Let me preface this review by saying I love, love, love the original Evil Dead. It is one of my favorite horror films of all time and it rocked my world. It was creepy, original and to date, the goriest film I’ve ever watched. I love each and every moment of it. Much to my (and likely the world’s) surprise, I did not like Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. This film is nothing like the first and it turned the franchise into something I wasn’t expecting.
Evil Dead 2 picks up literally exactly where the first left off. Ash is stuck in the cabin, still fighting the evil spirits. The beginning of this film is actually super disorienting. A “revised recap” of Evil Dead is shown at the beginning, sort of reminding you what happened in the first movie, but not really because it didn’t happen quite that way. From that point on, you’re just tossed into the mess that is Evil Dead. Much like Halloween II, there’s no prep in this film. There’s no lead up to mayhem; it is mayhem from the first credits. Ash is alone in the cabin for most of the film, left with just the evil dead and his own madness. Eventually he is joined by four others, which adds to the chaos. I won’t lie, for most of this film I was just trying to catch up. I felt lost and frazzled from the beginning, a feeling I never quite shook even as the film went on.
Evil Dead 2, in my opinion, isn’t anywhere as scary or gory as the first film. Sure, there’s gratuitous blood and ridiculous scenes involving severed hands, but it’s not scary or creepy anymore. This film changes the franchise into what it is now known as, a cult horror franchise with deep, dark comedic roots. And that’s ok, but it’s just not my favorite. I wanted this film to be more like the first. But in the end, it was more ridiculous and outrageous than terrifying. I can appreciate that this film launched Ash as a badass, chainsaw wielding (wearing?) evil dead fighter and that is worth something. Ash is an icon, one any horror fan should appreciate. I’d put my money on him against most other horror villains.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a cult classic. It is bloody, outrageous and pure fun, but does not boast the creepy, traumatizing vibe of its predecessor. It does, however, create a horror hero in Ash. Bruce Campbell delivers a stunning performance in basically a one-man-show and despite the film’s disorganization and confusion, you can’t help but love him.