Evil Dead II (not rated)
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Note: I'm calling this "not rated" because that's what it says on the DVD I've got. Some websites will call it "R", so I don't know what to believe. It came out in 1987, and I must have seen it on VHS sometime in the 90s, but I'm writing this review after watching it again on DVD in 2023. (I watched it on opening night of "Evil Dead Rise".) I didn't remember anything about it, but I had read a bit about it online, so I thought it would be partly a remake of the first movie and partly a sequel. Having re-watched it, I don't really consider it either. Wikipedia calls is a comedy horror film, but I couldn't manage to see it as a comedy. The whole thing is pretty cheap and cheesy, much like the first movie, and... okay, I'm not saying the silliness of it all wasn't intentional, because of course it was. But I wouldn't call it comedy. It's definitely horror, though. Even the silly parts would be pretty scary if they were actually happening to you.
It begins with some narration about the Book of the Dead, aka the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which had been written in blood long ago, and was lost in the year 1300. We then see Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) driving to an abandoned cabin in the woods for a getaway with his girlfriend, Linda (played by a different actress than in the first movie). The other characters from the first movie don't appear in this one, and it seems pretty clear to me that as far as this movie is concerned, the events of the first one never happened. It doesn't take long at all for Ash to find the Necronomicon and a tape recorder on which an archaeologist named Raymond Knowby had recorded an incantation from the book. Playing the tape causes Linda to become possessed by a demon or whatever, and attack Ash, who quickly kills and buries her. The story then picks up right where the first film left off, with some unseen demon rushing toward Ash. This time, we see him get possessed and transformed into a demon himself, but that wears off by sunrise. However, when he tries to leave, he discovers the bridge he and Linda had crossed to get there has been destroyed. Something chases him again, and he manages to avoid being re-possessed, but still faces all sorts of horror. Eventually his right hand gets possessed, and he has to cut it off with a chainsaw.
Meanwhile, Knowby's daughter, Annie, and a guy named Ed, head for the cabin to meet Knowby and his wife, Henrietta, bringing with them a few pages of the Necronomicon which Annie had found in her own archaeological studies. Of course, they discover the bridge is out, but meet a man named Jake and his girlfriend, Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley, whom I recognized as Kassie DePaiva from One Life to Live). The two of them lead Annie and Ed to the cabin via a trail through the woods. When they get there, they assume Ash has killed Annie's parents, and lock him in the cabin's cellar. But they soon learn they were wrong, and let him out. They all face plenty of demonic activity, and at one point Annie helps attach the chainsaw to Ash's arm, to fight the demons. (He also uses a sawed-off shotgun.) They also learn from Annie's pages of the book about a hero who had appeared in the past to fight the demons, and I immediately recognized that as a set-up for the third movie in the franchise, which I also watched back in the 90s. The pages also tell of two incantations: one to make the evil spirit or whatever is causing all this demonic stuff to appear in person, and one to banish it through a rift in space and time.
Well, plenty of other stuff happens that I'm not going to spoil. But I will say the movie ends with a pretty strong sequel hook. And while there were things I liked about this movie, and I've rated it slightly higher than the first one, it's hard to say whether I really liked it more on its own merits than the first one, or mostly like it as a big set-up for the third movie, which I would say is the best part of the original trilogy (if you can even really call it a trilogy). So I look forward to re-watching that on DVD....
movies: The Evil Dead * Evil Dead II * Army of Darkness * Evil Dead * Evil Dead Rise
TV: Ash vs Evil Dead