At seven years old, it wasn’t easy to appreciate the horrific spectacle known as EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN. At that point it was a nightmare waiting to blossom the moment I slipped into unconsciousness. It was a jarring flick with o/ver the top gore and a maniacal comedic sense that flew right over a seven year old’s head. Three decades however, have enabled me to see an amazing, revolting and perfectly timed comedic piece for everything it always has been: masterful entertainment.
EVIL DEAD II arrived in just 310 theaters on March 13th, 1987. With censorship and theater houses all but issuing a blackball on the film there were hurdles to overcome. But fan appreciation, Sam Raimi’s frenetic filming and Bruce Campbell’s amazing portrayal of Ash Williams helped to overcome impediments, and aided in the film’s success in defying the odds.
EVIL DEAD II raked in nearly $6 million domestically, and by 1987’s standards, and having appeared on so extremely few screens all while competing with flicks like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, LETHAL WEAPON and PLATOON, that was a moral victory, and then some. In fact, the film’s theatrical showing was impressive enough to warrant yet another sequel and birth not only a full-fledged franchise, complete with apparel, unique collectibles, figures and more, but also a cinematic brand that still, in 2017 lives on in powerful fashion; new films and small screen stories are regularly being produced.
EVIL DEAD II was quietly becoming a hit, and that led to a whole slew of new fans seeking out the first flick in the franchise. By the time the third film – ARMY OF DARKNESS – arrived, Bruce Campbell was a recognized genre star with the looks, swagger and size to command respect from horror fans. And Sam Raimi was the wizard behind the curtain making some outrageous scenes enjoyable for those who preferred dark cinema.
But it couldn’t have happened without the most important picture in the EVIL DEAD franchise, EVIL DEAD II.
EVIL DEAD was the foundation of a game changing structure; EVIL DEAD II was the remaining lumber required to build a beast from rubble.
EVIL DEAD hasn’t lost any of its shine in the last three decades. If anything, with the gorgeous television tale ASH VS EVIL DEAD closely following the footsteps of one of history’s greatest remakes, Fede Alvarez’s 2013 film, EVIL DEAD, Raimi’s EVIL DEAD is stronger than it has ever been. The characters are still loveable. The relentlessness of the violence is still deeply appreciated. Bruce Campbell is still the over-confident leading man he was always meant to be.
How could things go any way but right for this franchise?
If you’re one of the many loyal and wise fans of the EVIL DEAD franchise, you likely already own the satisfying 25th Anniversary edition of the movie on Blu-ray. But if you don’t fit into that category don’t begin sweating profusely, as this is a problem that isn’t remarkably difficult to overcome. Just about any digital outlet and a sizable number of retailers will have a number of anniversary discs occupying shelf space, calling your name.
In the end, whether we get an upgraded 30-year anniversary or not, we still have a timeless film that always garners, grunts and the occasional scream. It’s hard to believe this game-changing indie flick is 30 years old, but it is. And any film that’s remained (and, for the most part, held up in the visual department) relevant for three decades is deserving of enormous praise.
Cheers go out to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, (arguably) the two most critical pieces of this delightfully gory puzzle. It’s frightening to think of where we might be in the world of cinema without the legendary EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II.