If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. There’s headless corpses, demonic hands and obscene amounts of blood. Because today's the day the Evil Dead have their picnic.
If you haven’t heard of the Evil Dead films then I pity you. Whereas today’s horror films are generic, formulaic and boring, the Evil Dead films are so outrageously unpredictable they defy belief. They were spawned during the golden eighties; an era when horror films could terrify you, freak you the hell out, and entertain you in equal measure.
They combine horror and comedy in a way that their modern day brethren just can’t pull off. The iconic series inspired films such as Zombieland, Dead Snow and Shaun of the Dead; but whilst these are all excellent movies, none could coagulate their comedy with the copious amounts of creepiness that was festering within The Evil Dead.
I am speaking as if I am referring to each of the films in the Evil Dead trilogy, but I’m really just talking about the first two. The third instalment – which fires the protagonist back to England 1300 AD to battle an army of darkness – is a mildly entertaining slapstick action comedy. The first two films, however, are legendary.They have a cult following that almost unanimously agrees they are the funniest horror movies ever made. What their adorning fans can’t agree on, though, is which one is best.
The Evil Dead is the prototypical cabin in the woods film. The protagonist Ash Williams, played by Bruce Campbell, goes on a holiday with his girlfriend and a group of friends. Rather than booking with a legit travel agent they decide to go spend their vacation in an isolated cabin in the woods. One thing leads to another and the group begins reading passages from a Sumerian version of the Egyptian Book of the Dead that the last visitors left lying about. (Well what else are you supposed to do when there’s no wifi?).
Things have been pretty disturbing up to this point, but this is when things really kick off. Their incantations resurrect an ancient demonic entity, and whilst a contemporary horror film would probably prolong the inevitability and feed you piecemeal frights, The Evil Dead has no such restraint. Cue demonic possessions, mutations, dismemberment, and ridiculous amounts of blood and gore.
Evil Dead II follows such a similar format that many debate whether it is a sequel, a remake or even a ‘requel’. The truth lies somewhere in between, but it is the shift in tone that really sets them apart. Whereas the first film’s horror induces comedy through its surrealism, the second offering embraces its comedic roots to create a psychedelic blood-soaked trip that transgresses the boundaries of sanity.
Oh, and it also straps a chainsaw to Ash’s dismembered arm. That alone makes the sequel/remake/requel better than the first.