Genre is the type or category of a media product. Each genre has its own set of codes and conventions that are recognisable to audiences. They are what place the product in that particular genre. Fowler argues that the audiences learn these conventions overtime through unconscious familiarisation. However, overtime genres can blend together and create hybrid genres such as rom-coms or horror comedies such as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. In this essay, I will be discussing what typical genre conventions are situated in Evil Dead 2 and how it could possibly subvert audiences' expectations.
The horror genre has been a popular one for decades. This could be due to the fact that “Horror is a universal language; we're all afraid. We're born afraid, we're all afraid of things” …”So everybody feels fear and suspense” according to John Carpenter. With sophisticated thrillers such as Psycho and Peeping Tom in the early 1960’s to the brutal torture porn of Saw and Hostel it shows that the horror genre consistently reinvents itself. This can connect with how the horror genre can have many aspects that can terrify audiences which leads to sub genres, which have their own codes and conventions, such as supernatural horrors (the antagonist may be someone not of this world’) or can be a slasher film (blood, murder spree, savage deaths). Due to the interbreeding of these sub genres it can lead to hybrid genres where the film overlays into two genres- a ‘rom-com’ for instance which blends the codes and conventions of the romance ad comedy genres. Furthermore, hybrid genre films can generate more participation from the public. This could lead to a bigger audience impact better success in the cinema as it can attract fans of both genres. Also, this can allow filmmakers to be able to reach creative possibilities which wouldn’t be possible if they have to stick to one genre.
Horror films have multiple codes and conventions that are expected from audiences. One of the biggest codes of horror (and of all films) is ‘Binary Oppositions’ . This is because there always needs to be some friction in order for the film to progress with its narrative. The binary opposition in Evil Dead 2 is the humans vs the dead. This opposition causes the narrative to move along as the humans are fighting to stay alive and not to be killed and tortured by the brutal force. The binary oppositions in this film keeps in-line with the horror genre as the biggest outcome from the fighting will be death which is one of the biggest themes of horror as it is one of the things that frighten people the most. Also, the violence that comes with all the murder and fighting is a big theme of horror as well.
Another code and convention that is used within the horror genre is The Hero’s journey. This journey is normally taken from the main character of the film and entails multiple stages in which the character becomes the hero. This is expected by audiences as they expect the whole film to be resolved at the end and for the evil spirits to be gone. Ash doesn’t go on the hero’s journey in my opinion as he tries to be the hero all the way through since he has been fighting all the creatures and spirits since the beginning of the film. However, another character that could loosely fit onto the hero’s journey is Annie Knowby as she becomes the one who sends the evil away through her recite of a passage from ‘The Book of the Dead”. She’s the one who technically saves the day meaning that the evil dead didn’t follow through with their threat of taking over the world. The fact she is seen as the hero can signify to the audience that she is possibly the ‘Final Girl’. This makes he audience believe that she is going to be the one to stay alive at the end and will have defeated the evil. However, this doesn’t happen since Annie is stabbed by Ash’s demonic, amputated hand.
Most films, books, tv shows etc follow the equilibrium theory by Todorov. This narrative theory has been used since the early 1800’s in which Todorov did his research in to the fairy tales of that time and they all seemed to follow a similar pattern; they start with an equilibrium where everything is normal and fine but then is changed by a disruption. This disruption is followed by recognition of the change and then there is an attempt to repair and to be able to progress to a new equilibrium. Evil Dead 2 follows this to an extent. For instance, the equilibrium is where Ash and his girlfriend Linda go to a seemingly empty isolated cabin in the woods for a weekend. This equilibrium is disrupted by the killing of his girlfriend due to the dead being able to rise up after playing Annie’s dad’s tape recording. The attempt to repair is when Ash and the other humans try get rid of these spirits and monsters through killing them. A new equilibrium is achieved but only by Ash as he is transported to medieval times since everyone else died in the cabin and the woods. This ending of time travel can possibly put Evil Dead 2 in the sci-fi genre as well since time travel is mostly associated with this genre. This ending can subvert audience expectations as they were expecting a normal ending in which Ash finds his way back to civilisation in order to tell people the atrocities that occurred in the woods.
Evil Dead 2 can be typically seen as a horror film as it uses all the codes and conventions such as murder, death, blood, isolation etc. These elements create an expectation in the audience as they expect to be scared from what they are seeing. This anticipation can be built up more due to the fact that Evil Dead 2 is a sequel to The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead creates a pretence of that the sequel will be the same as the first. However, Evil Dead 2 has more of a comedic element to it but still upholds the gruesome gore that the first instalment included. This change of genre between the two films can subvert audience expectations as they were expecting less comedy like the first. This can create a split in the audience as they will be audience members who like the comedy aspect and those who do not. This is seen in Roger Egbert’s review of Evil Dead 2 when he states that “Level One viewers will say it's in bad taste. Level Two folks like myself will perceive that it is about bad taste” in reference to the change of direction Evil Dead 2 takes from The Evil Dead.
As mentioned previously, Evil Dead 2 can be seen as a comedy film as well as a horror film. This is presented many times within the film such as when Ash is still alone in the cabin and all the objects seem to move and laugh at/with him. However, even though this may be funny for the audience it may be a sign of Ash’s mental state quickly deteriorating. The use of slapstick comedy within Evil Dead 2 can be a throwback to director Sam Raimi and main actor Bruce Campbell’s younger years where they would make short comedies as stated in an interview with Raimi. The use of slapstick comedy can subvert audience expectations in a horror film since horror films are supposed to be more serious as they are meant to terrify audiences and comedy doesn’t really fit into that aspect since finding something funny and finding something scary are two totally juxtaposing emotions.
In conclusion, Evil Dead 2 can subvert audience expectations in a lot of ways. As mentioned beforehand, the use of comedy isn’t usually situated in a horror film as they are two contrasting genres. However, Evil Dead 2 makes the two genres seem very compatible with one another. In addition to this, the narrative of the film both can subvert the audience expectations and correspond with the codes and conventions of the horror genre and the comedy genre. Such as the blood and gore of the horror genre and the laughs and short sayings such as Ash’s reaction to when he has all his weapons shows that Evil Dead 2 have a good element of both genres.