Part of me wanted to leave this as the last movie on the list just because of the iconic nature of this movie, especially within this genre, but after going through all the options, I came up with one I would much rather leave until the end, even if that movie has reached only a fraction of the viewers this one has and is not very known in general, but we’ll get back to that.
Ash and his girlfriend, Linda, trespass into a cabin in the woods, where they listen to a weird tape, which wakes up a demonic force. That force possesses Linda and tries to kill Ash, who manages to kill her and escape the force only to be trapped in the cabin with what’s left of Linda. Meanwhile, the daughter of the owner of the cabin, as well as her father’s research assistant, arrive at the cabin with a pair of locals they needed to find the place.
The careers of the major players behind Evil Dead (Raimi, Tapper, Campbell) weren’t doing too well at the time, so when Dino de Laurentiis asked them to make a sequel, which was closer to the first movie than their proposal (which later on became Army of Darkness), they decided to do something more along those lines, but there was a problem with the rights to the first movie, which meant they couldn’t show any footage from it, which lead them to reshoot a truncated version of the first movie as the first act of this film.
You might note that I did leave out the first movie from this list (and I don’t think I’ll do the Army of Darkness either as it feels more of an adventure movie than a horror movie). This is because that one isn’t as much a comedy as this one. Well, if this is a remake, what’s the difference there? In general, the extra money just enabled them to make this movie that much more absurd. This is most visible in the amount of blood or other liquids, as they tried to avoid an X rating in the US by using other colors (which didn’t work). There are some actual jokes here and there as well (like when Ash uses a pile of books to pin down his freshly severed hand, the book on the top of the pile is A Farewell to Arms), but that’s pretty secondary. While Army of Darkness takes it into a whole new level, this movie does incorporate a lot of slapstick as well.
Raimi used this opportunity to use many of the techniques he tried out with the first film. While the camera movement of the first film was largely motivated by the lack of money, we do see the effectiveness of the camera work, which is in full display here as well. The demonic POV shots are great, but there’s a certain amount of freedom in the camera’s movement you don’t often see.
Claiming that freedom with the camera has apparently given him freedom with other things as well. The tone of the movie often changes on a dime. While other movies can do that once or twice, Raimi seems to be able to do it all the time and get away with it. (There’s a Hungarian movie called Kontrol, which also does this exquisitely.) And you might just need Bruce Campbell to pull it off. He’s goofy, but has a great look for the role as well.
Here’s a personal story on this: I saw this as a kid. I don’t know how I got my hands on it, because I remember that my friends hadn’t seen it and they were always suspicious of me having seen this. They just thought I was making up all things like our hero cutting off his hand early on in the movie. Than again, I never believed their claim of having seen Bad Taste (I hadn’t and never claimed to either) and they could never produce any meaningful details. Kids are stupid.
This actually lead me to doubt my own memories of the film until I was able to see it again over a decade later. And it was exactly as glorious as I thought.