Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 16 -- From Scary to Slapstick : A Review of "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2"

In preparation for (I hope) seeing Evil Dead: The Musical in a couple of weeks, I decided to re-watch the first two Evil Dead films back to back. 

The original Evil Dead tells the story of a group of 5 college friends whose weekend in a cabin in the woods goes bad when they play a recording they find which contains a summoning ritual.  One by one, the kids are attacked and possessed by evil forces, until only Ash (Bruce Campbell) remains. 

The sequel, Evil Dead 2, is actually more of a reboot than a sequel.  This time around, Ash and his girlfriend Linda  are alone when they travel to the cabin and play the recording; soon the cabin is also visited by the daughter of the man on the recording, her boyfriend, and a couple of hicks who helped them find their way to the cabin. Once again, the forces of evil attack and possess the group one by one.

Although there is a sizable difference between the plot of the two films, the thing that stands out most is the vast change in tone.  Evil Dead is a straight-up horror film with some funny moments, while Evil Dead 2 skews to the comedy side of the spectrum, featuring over-the-top comedy and slapstick.  The move towards slapstick would become even more pronounced with the third film, Army of Darkness.

I was impressed with how well the first Evil Dead holds up, especially considering its low budget.  The scenes with possessed Linda giggling maniacally still manage to creep me out, and the angry molesting trees sequence still disturbs me.  On the whole, I tend to prefer the first film; while I'm a self-professed lover of horror-comedies, I'm also a self-professed loather of slapstick.  Evil Dead 2 is able to walk that fine line between what I'll enjoy and what I won't for the most part, but its swiftly shifting tones and reliance on physical comedy make it harder for me to get into.  At the same time, the scenes with Ash losing his grip on sanity are well executed, and the sequence introducing the chainsaw hand is pure gold.  

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