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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some Half-Assed Musings on Evil Dead 2

I've just watched Evil Dead 2 in celebration of its 30th anniversary, which is officially over as of the writing of this post. In lieu of a proper "journalistic" or "academic" exploration of the film's subtleties and whatnot, here's a handful of random thoughts that popped into my head while I was watching the movie.

"Acceptable"

Ash's Coma Theory 
First of all, why hasn't anyone expanded the infamously stupid Ash's Coma Theory creepypasta to explain that Ash from Pokemon is actually the comatose dream-self of Ash from the Evil Dead series? He's been through the shit, so he dreams of a happier place, a world where the monsters are cute and friendly and when you don't want to deal with them you can just put them in your pocket. His dream name is Ash Ketchum because he fell into a coma due to an injury he sustained while trying to capture a demon inside the Necronomicon and the last thing he heard before losing consciousness was Pablo shouting, "Ash, catch 'em!" Brock pervs on every girl he meets because he's a reflection of some of the more adult aspects of Ash's personality that broke off from his childlike dream persona. I mean, Ash Williams' father was named Brock, for fuck's sake.

The Cabin or the Woods
Okay, so that's stupid. Maybe I shouldn't have lead with that. Anyway, you know what I never thought about before? Why did Ash spend so much time inside the cabin? I mean, I know he had been outside and seen that his road home was destroyed and that shit was out to get him, but shit was just as aggressive inside as it was outside. Was the prospect of being attacked by trees really any more or less horrifying than the prospect of being attacked by animate lamps or deer heads or whatever? My girlfriend suggested that it was because the trees are a bit more rapey and while we know that, Ash wouldn't learn it until much later in the movie.

The Hero of Timelines
Unless the movie is, as Bruce Campbell suggested in an interview, a direct continuation of the first movie as opposed to a reboot. In that case, Ash would know about the tree rape from the events of the first movie. If he had been through all that already, though, wouldn't the cabin be a bit messier from the start? And wasn't the book burned in the first movie? Most importantly, why would he go out into the woods to check the road and see that it was broken if he already knew that from the day before? The Evil Dead timeline really is weird. I find it hard to imagine the first two movies as one continuous two-day ordeal. Not to mention that the twist ending simultaneously sets up Army of Darkness while also completely contradicting it. In this movie, Ash is hailed as a savior because he vanquishes a Deadite, but in the next one, we find him taken as a slave.

Better Than the Original?
I've said in the past that I am a bigger fan of the original 1981 The Evil Dead than its more humorously focused sequels, which is somewhat of an unpopular opinion. Truth be told, Evil Dead 2 is the one I've seen the fewest times, and my memory isn't what it used to be. While watching it tonight did remind me what was so great about the sequel, it also reaffirmed what I love about the original.

Evil Dead 2 gets right the fuck into it, quickly recapping the story of Ash bringing his girlfriend (and only his girlfriend, as far as we are shown) to a secluded cabin in the woods for a romantic evening where he gave her a pendant as a symbol of his love and then jumping straight into the jump-cutting, camera-skewing, puddle-swimming madness that is the Kandarian magic haunting our hero. It takes roughly 5 minutes of all-out horror movie hell to break loose. The Evil Dead, on the other hand, takes its time to do something that all too many horror movies gloss over: develop the characters.

Long before the spooks start up, we get to spend a good chunk of time with good-hearted but bumbling Ash, his loving girlfriend Linda and his nerdy sister Cheryl along his hilariously douchey friend Scotty and his girlfriend Shelly. We feel bad for Cheryl when Scotty calls her observation stupid. We empathize with Shelly's decision to lie about the cards to make Linda feel good about her "extra sense". We have feelings about these characters because we've had time to get to know them, and that emotional attachment makes it all the more frightening when a mere matter of seconds later, Cheryl begins to creepily call out the correct cards in rapid succession, revealing that their good friend has been overtaken by the ancient evil that lurks within the cabin.

While some backstory and personality is given to the new characters introduced in the sequel, they just feel less relatable and more one-dimensional to me. I feel like the only reason I cared about Ash so much is because I had become familiar with his character in the previous movie, because I honestly forgot about 2 of the 4 new characters entirely. I remembered the professor's daughter of course because she's the one who brought the Necronomicon pages, and I remembered the hillbilly because he's the one who threw them in the fucking cellar like a goddamn idiot while holding the heroes hostage with the shotgun that would go on to become the iconic Boomstick. Notice, though, that I just referred to by their archetype, because that's how I see them.

Evil Dead 2 was full of fun and action and gore and thrills and all sorts of fantastic visuals. It helped define the term "splatstick," and became a fan favorite because it focused on being an enjoyable flick instead of taking itself too seriously. Maybe The Evil Dead was guilty of taking itself too seriously. It was billed as "the ultimate experience in grueling terror," after all. I'm just saying, maybe it did a better job than it gets credit for, and maybe that's why as much as I love Evil Dead 2, I just can't agree that it's "better than the original".

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