What is it about Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn that makes it so darn good? On paper Sam Raimi’s 1987 cult comedy horror film sounds ridiculous. A couple retreats to a cabin in the woods where a recording of the Sumerian Book of the Dead causes an evil spirit to possess the girlfriend and her boyfriend, Ash (Bruce Campbell), is forced to kill her. The next day she re-animates and tries to kill him again. Then his hand gets possessed. It sounds like a cut-rate slasher flick, right? But it’s not. Well, it is, but there’s just something about Evil Dead 2 that people love. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives Evil Dead 2 a 98%; Casablanca only got a 97%.
The film is a sequel of sorts to 1981’s The Evil Dead, and was followed by the 1993 film Army of Darkness. While Army of Darkness is great, shoving Ash into medieval times (not the restaurant) to battle the evil of the past, it is not nearly as well loved as Evil Dead 2. One reason may be that by the time Army of Darkness rolled around, director Sam Raimi was able to cash in on his success and the movie was properly funded. Evil Dead 2 was made for $3.6 million, given by none other than producer Dino De Laurentiis at the encouragement of Stephen King. De Laurentiis stuck with Sam Raimi and became executive producer of Army of Darkness. There is something about the low-budget nature of Evil Dead 2 that makes it incredibly sincere. That sincerity imbues the film with a sense of lovableness that a fine Hollywood sheen can’t match.
The other factor that cannot be overlooked when assessing the awesomeness of Evil Dead 2 is Bruce Campbell. His performance makes the movie. He manages the perfect combination of earnestness and silliness to make Ash Williams the quintessential hero who will stop at nothing to save his life and, just maybe, the world. Watch this scene where he fights his own hand and tell me he doesn’t deserve some sort of award:
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn airs on IFC at Midnight as part of Indie Screams