|Evil Dead II: the comic excess of horror.|
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II (1987) is less a sequel to his original Evil Dead (1983) than a remake of it: both films open with Ash (Bruce Campbell) heading to a remote cabin in the woods with his girlfriend, unaware that he’ll be spending most of the weekend doing battle with murderous zombies. In his essay “Lethal Repetition,” Richard Dyer suggests that the horror genre is as compelled to repeat acts of violence as its villains are—that, in its endless proliferation of sequels and remakes, it plays out the same scenarios, images, and plots with a single-minded obsession not to be found in other genres. I would argue that the Evil Dead films do not just exemplify the horror genre’s compulsion to repeat itself across multiple films: repetition is built into the very structure of each individual film, both of which are driven by a series of gags rather than by any real plot. The films are simply about the progression and escalation of human-zombie encounters, which grow increasingly gorier and more absurdly comic as each film goes on. They’re determined to sustain this keyed-up, giddy feeling of sublime disgust until, finally, they (and we) collapse, exhausted.
I understood the comic appeal of this even as a kid, when I saw (and loved) the first Evil Dead film (I had programmed our VCR to tape it as it aired on the USA network at 2 a.m. one night). Somehow, I understood it to be hilariously, nauseatingly funny. Although, like the second Godfather film, Evil Dead II is generally felt to be superior to its predecessor, my loyalties lie with the original, perhaps because it seems less consciously cheeky and less emphatic about underscoring how silly its excesses are. It simply piles on the blood and the gore and the guts with a kind of deadpan grimace until, feeling as if you’re about to be crushed beneath the weight of so much bodily stuff, you can’t help but break out in deranged laughter.
|Ash fends off his own hand in Evil Dead II.|