Dead by Dawn: Evil Dead 2 and how it almost never came to be.

1981’s Evil Dead was a shot in the arm for the horror genre. Coming completely out of left field from a team of young guys with a DIY ethos & tons of heart, it completely won over the horror community with its relentless assault on a shoestring. Courting much praise it spawned two sequels, Evil Dead 2 & Army of Darkness. Everyone has their favourite out of the trilogy, mine has to be the sequel, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.

The sequel came in 1987, once again directed by Sam Rami and bringing with him ‘his DeNero’ Bruce Campbell, returning as erstwhile hero/punchbag Ash.

An altogether different prospect to its predecessor, Evil Dead 2 decided to inject some much needed humour into the series after the outright horror of the first film. Instead it chose to play on the strengths of its lead Bruce Campbell, a man with an uncanny ability at physical comedy who would take anything his director threw at him, putting his own body on the line to make his audience laugh. Brilliant, almost Keystone Cops style prat falls and slapstick were the name of the game on this film. On its own this form of humour may have come across quite dated, combined with horror, it was an inspired change of direction, one that almost never came to pass if not for a big fan.

Rami had big ideas for Evil Dead 2, he saw a sequel that would send Ash back to medieval times to fight the deadite scourge, he estimated to achieve this he would need a budget of $4 million, at least. Helped to the screen by celebrity fan of the original, Stephen King, who convinced Italian super producer Dino DeLaurentiis to fund the proposed sequel, stumping up $3.6 million, a world away from the $350 thousand Rami scraped together and made the original for.  Having to scrap his original sequel idea and write a more cost effective treatment, Rami’s dream of a medieval dead would have to wait, for a little while at least.

This money from DeLaurentiis enabled Rami to improve upon the effects for this film. Though Evil Dead was critically praised, the effects were not up to scratch, simply the best he could afford, he knew he wanted better this time round so he went to the best. 

Greg Nicotero, fresh off of his work on George Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead’, came onboard to do prosthetics work on Evil Dead 2 along with Robert Kurtzman & Howard Berger who he would later form effects house KNB with. Coming up with such genius creations as Evil Ash, Henrietta, the possessed hand and Massive Evil tree-thing (I think that’s it’s official title) alongside Ramis trademark camera work made Evil Dead 2 an insanely good looking follow up, I know it’s not all about aesthetics but with a significant boost in visual finesse from Evil Dead, it certainly didn’t hinder the film.

Followed by one last sequel ‘Army of Darkness’ in which Rami finally got his wish of sending Ash back to them days, a decent reboot of the Original in 2013 and most recently the TV series ‘Ash vs The Evil Dead’ which is about to start its second season, it is clear that there is certainly a lot more life left in the world Sam Rami has created yet.

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