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Movie Review : Laughs Amid Gore In 'Dead By Dawn'

March 13, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

With "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" (citywide), young Detroit film maker Sam Raimi takes us back to that accursed cabin in the Michigan woods for more gore--and more laughs.

"Dead by Dawn" isn't so much a sequel as an elaborate replay of the original; happily, Raimi and co-writer Scott Spiegel's unflagging inventiveness and humor keep us from feeling we've seen it all before--even when we know we have.

Raimi is such a whiz at hurtling objects, you have to believe that the inevitable third installment is going to be in 3-D. Mysterious gusts of wind knock people around with tornado force. Trees uproot and take flight in lethal trajectories. But then trees can also choke, just as vines can strangle.

"Dead by Dawn" is also at times a kind of ballet of dismemberment. A possessed hand, hacked off in desperation, continues with a lethal, creepy life of its own. A rotting female corpse pirouettes elegantly, even though its severed head only occasionally stays on its shoulders. There are images of satanic grace that actually recall Bosch, thanks to the darkly mischievous power of Raimi's bizarre imagination (and a truly sensational design-and-special-effects team to give it full rein).

But just when things start getting too grisly, Raimi rushes in with a hilarious, sendup joke to remind us that all this blood and guts is meant in spooky Grand Guignol fun.

Lantern-jawed Bruce Campbell is back, again playing a hapless young guy who convinces his girlfriend (Denise Bixler) that it's OK to shack up in this tumbledown cabin. But we know better--and you'd think he would too. We remember that this is the place where that fool archeologist has been translating his great find, the Book of the Dead, reciting into a tape all the ancient words used to awaken evil spirits--hungering to inhabit living flesh. All it takes is the flip of a tape-recorder switch to turn Earth into hell all over again.

"Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn" (Times-rated Mature because it is far too intense for youngsters) never lets up, continually introducing new characters and adding new thrills and chills right up to the last frame. As a film maker, Raimi is a dynamo who knows how to make a movie as cinematic as possible.

"Dead by Dawn" is a terrific trip, although admittedly not one that everybody would enjoy taking.

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