Evil Dead II [1987]

Writer-director Sam Raimi's extremely stylized, blood-soaked follow-up to his creepy Evil Dead isn't really a sequel; rather, it's a remake on a better budget. It also isn't really a horror film (though there are plenty of decapitations, zombies, supernatural demons, and gore) as much as it is a hilarious, sophisticated slapstick send-up of the terror genre. Raimi takes every horror convention that exists and exaggerates it with mind-blowing special effects, crossed with mocking Three Stooges humor. The plot alone is a genre cliché right out of any number of horror films. Several teens (including our hero, Ash, played by Bruce Campbell in a manic tour-de-force of physical comedy) visit a broken-down cottage in the woods--miles from civilization--find a copy of the Book of the Dead, and unleash supernatural powers that gut every character in sight. All, that is, except Ash, who takes this very personally and spends much of the of the film getting his head smashed while battling the unseen forces. Raimi uses this bare-bones story as a stage to showcase dazzling special effects and eye-popping visuals, including some of the most spectacular point-of-view Steadicam work ever (done by Peter Deming). Although it went unnoticed in the theaters, the film has since become an influential cult-video favorite, paving the way for over-the-top comic gross-out films like Peter Jackson's Dead Alive. --Dave McCoy

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