This film was my gateway drug into the “Evil Dead” Franchise. I saw it originally on a VHS copy, but ultimately added the laserdisc to my collection of films.
Who would not want this blood red beauty in among all the other film flotsam that makes up your collection? I have subsequently seen it on the big screen a couple of times, but it has been a long while and when Alamo Drafthouse decides to throw a watch party, you know I am not going to turn down an invitation.
“Dead by Dawn”, which is the subtitle, is such an odd sequel because it is basically a reboot of the story, not a continuation. With more money and a chance to add some humor, Sam Rami took his horror masterpiece and turned it into his horror/comedy masterpiece. There is still the requisite gore but it is matched by irony, slapstick and farce with this entry. Bruce Campbell is not only the hero, he is the chump. Tossed about like a rag doll, muttering to himself, and screaming at his own hand.
The movie is loaded with clever shots of the interior and exterior of the isolated cabin in the woods. This is in fact the franchise that basically invented the cabin in the woods horror trope. Maybe “Night of the Living Dead” featured an isolated cabin first, but “The Evil Dead” made it the origin point of the horror rather than the last stand . Evil Dead 2, begins the long history of horror films where attractive young people end up in an isolated spot and have to battle evil. The supernatural kind of evil.
In addition to the wild camera style of the director, there is an audio ambiance about the film that is also fairly distinctive. The deadites in the woods make noises like sick car engines as they converge upon the structure. The walls of the cabin creak and groan, like another character in the story. Inanimate objects that suddenly seem to be alive also make themselves known through sound. Once the chainsaw starts and the shotgun comes out, there is an assault on your audio senses that really adds to the discomfort and horror we are watching.
While there are jump cut scares, they are usually accompanied by a great makeup or lighting effect, so they are not just getting a scare out of our surprise. When Ed gets possessed, his sudden transformation is startlingly revealed, but the jump is as much due to the face appliances as his sudden appearance in the frame. We know some views from the cabin looking out are going to be suddenly filled with evil Ash, but we still respond as our minds and our bodies command.
As a “watch party”, the audience was given greater freedom than is usually available at an Alamo Screening. Shouting out lines in unison with the characters was encouraged, and we came equipped with foam hand chainsaws, a mini necronomicom and a gummy eyeball to pop in our mouths at the right moment. The theater was packed on a Monday night for this forty year old horror classic. We all thought it was