Unlike the original, Evil Dead II almost immediately struck a chord with me, even though I had a similar experience when watching it. Like I previously mentioned, I watched this series backwards, beginning with Army of Darkness and ending with The Evil Dead. So obviously I was also surprised by the horror elements of this film, because Army of Darkness has basically nothing to do with horror and is more of an action comedy movie.
By the time I saw Evil Dead II, I’ve seen enough horror movies to know the tropes of the genre and what these movies usually aim for. And Evil Dead II felt like a breath of fresh air because of that, even though it was made before I was born.
What makes this movie so brilliant is the fact that Sam Raimi and his cohorts understood that comedy and horror are basically the same thing. Fear and humor are both involuntary responses. You have very little control over when you laugh or when you feel afraid. And that means that a director can use his expertise in one field and directly apply it to the other, if he understands what his audience is there to see.
And I’d say that there are plenty of genuinely creepy scenes in this movie. As much as the slapstick comedy aspect of the movie tends to draw attention away from the fact that this is a horror movie, it’s undeniable that only a master of horror would be able to blend the two genres together so perfectly that he’s able to scare you throughout the movie with an underlying feeling of unease while burning the experience into your mind as an outrageously hilarious one. In this aspect it has a lot in common with Peter Jackson’s Braindead. But while Braindead easily surpasses Evil Dead II’s still considerable amount of blood and gore, Evil Dead II is better at being an actual horror movie because of Raimi’s understanding of what horror and comedy truly are.
Raimi’s use of the camera is significantly evolved from the original and it’s used to great effect to create this weird atmosphere that things are just a little bit off. This ranges from the already established use of first-person camera movements for the evil spirits – whom, again, we never actually get to see, which is why they’re so creepy – to the use of anamorphic lenses to stretch out the perspective, to slightly speeding up the footage to create erratic movements. Few movies use this many camera tricks to such a great effect.
The second thing that has obviously been expanded is the actual story the film tells. While the first 10 minutes are basically a very quick retelling of the original, minus the destruction of the Necronomicon, the rest is basically a straight up sequel as to what happened immediately after Ash got attacked by the demon at the end of the first movie. It’s sort of a remake and sequel in one go, and it’s one of the few instances where a movie actually acknowledges that it retroactively wants to change something about the previous entry and does so quite elegantly.
Evil Dead II’s status as one of the greatest horror movie experiences is undeniably accurate. It never ceases to be funny and entertaining, no matter how often I watch it and yet it still manages to creep me out in certain spots. It’s outrageously creative while still feeling like a true sequel to the first one and it’s a rare case where the second movie is actually better than the first.