Evil Dead II is a film in the process of going insane. It starts out playing it straight, a standard horror film: a couple go to a cabin in the woods, discover a recording of an archaeologist reading from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the book of the dead, and evil things are unleashed. Girl gets possessed, boy is forced to cut girlfriend’s head off. It’s 15 minutes of a fairly normal horror film. By genre standards, its premise isn’t even that ridiculous.
This is, of course, the least interesting part of the film. But then it starts to get a little odd. It all starts with the girlfriend’s decapitated corpse doing a song-and-dance number, using the lopped-off head as a prop. It’s human nature: there comes a point where, having taken a chainsaw to your dead girlfriend’s head and chopped off your own possess hand, you just have to laugh.
You can see something crack, in the film and its hero, Ash. It’s like watching the Joker’s secret origin (or, as I write this, the lovely girlfriend fighting the last few paragraphs of her dissertation): the laughter quickly turns maniacal. It’s no coincidence that a lot of the scenes end with Ash snapping back to reality – oh it was all a dreaAARGH – or fighting against himself.
But, just like the Joker, with madness comes clarity. Specifically, the understanding that, if a man falling over is a little funny, turning the violence up by 100 will make it hilarious. And, really, there is little on this list funnier than a pinched-hosepipe explosion of blood going off in a man’s face, or a shotgun making someone’s entire head explode.
…I guess I could point out that it’s notable that this all begins after Ash has to kill his own girlfriend (twice), and that maybe all those monsters and strange camera angles are a big ol’ metaphor. But Evil Dead II really doesn’t seem bothered with that sort of thing. It just wants to be itself: a big, brash thrill ride that occasionally makes you jump, but much more often just makes you laugh. Laugh your head off. It’s all rather funny, really. HAHAHAHAHAAAAAARGH.