Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Dead By Dawn

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 16, 2000

Better go back into that happy house. Hope there’s coffee.

Special features

Cast Information5
Commentary Track5
Featurette6
Photo Gallery5
Trailer4

Ash is unable to escape after his first night, and ends up spending another night in the cabin in the woods... along with a strange archaeologist’s daughter. Sam Raimi makes another funny gorefest.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorSam Raimi
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating8
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen
  • Pan and Scan

This is almost a straight sequel to “Evil Dead”. Like “Army of Darkness”, it plays fast and loose with the previous movie. Ash no longer went out with a bunch of friends, he only went out with his girlfriend. The bridge, instead of crossing a river that could probably be forded in the daytime, crosses a huge chasm with a sheer cliff on both sides, which obviously cannot. This keeps Ash at the cabin for a second night.

The first ten minutes or so of the movie recap the events of “Evil Dead I”. The scenes, however, were completely refilmed. I’ve heard elsewhere that Raimi and company had to do this for contractual reasons: they either didn’t have the rights to the first film, or they didn’t have some other rights that they needed. Doesn’t really matter, since they ended up changing things around anyway. But it did apparently confuse a few fans, who thought that Ash was stupid enough to go out to the cabin a second time! The confusion was probably aided by the fairly major differences between the “recap” and the actual original.

I am not normally a fan of horror movies. But every five years or so someone does horror in a new way that’s fresh and exciting. “Hallowe’en”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, and “Evil Dead”. I never cared for “Hallowe’en” or “Elm Street” past the first of their series, but “Evil Dead” has me hooked for all three movies. I actually saw “Army of Darkness” first, and then searched out the earlier movies. “Dead by Dawn” ends that search.

“Dead by Dawn” is a funny horror movie. It riffs off of old Warner Brothers’ cartoons, the Three Stooges, and other old style comedy items. Unlike “Army of Darkness,” however, which was more of an adventure than a horror film, “Dead by Dawn” managed to keep me on the edge throughout. It’s like the wise-cracking professional who nevertheless turns serious when the crisis hits. The special effects are pretty good for what they needed to do—and I often guessed wrong about what was real and what wasn’t. If you liked the old Harryhausen style of animation, you’ll feel at home watching “Dead by Dawn”.

One of the more interesting scenes was when the “new blood” came upon Ash and his bloody chainsaw. Obviously, they think he’s a murderous nutcase (and by this time, he probably is, but that’s the only sane way to be when your girlfriend’s head is in your lap talking to you). I would have actually liked to see that played out some more, but it was refreshing to see it at all. The “new blood” is the previous cabin owners’ daughter and her boyfriend, and the locals who guided them to the cabin (the bridge was out, after all). The daughter, like her father, is an archaeologist, and guess what book she has a few pages from?

As on all of the Evil Dead movies, the creators love talking about the movie. On the commentary track Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell (co-producer, besides being the lead actor), writer Scott Spiegel and special effects artist Greg Nicotero talk about how the movie was made and the people in the movie. In at least one scene this really enhances the gore. Wait until you see the Henrietta Hag fly across the room after hearing the commentary talk about how hot the suit was! Gag me!

Adding to the commentary is a special effects featurette, “The Gore the Merrier”, that describes in more detail how some of the special effects were done. This is wonderful. It shows in detail how some of the costumes were made and how some of the simpler effects were created. Hell, it makes me want to go out and do my own movie! And then there’s the surprise twist ending on the featurette… if you like Evil Dead II, you’ll love the sense of humor on these folks.

The photo gallery is lacking a bit. It’s pretty much the same as any photo gallery. Half of them are stills from the movie, which are interesting in a magazine but here we actually have the movie as well, so what’s the point? The other half are photos from the production, which are a bit more interesting. Still, I didn’t see anything in there that wasn’t also in the featurette.

The cast information lists info on Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. If you’re a fan, you probably already know most of this stuff: how they started out, what they’ve been doing, and a list of their credits. Slightly better than more “cast info” extras.

Besides all that, there is an advert for a video game called “Hail to the King”. Looks to be pretty well based on “Dead by Dawn”.

Yeah, if you’re a fan of this movie, you’ll want this disk. Sam Raimi’s a weird one, I don’t know of any other director who has made a series out of horror/comedy, where both horror and comedy are the focus of the movie. He’s not making fun of horror movies, he’s just having fun with them, and making a jumpy movie that’s also funny as hell. I don’t even understand how it hits me on both levels, but it does. If you’re going to watch only one Evil Dead movie and you want the horror, this is probably the one. (If you just want the funniness and you don’t want the horror, see “Army of Darkness”.)

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorSam Raimi
ActorBruce Campbell
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesNone
Special FeaturesCast Information, Commentary Track, Featurette, Photo Gallery, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Dead By Dawn…

If you enjoy Bruce Campbell, you might also be interested in Army of Darkness and The Evil Dead.

If you enjoy Evil Dead, you might also be interested in Army of Darkness and The Evil Dead.

If you enjoy horror, you might also be interested in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien, Halloween, Scream, The Evil Dead, and Hell House.

If you enjoy Sam Raimi, you might also be interested in Army of Darkness and The Evil Dead.