31 Nights of Horror - Night Twenty-666 - Tie: The Evil Dead (1981) & Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

Sometimes...every once in a while the stars align and all is right in the known universe. Such was the case when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave us the film known as The Evil Dead. It marked the beginning of something we could not comprehend until much later in life. It was like a Haley's Comet hitting us and leaving everything in pieces in which to discover what this new wonder may be. It was a game changer.

In 1981 Ash was so young...his chin seemed so tender and delicate. All he wanted to do was take his girl, Linda, to a cabin in the woods with a couple of his buddies and have a good time. Little did he know what was in store for him. Such an old premise...an old mysterious cabin in the dark woods of a secluded area...however, this is not your typical film that takes an old premise and stabs it to death. This is a film that took something existing and brought something new to the entire sub-genre. It stands as a blueprint to any horror film done on the cheap. No budget...no known actors....no established director. The only thing that existed was a vision of a few brave men.

The Evil Dead is dead serious. It scared me when I first watched it at a friend's house when I was like 12. I didn't know what to expect and the fear that struck me came from a place I didn't even know existed. It was different from Romero's zombies and your traditional undead creatures. These people were possessed by demons and turned into these scary incarnations of humans. White eyes...black veins.....pale skin.....it was some creepy shit. And when you're 12 years old....that kind of stuff stays with you for a long time.

Sam Raimi has a certain way of presenting horror on film that is unique. Unfortunately, he's kind of moved on from the genre...still maintaining a distant accessibility with his Ghost House Pictures productions company...but, he hasn't done anything to truly scare his audience in quite some time.

Make no mistake...Raimi is, indeed, a brilliant film maker. I just wish he would do something like an Evil Dead these days. While Drag Me To Hell is a great throwback to those days....it doesn't hold a candle to what he is truly capable of . Bruce Campbell deserves some credit here, as well. It was his first full length picture and he really cemented an iconic character that has stayed on the lips of all horror genre fans for many, many years.

The Evil Dead is such a classic film and while some of the FX doesn't really hold up to today's standards, it is a special moment in horror film history that deserves a proper place in your film-watching schedule this Halloween season. It is the serious doppelganger to the next film.

5 out of 5

Speaking of the stars aligning...they aligned once more in 1987. Sam Raimi decided to do a sort of quasi-remake/sequel to his 1981 classic. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn was released to the masses 6 years after its predecessor and was just as great....some say it is better than the original. I believe it be different, not better.

All the same beats are here as in the original. Bruce Campbell's Ash character brings Linda (minus his buddies) to a lone cabin in the woods. Passages from the Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead are read. Everybody gets possessed by Candarian demons. However, this one has something the original lacked. A perfect comedic tone that embraces the improbability of the premise and takes the film even further into horror movie perfection.

This film is ridiculous with quotables. "We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound "fine"?"....has always been a personal favorite. The budget is also higher than the original which explains the better FX (Mr. Gregory Nicotero) and all around great look to the film.

They also introduce more characters from the outside...a hillbilly and his girlfriend bring in a woman and her male colleague searching for her father who was the one who discovered the Necronomicon in the first place. The back story here is that an old archaeologist discovered the book of the dead and brought it to this remote cabin out in the woods to decipher its meaning. Well, the old man conjures up a bunch of demons that possess his wife and his soul is taken in the process. All this before our hero Ash brings his girl out for a romantic getaway at this same remote cabin. Get all that? It doesn't matter here. The story is irrelevant....it's all about substance with Evil Dead 2....and, fortunately, it's got bucket loads of substance.

Two interesting things that are different here than the original...aside from the comedy blending. Ash's struggle with himself. Early on...as well as later...he is possessed by a demon and he fights it in order to regain his soul. I see this as a personal struggle to maintain your inner good over the dark powers of evil that we fight every day. Also, Ash is considered...sort of a reluctant hero....which, by the end of the film, he transforms into the ass-kicking hero that we've always loved. It is this depth to the character of Ash that has always intrigued me and gives the film a strong anchor in which to carry the story through and also enables the character of Ash to endure through the years.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is the seminal example of a classic masterpiece that has defined its creators and the characters involved and it has definitely changed the game in many different ways. It is loved by legions of fans for its inane beauty and its superlative story-telling and impeccable timing.

A true American classic.

5 out of 5

Thanks for reading,