Girl Meets Context: Sam Raimi chose an unusual path for his sequel to the cult classic The Evil Dead. Rather than making a film that continued the story of the first movie, he rebooted the film entirely. Just like in the original, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda go to a remote cabin in the woods and wind up accidentally unleashed the forces of darkness when they play an audio recording of an old academic reciting an incantation from the Book of the Dead (here called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, a shout out to H.P. Lovecraft – it was called the Naturan Demanto in the first movie). This time Ash and Linda are alone, though Ash is soon joined by Annie, daughter of the academic on the audio tape, and her boyfriend Ed, as well as two locals, Bobby Joe and Jake. Made on a bigger budget, Evil Dead II plays less like a horror movie and more like a live-action cartoon. The movie was a massive critical success and developed a rabid cult following that has persisted over the years. Kristine and I sat down to discuss the movie and be forewarned, our discussion will include massive SPOILERS, so go watch the movie and come back!
Sean: So right after we watched this movie you didn’t have anything positive to say about it. Has the movie has grown on you since we watched it?
Kristine: I know this film is nearly-universally loved and praised. And I did like the original The Evil Dead, but I did not care for this movie. I was bored! Help me figure out why.
Sean: You were BORED?
Sean: That is the LAST THING I ever expected you to say!
Kristine: Well, I was bored to tears.
Sean: I’ll tell you what, Kristine, you do keep me on my toes. I never know what you’re going to think about the movies we watch. Bored to TEARS, you say?!
Kristine: I liked the first third of the movie but after that I was bored stiff!
Sean: You are exag-i-lying.
Kristine: NOPE! Once Bobby Joe was gone, so was I.
Sean: Well that makes sense, since she was amazing.
Kristine: I really loved her. Did you know that her character was allegedly inspired by Holly Hunter?
Sean: Hahaha! Awesome! Really?
Kristine: Yeah, I read some tale… I guess all those guys lived together in some big house? from IMDB: ”The sexy, surly Bobby Joe was inspired by Holly Hunter, who was a housemate of Sam Raimi’s in the early ‘80s, along with Joel Coen and Frances McDormand. One particular incident inspired the character: Hunter was auditioning for a hooker part and was unusually made-up and wearing a sexy, short-skirted outfit. She became angry at Raimi when he somewhat leered at her.”
Sean: Why wasn’t Holly just… in the movie?
Kristine: He tried to cast her and the studio said they wanted someone “sexier.” Can you even believe it?
Sean: UGH! Death to studio hive minds.
Kristine: I know, but I did like Kassie Wesley in the role, so…
Sean: Yeah, she was great. So, obviously the tone of this movie is way spazzier than the first one.
Kristine: Well, I think that is why it didn’t work for me. I am not really a slapstick person. Whether it’s this or like, the antics in Micmacs, super frenetic physical comedy is not really my thing.
Sean: Did you ever love The Three Stooges as a kid?
Sean: The Marx Brothers?
Sean: Chaplin or Keaton?
Kristine: No to both. Hate Three’s Company. Hate the Farrelly Brothers. Hate slapstick.
Kristine: Now do you believe me?
Sean: No, I cannot.
Kristine: Ha! You think I am just trying to provoke you!
Sean: I just don’t understand “bored” but I believe your experience.
Kristine: Well, I am having a hard time understanding it, too, but it is the truth.
Sean: Is this like when you were bored by the first Friday the 13th, were you bored like that?
Kristine: Much more bored.
Sean: Now you ARE just trying to provoke me!
Kristine: Maybe part of it is that this is the fourth spatter film we have watched this month, and when the blood and guts really started flying I was already over it. I did think Henrietta was a pretty cool Deadite, though.
Sean: Is this one of your least favorite movies we’ve ever watched?
Kristine: It’s in the bottom ten.
Sean: OMG! Your motto is “Splatter Doesn’t Matter.”
Kristine: Ha! So, my theories on why I disliked it are: 1. The frenetic slapstick (splat-stick).
Sean: “Splatter Makes You Fatter.”
Kristine: 2. Too much splatter is just inane patter. 3. I thought the whole “retcon” thing was kind of interesting at first, but then I was like, “Ummm, I know what is going to happen, it’s just happening to different characters!”
Sean: Yeah, the sequel-slash-reboot is a situation. You know that Bruce Campbell in this movie notoriously makes nerd-ladies sopping wet in their polyester-cotton-blend panties, right?
Kristine: I get his appeal and the intentionally cheesy dialogue but still, the one-liners are too “Nerd Boy” for me. Like when Ash says, “Groovy” after he puts the chainsaw on his arm, I could tell that was a line that nerds probably scream along with at midnight screenings. No thank you.
Kristine: Same thing when he says “Woodshed” or “Toolshed” or whatever.
Sean: It’s funny because I feel like the spirit of this movie is the same spirit that animated Drag Me to Hell, which you loved.
Kristine: I know!
Sean: What about some of the more cartoonish or surreal elements, like when Ash’s hand becomes possessed? Or the laughing deer-head? All that stuff when it is just Ash alone in the cabin?
Kristine: The laughing room thing was okay. But I felt like I have seen that scene a million times.
Sean: Yeah, this movie is a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon. The laughing room was very “psychedelic Bugs Bunny.”
Kristine: Yes, it totally was. I guess… I don’t see the point or the need for this movie.
Sean: Well, I just want to say that it is hard for me to be objective because I have loved it since I was like, twelve years old. And just fyi, the dystopian ending totally haunted me and made me REALLY upset when I was a 12-year-old tween. I guess the thing that helps undercut the loony slapstick stuff is that there’s this weird cynical edge to the movie.
Kristine: Sean. The Middle Ages thing was so dumb.
Sean: I have to vociferously disagree with that statement. I think the ending to this movie is one of the top 10 best endings to any movie, ever. Can you believe?
Kristine: I am dying!!!! SEAN!
Sean: Am I a blubbering nerd?
Sean: Well, deal with it. NERDPRIDE! The ending is so dark and evil and awesome!
Kristine: There were oldie tyme knights! ANYTHING with knights is dumb.
Sean: The point is not the knights all prithee-ing. The point is that Ash is stranded in a hellish medieval landscape forever! And all screaming “NOOOONOOOO.” It is total Twilight Zone awesomeness.
Kristine: I was yawning and holding my eyelids open with toothpicks.
Sean: I sort of hate you a little bit. It could have been any pre-industrial world! The knights don’t matter to the awesomeness.
Kristine: But it WASN’T any preindustrial world. It was Ye Olden Tymes and there were knights. That was the choice Raimi made! He chose knights.
Sean: YOU WATCHED GAME OF THRONES AND LOVED IT!
Kristine: I did not!
Sean: You said that you had fantasies about Jaime Lannister!
Kristine: Ha ha ha, nope.
Sean: You said you love how he is all incesty.
Kristine: You are lashing out at me!
Sean: Sorry. Well, I guess this is one of the reasons we cofounded this project right?
Sean: You have loved things I didn’t expect you to, and… then you’ve hated things I thought you’d dig.
Kristine: It’s funny to me that two of the movies I didn’t like that much are two of your faves. This movie and Carpenter’s The Thing.
Sean: We don’t talk about what you did to The Thing. What did you think of Linda turning into a Corpse Bridey dancing she-goblin, all Claymation dancing in the moonlight?
Kristine: That was good. That was in the first third, which I liked.
Sean: Can we talk about Annie Kneesocks?
Kristine: You never addressed my complaint about the retro continuity issue, but yes, we most certainly can.
Sean: No, let’s talk retcon. Why do you think Raimi did it?
Kristine: I do not know why. Do you think it is valid or lazy?
Sean: I mean, I think its fine. I do think he improved on the first movie in some ways, but also made an original film out of the same concept.
Kristine: See, I don’t see the originality, I guess. That’s my whole problem with it. Does he reboot the whole thing over again in Army of Darkness?
Sean: No, Army of Darknes is set in medieval times!
Kristine: Oh Jesus Christ. Maybe if I saw Evil Dead II first, and hadn’t seen the first movie, I would have liked this more.
Sean: Well, I actually think this one is a much more interesting movie than The Evil Dead. The first film is very misogynistic and it is all about the horror of writhing, bleeding female bodies.
Kristine: Umm, so is this! Henrietta?
Sean: That’s the thing! I want to talk about Henrietta…
Kristine: And the fact that Annie’s genius daddy doesn’t get turned into a Deadite but Henrietta does?
Sean: Sure. But Ash himself gets possessed here.
Kristine: That was the only part I found slightly interesting.
Sean: This movie is much more about the “enemy within” and the self splitting into distinct halves that battle it out for supremacy. The mirror stuff, the hand…
Kristine: I liked how all that could be seen as a commentary on violent men. Ash “snaps” and tries to harm Annie but then he “becomes himself again.”
Sean: Yes! I really find all that more interesting than the “unclean woman” hijinks of The Evil Dead. ALL bodies are permeable and unclean here, not just ladybodies. Ash himself is a threat to the group because he is “open” to invasion.
Kristine: Why doesn’t Prof. Daddy get turned then?
Sean: Well, that’s still problematic. Henrietta is the mother/vagina monster here, just like the one in Dead Alive.
Kristine: And the ladybodies are still far more dwelled upon then the dudes’.
Sean: I would argue with that assertion. Annie’s feather-haired preppie boyfriend Ed gets possessed and becomes a monstermouth almost right away.
Kristine: Are you really comparing that to the indignities done to Linda’s body?! Ed is onscreen for all of two minutes!
Sean: Okay, that’s true. The movie does compress all of the misogyny from the first film into the first twenty minutes with Linda’s corpse going berserk. But the way Linda is treated here has a real glint of inspired lunacy, unlike the first movie where (like we talked about originally) there is a really uncomfortable domestic violence metaphor to all of their interactions. This movie ramps up the demonic chutzpah by a lot. Linda’s head in the vice is awesomely hilarious! And while you’re right that the dismembering of Linda gets a lot of emphasis here, so does Ash’s own body, which is a big shift from the first film.
Kristine: Not in the same way, Sean.
Sean: I’m not saying the problems of the first movie are totally solved, they’re just more complicated and less reductive here.
Kristine: Fair enough. Let’s talk about Annie Kneesocks. HATED HER.
Sean: Annie Kneesocks is ridiculous and nowhere near as fabulous as Bobby Joe. Bobby Joe getting the eyeball in the mouth is a very famous sequence. Also, no tree rape here! Just tree death.
Kristine: I loved every moment Bobby Joe was in. Annie Kneesocks was a little snotty horseface.
Sean: Well, don’t you think she’s sort of desexualized because she’s (1) educated and (2) a yuppie? Because of her intellectual pursuits, her vagina is stuffed with medical cotton gauze and taped up.
Kristine: I think she is desexualized because she is deeply unsexy.
Sean: I think its class politics. What did you think of the redneck-mocking this movie took part in?
Kristine: Loved it.
Sean: Jake with Annie Kneesocks’ luggage on his back all, “Dern varmints!”
Kristine: Hee hee!
Sean: I thought it was crass and tasteless but I loved it.
Sean: But I do think that Raimi is a yuppie to the core.
Kristine: Oh, really?
Sean: Don’t you think? Remember how Drag Me to Hell was all about social climbing and gentrification? And this movie is about a family of elite white intellectuals who unleash demonic forces on rednecks and a working class hero. This movie is less explicit than The Evil Dead about Ash and Linda being college students. Here, in his torn blue button-down and power tools, I think Ash reads much more as a blue collar hero. And I think Raimi fetishizes the hell out of that.
Kristine: I have reason #4 this movie didn’t work for me. An evil wind zooming around is not scary.
Sean: But that was in the first one!
Kristine: Yeah, I know. I am wracking my brain trying to figure out exactly why this was such a disappointment for me.
Sean: Kristine, will you go to the Renaissance Faire with me?
Sean: Can we use this movie as an opportunity to reflect back on the past four weeks of splatter? It seems like you are not very pro-splatt.
Kristine: Yes, splatter is dull to me. Remember I was also bored during the big splatter scene at the end of Dead Alive, though the small gross-outs earlier in the movie amused me. I don’t think it is all that disgusting, I just find it boring.
Sean: Do you get a kick out of the actual gore effects at all?
Kristine: Not really.
Sean: Is it a boy thing to feel some deep sense of satisfaction watching fluid burst and gush? Like huge buckets of blood hitting people in the face?
Kristine: I don’t know, what do you say? Why is it so satisfying?
Sean: I mean, don’t you think splatter could easily be construed as deflected ejaculation? It’s like, the primal pleasure of cumming into someone’s face or all over their body.
Sean: Just like …. EXPLODING!
Kristine: I had not thought of that!
Sean: What if the song “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul had been “Gush, Gush” and it was about ejaculation parties?
Sean: I mean, it is part of the American sexual vernacular that guys like to come in people’s faces, right?
Kristine: Some ladies get like SO OFFENDED at the idea.
Sean: Right? Like it’s degrading.
Kristine: I mean, if the guy is setting out to degrade his partner, if the whole point is to debase them, then I’m not sure I approve. But…
Sean: The “submission” of getting a faceful of splooge is on the 2nd-wave feminist “List of Things Not Allowed!”
Kristine: Sex is supposed to be fun and naughty and wish-fulfilling. People should not be afraid of face-cumming.
Sean: Right. So then if that is your philosophy then why don’t you love SPLATSPLAT?
Kristine: I don’t know!
Sean: Isn’t this subgenre all about bodily wish fulfillment?
Kristine: After a while the sheer volume of blood/gore just becomes desensitizing and dull.
Kristine: If you were busting giant loads all day long you would get over it, right?
Sean: If I got to bust it into all kinds of different and insouciant faces, it would take a long time to get boring.
Kristine: HA HA HA HA HAHA!
Sean: Was Re-Animator your favorite of the four splatter pics we watched?
Kristine: Yes, definitely. Followed by Demons.
Sean: Well, can we wrap up with making one parallel? Henrietta and Mum from Dead Alive. Are these movies afraid of the source of life?
Kristine: I totally thought of that! Monstrous mums.
Sean: Both turn the womb into a desiccated and monstrous hellhole. Remember the huge vagina in Henrietta’s belly?
Kristine: It seems so, doesn’t it? And also don’t forget, Annie Kneesocks’ Dad (total RIMA) is trying to help them, whereas Henrietta is trying to destroy their souls.
Sean: I know! That voice of the patriarch from beyond the grave made me mad. And Phallic She-Daughter is all, “You got it, Pop!”
Kristine: I hated Ghost Dad and his science. Also, both Henrietta and Mum use maternal ties/guilt trips to achieve their evil goals.
Sean: I think the most common critique against the splatter genre is that is is for people whose development halted at the oral/anal stage.
Kristine: That definitely explains why you love it.
Kristine: I win! I love me! I am like, dancing around the room, fist pumping!
Sean: I rate this MASTERPIECE all GUSHING in your FACE.
Kristine: I rate this, This is a horror movie classic because… why, exactly?
Sean: I love it.
Kristine: We are in opposition!
Sean: This is too controversial.
Kristine: I know! Even Ebert loves this movie!
The Girl’s Rating: This is a horror classic because…why, exactly?
The Freak’s Rating: Masterpiece!