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Written by Sam Raimi (ED) and Sam Raimi & Scott Spiegel (ED2)

Directed by Sam Raimi

If any genre of film inspires lengthy and heated debates, I’d say it’s horror all the way. Its fans are passionate, intense people who have created cult followings of some of the greatest and weirdest films you’ll ever see. The genre exists solely to scare, shock, spoof and entertain audiences and us horror fans seek out the thrill of the haunted house or knife wielding maniac. As amazing and iconic as many of the films in the genre are, there have also been many (so so so many) terrible sequels that range from idiotic to just plain unwatchable. But luckily there are quite a few that still bring horror fans back to franchises they love. For example, one of my personal favourite movies of all time, ALIENS, is a sequel that I feel is better than the original, and far scarier. Most people refuse to believe that a sequel could be better than the original, especially when it has a different director behind the project, but like I said, us horror fans love a good argument.


Sam Raimi’s 1981 film, THE EVIL DEAD (not to be confused with the 2013 remake EVIL DEAD), has long since stood on many “best of” horror lists, and you’d have a hard time finding any horror fan who hasn’t seen it at least a dozen times. But then in 1987, Raimi decided to release a sequel to his intensely popular film, and the debates over which film was better began, and still go on to this day. EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN is a different beast all together, and sets the tone for the third installment in the trilogy, ARMY OF DARKNESS. But which of the two original films is better? While it’s always going to be a matter of personal taste, and I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t read or heard before, having recently watched both films back to back, I think I have finally come to a decision.THE EVIL DEAD to this day is still one of the freakiest movies you’ll ever see; its horror is unrelenting, its gore is plentiful and the storyline was original. Often imitated, spoofed and played homage to, Raimi’s movie remains a classic in the genre and a favorite among films fans. What starts out as five friends heading to a cabin in the woods for a good time, ends up in total bloodshed and raped-by-trees madness when the passages from the Necronomicon (the fictional book of the dead) are read aloud and demons are summoned into the woods. One by one, each character is possessed by the evil spirit lurking in the woods until there is one, Ash (Bruce Campbell) who is left alone and driven to madness. Or so one could assume.

evil_dead_iiAs if all the blood, gore and terror we the audience are subjected to wasn’t enough, we are left with one of the most terrifying and bleak endings of the franchise (and quite possibly of any horror movie from the 80’s). Each time I watch this film I find myself unnerved by the ending, that moment seconds before it cuts to the credits gets me every time.

Not only is this film absolutely effective in what it sets out to achieve (thrills and chills!), it is a testament to low-budget independent filmmaking in America. It proved that big budgets and large studio backing weren’t needed to create something that would appeal to audiences worldwide and achieve commercial success. And if horror fans know one thing, it is that the genre is rife with low-budget crap. So how was Raimi able to do it so successfully? I have no idea. But I’m sure it has a lot to do with the great team in front of, and behind the cameras who were just excited about doing something new.

Now, I generally don’t put a lot of stock to IMDB user ratings, because what a 16 year old girl from the middle of nowhere likes to watch and what I like are going to be completely different (ok, not always, but mostly). But here, with EVIL DEAD 2, it is interesting to see that it holds a 7.9 rating while the original is slightly lower at 7.6. It may not be much of a difference but it is enough to reveal that fans prefer the sequel to the original. Interesting? I happen to think so.

Evil Dead II (1987) Directed by Sam Raimi Shown: Bruce Campbell

EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN acts as both a kind of recap/remake and a direct sequel of the original, but makes some changes that would be the divisive factor for most people. Like most great sequels (ex. THE GODFATHER 2), the general tone of the franchise is kept true to the original, after all, it might be one of the things that brings an audience back. Imagine if the sequel to THE GODFATHER was say, GET SHORTY, it wouldn’t quite have the same effect. EVIL DEAD 2 has some great moments of stop motion animation, gore and slap stick humour, but it’s where the series moved into camp status. There is one scene featuring Campbell that is reminiscent of the “Make ’em Laugh” number by the late (and great) Donald O’Connor in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. It works in a musical comedy, but in a horror? The general camp tone of the second film is what set me off the most, and since I am a sucker for classics, I’ve got to say that the better of the two EVIL DEAD movies is the original.

Love it or hate it, it is a horror classic for a reason. You can compare for yourself on August 9th when TIFF screens THE EVIL DEAD and then on August 16th when its sequel screens. Let us know what you think!

For more information and for tickets, please visit And for BSR’s take on THE GODFATHER VS. THE GODFATHER PART II or our take on BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, click the title.

One Comment

  1. Like Nick said, it’s really a matter of taste…

    That being said, the best HORROR movie of the two is “The Evil Dead”; but the best ALL-AROUND MOVIE of the two is definitely “Dead By Dawn” – faster pacing, better re-watching value.

    So the IMDb scores makes complete sense to me.

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