Friday, April 05, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Evil Dead II (1987) ****

X, 84 min.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Theodore Raimi, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier, John Peakes, Lou Hancock

The first time I ever saw Sam Raimi’s cult horror comedy classic “Evil Dead II” it was one of those rush jobs that really only seem to happen in college. “You haven’t seen ‘Evil Dead II’? We must watch it, right now!” one of my friends insisted.

It wasn’t optimal movie watching conditions. As a true cineaste, I really have a problem with conditions that are less than optimal. It was in a college dorm room—a single—in the middle of the day. The sun was shining through the window behind the small television set on which we would watch the film. Seating was minimal and fairly uncomfortable, although I was awarded the prime seating right in front of the set with it blocking the sun behind it and the most comfortable seat, as I was the “Evil Dead “ virgin.

Although I had finally shifted gears heading toward the healthy obsession with movies that I now hold today, I hadn’t seen many low budget films. I was taken aback at first at the lesser production values. Having about ten times more to spend on this sequel, I wonder what I would’ve though of Raimi’s original at that time. I was concerned that I hadn’t seen the original. I didn’t like watching a film series out of order. I was assured that I didn’t need to see the first one, because the second was like a remake of the first and a sequel at the same time. Glancing at the 84 minute running time, I wondered how they could fit all that into one film.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked by the off hand nature of the narrator’s introduction. He spoke with severe seriousness, yet the visuals suggested there was a joke to be in on and it was about to invite me in. Soon the room was laughing at Bruce Campbell’s cavalier attitude and the absurdity of watching a stop motion animated ballet sequence with a headless dancer. This movie was all over the map, and what a map it was.

My first screening of “Evil Dead II” was one of those movie experiences where the world around you melts away and you have a sort of spiritual encounter with the elements of the movie. That sounds awfully deep for the camp and gore of “Evil Dead II”, but such an experience doesn’t have to be deep. It takes place on the terms of the movie involved. It was incredibly entertaining and the filmmaker’s willingness to try just about anything to create a reaction from the audience opened up a whole new aspect of viewing movies for me. It’s that moment when you realize what the art appreciation teacher means when he tells you that someone who breaks the rules can still be an incredible artist, but you have to know the rules in order to break them and in order to appreciate what happens when they are broken. Yeah. “Evil Dead II” is that kind of movie, but a hell of a lot more entertaining than that sounds.

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