Saturday, 22 March 2014

EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)

It's impossible to deny that Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 is an absolute masterpiece of genre cinema. While the first Evil Dead was brilliant and groundbreaking, its first sequel is by far a better film. The director and crew had developed their craft hugely by the time this second film came around, and while it is basically a remake of the first, it is totally fresh and remains a powerful and entertaining viewing experience to this day.

You know the drill - a bunch of people visit a cabin in the woods to see a girl's parents, only to discover the cabin is seemingly empty. Upon discovering a chilling recording and the skin-bound Book Of The Dead, a demonic force is unleashed and all Hell breaks loose, leaving the characters to fight for their lives.

At the centre of all of the mayhem is our hero Ash, played by the godlike chin and persona that is Bruce Campbell, returning from the first movie. I'd imagine it's no longer a spoiler if I told you he chops off his own possessed hand and replaces it with a chainsaw. I mean, how can something like that not turn out to be brilliant onscreen?


The inventiveness of Evil Dead 2 doesn't let up from start to finish, and while a few effects may look a little dated now, keep in mind that every single damn thing in the film is a practical effect. No CG. Very little in the way of camera tricks. The effects were all practical, models, prosthetics and the like along with a ton of awesomely creepy stop-motion animation.

The chaos and comedy are both heightened in this film, with some shots during Ashe's descent into madness both hilarious and terrifying. Take the scene in which the lights and deer head and books and furniture come to life in the cabin and start laughing. That's demented, and depending on how you look at it the scene is either really funny or really unsettling. Maybe both. Actually, more likely both.

It's a horror movie in every sense of the word, but Evil Dead 2 is also definitely a comedy, the two genres mixing together into something which wouldn't have been out of place in the old EC horror comics of the 1950s.

Evil Dead 2 is a badge of honour and a rite of passage - you really need to have seen it several times and own at least one copy if you're going to call yourself any kind of genre movie fan. It's funny, scary, fast-paced and a marvel to watch every single time. A great deal has been written and said about the film by a great many people, so I'll wrap things up by saying you need it, and if you already have it, you need to watch it again and bask in its glory. I think that's tonight's viewing sorted for me!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)


Return of the Living Dead is responsible for a lot of young men (and I would imagine a fair few ladies too) developing something of a crush on b-movie legend Linnea Quigley thanks to her uproarious portrayal of the punk kid called Trash in this frankly brilliant piece of 1980s horror-comedy perfection. Trash is just one element of the film which was carried off perfectly, as ROTLD is one of the most fun horror movies of the era, and remains a massively entertaining experience tot his day.

John Russo of Night of the Living Dead fame (aka the guy that isn't George A. Romero) developed the story from a novel he wrote, and although Dan O'Bannon changed a lot of it, the film retains some of Russo's influence.


Thus Return Of The Living Dead was sort of intended as an alternate sequel to Night Of The Living Dead. George Romero, of course, had already followed it up with his own sequels DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD. The tone of ROTLD is far lighter than Romero's apocalyptic entries, with an anarchic feel to it in keeping with the screwball comedies and outrageous horrors of the time.

The story is simple and satisfying: A military chemical called Trioxin is accidentally unleashed by two bumbling medical supplies workers, and it quickly starts reanimating corpses and body parts. The chemical's vapours are carried into the air and infect a rain cloud, which batters a nearby cemetery with polluted water. Immediately bodies are clawing their way out of the ground to feast on the living.


In the middle of this is a gang of punk layabouts ( including the aforementioned Linnea Quigley) who become our unwitting heroes in the fight against the undead. Some, of course, end up as zombies themselves.You can't help but feel Quigley must have been freezing during filming, considering how much of her screen time is spent without her costume on.

ROTLD also brought the horror world the joy that is TARMAN, a gooey, droopy, skull-faced zombie with the iconic war cry of "Braaaaaiiiinnsss!" TARMAN is an amazing piece of special effects joy, both funny and freaky at the same time. The joy of the film is the tongue in cheek sense of sick fun which permeates every frame. Even the scenes of violence and gore seem cartoony and lighthearted in a weird way.

A punk rock atmosphere helps things stay on the right side of edgy, and the visuals are somewhat comic-book style to go with that atmosphere. With a top soundtrack, a punchy edit and so much going on throughout it, Return Of The Living Dead is a firm favourite with genre addicts all over the world.