***½/**** Image C+ Sound B Extras A
starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake
screenplay by Chuck Pfarrer and Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Dan Goldin & Joshua Goldin
directed by Sam Raimi
by Walter Chaw Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II is among the best American films of the 1980s. It's audacious and ingenious, the kind of movie people describe as having been made by the seat of one's pants--the kind of movie that's doomed to be underestimated because its genre is disreputable and its sensibilities are too cartoonish. Indeed, the energy in Raimi's early, best work is akin to Tex Avery and Three Stooges, but he controls it, wields it; the anti-David O. Russell. Only in Crimewave does he overuse that muscle. In Evil Dead II, the humour is low, there is absolutely no shame, and in a real way, the picture encapsulates what was delirious and sloppy about '80s blockbuster cinema. It's a thing of beauty, exaggerated pathos, and Wagnerian derring-do. Raimi followed it in 1990 with what's essentially a rebuttal to Tim Burton's Batman, the "biggest movie of the moment" from the year before. Batman was the first salvo in a barrage of prestige "pulp" entertainments that presented the Comic Book as "A" material; Raimi drags it back into "B," at least for a little while. His movies are EC and off-Code and Bernie Wrightson and Jack Davis and Al Williamson, while Burton's are German Expressionism and sad, sometimes inscrutably solipsistic tales of Oyster Boys. Raimi, in 1990, made the best comic-book movie there ever was, a title only challenged by Raimi's own Spider-Man 2: Darkman.