have a beer, glass of wine, and relax while you sit back and enjoy a screening with friends…..or alone if you dare.
“There’s something out there. That… that witch in the cellar is only part of it. It lives… out in those woods, in the dark… something… something that’s come back from the dead.”
Tell us your thoughts on how Evil Dead II has influenced your love for the horror genre. Let us know how you plan to celebrate the 31st anniversary on Facebook or Twitter. Stay ghoulish, friends!