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From Under A Rock: Evil Dead II

July 1, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
8.8
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From Under A Rock: Evil Dead II  

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IT’S OUR 100th COLUMN!! 100 weeks in a row with no gaps. This is a big deal for us (largely because Michael is terrible at commitment). So as a result, we’re watching something that I hold near and dear to my heart: a horror comedy.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Before Sunrise. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Evil Dead II.

Evil Dead II
Released: March 13th, 1987
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel
Starring:
Bruce Campbell as Ash
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks as Jake
Kassie Wesley as Bobby Joe
Ted Raimi as Possessed Henrietta

Michael Ornelas: I adore this genre of film, the horror comedy. We’ve covered another favorite of mine in this column when we watched Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. My favorite of the genre is The Cabin in the Woods, but Aaron had already seen that. That pushes me to the Evil Dead franchise, and (what I consider to be) its best entry.

Aaron Hubbard: So this is definitely an interesting one. It took me a while to really get into the bizarre tone, but by the time Ash was fighting his own hand I decided this was the right kind of camp.
Horror
More Horror Than Comedy
Michael: I personally believe that the only way to make a horror comedy work is to make an effective horror film first, and then make it funny second. This film mastered that because the Evil Dead was a legitimately creepy and scary villain. There are odd happenings that force the first third of the movie to essentially just be Ash vs. a possessed house. It’s a compelling watch because the horror beats are masterful, even if the effects and make-up are a little silly. The creep factor of this movie was high though thanks to design, well-crafted scares, and a healthy dose of gore.

Aaron: As Jordan Peele recently said about his film Get Out (my current pick for best of 2017), horror and comedy are pretty similar, just with different results. You set the audience up, catch them off guard, and then knock them out when they aren’t expecting it. The Evil Dead is a horror classic, genuinely terrifying in spite of its low budget. But Sam Raimi was definitely going for something more unique here and I can’t help respect the transition from horror to comedy.

Michael: It’s the perfect middle step in a trilogy that goes from horror to horror-comedy to comedy. I personally think Army of Darkness is a little too wacky, but it’s definitely not bad. The pendulum swings from one end to the other amongst the movies and this was the sweet spot.
Ash
Bruce Campbell as Ash
Aaron: The one thing I definitely gained an appreciation for here was Bruce Campbell’s unique screen presence and his exact place in pop culture. Bruce is a serviceable protagonist in the original, but here we see a complete transformation from a terrified kid to a demon killing badass. And he goes more than a little crazy in the process. It’s a gutsy performance, and one not every actor would be willing to go for.

Michael:To go back to the hand scene…I can’t imagine anyone else making that work so well. The man fought his hand and made it believable. I genuinely viewed his hand as a completely different character, and that’s talent right there. I always associate Campbell with the word “fun” because he has no problem going out on a limb (or without out) to make a wholly ridiculous scene on paper come to life at his expense. This also led to the Chainsaw Hand, which may be one of the single-most recognizable silhouettes in horror marketing history (the fact that you just pictured exactly what I’m talking about proves my point) (and if you didn’t, please…don’t take this from me).

Aaron: Bruce definitely sold me on Ash, and I plan to see both Army of Darkness and Ash vs. Evil Dead after seeing this. Whatever the poor guy goes through, he is sure to make it memorable and entertaining. And truly great horror protagonists are a rare breed.
Raimi
The Lens of Raimi
Michael: Another thing that cements this film’s iconic status for me is the shot composition from Raimi. He has a lot of fun with the camera’s perspective, using a lot of motion, tilting/rotating, and dolly zooms. My favorite shot in the movie is Dan’s death, where his torso ends up in the trap door while Annie holds his legs, and just all the blood in the world shoots out. Such a unique kill (and my favorite of the movie). Raimi has proven to be a master of the horror kill (as evidenced by a lot of the fun he has in Ash vs. Evil Dead.

Aaron: Sam Raimi is a master of the camera. I first fell in love with his unique style while rewatching Spider-Man 2 and realizing how dynamic it is compared to the rather plain jane camera work of the MCU. It’s no surprise to see him experimenting here, doing everything he can with the camera and the practical effects to create something wholly unique. His shot composition is perfect in nearly every scene.

Michael: He also directed the really fun Drag Me to Hell back in 2009, so if you want to see him play in horror outside of the Evil Dead series, I recommend it. I’ve only seen it the once, so maybe it’ll be something that gets added for this column in a couple years…

Ratings:
Aaron: So I’ll be totally honest; as much praise as I can heap on Evil Dead II, it’s not a film that I really loved. Raimi’s skill and passion shines through and Bruce Campbell goes way over the top to make this work. But for me, it just didn’t make the same impact as The Evil Dead or Raimi’s Spider-Man films. It is wholly unique and definitely worth seeing.

A-

Michael: This is a franchise that I adore, but it’s not without its flaws. I like this one the best as it’s an absolute blast, but it still has a few problems (not all of the effects age well). I love watching it though, and at the end of the day, that’s what I want from a movie. Raimi is amazing and Campbell is iconic. The longevity and impact of this film alone warrant it a rating in the upper echelon.

A-

Aaron: Well that was one hell of a fun pick. I feel you’ve condemned me to more hours of watching Ash saw through demon zombies.

Michael: The series is a lot of fun but feels a bit more like a stoner comedy at the start. Two of the writers are Dominic Dierkes and Sean Clements though and they’re two of my favorite comedians to come out of the school I study at (Upright Citizens Brigade) here in LA.

Do you prefer your Evil Dead movies more on the funny side or the scary side?

Next week:

Aaron: Next month has one of my most heavily anticipated films of the year, a conclusion to what has been one of the best trilogies of recent times. So to celebrate War for the Planet of the Apes, we are going back to the very first one.
Planet of the Apes
Michael: I’ve only seen the Mark Wahlberg remake, so this is going to be a treat. I’ve been wanting to watch this forever.

Aaron: That was sadly my introduction as well. Fortunately this is a genuine sci-fi classic.

What is the best Planet of the Apes movie?

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8.8
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
If you want something unique, memorable and wildly entertaining, this is definitely a movie to check out. The effects, acting and plot are all doing backflips over the proverbial shark, but it works. It's gory, goofy and just a total blast to watch. Whichever Evil Dead is your favorite, you will definitely get your money's worth watching them.
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