31 Days of Halloween 4 – Secrets of the Necronomicon
I don’t need to tell a horror fan that Evil Dead 2 (1987) is a good movie, so instead I’m going to look at some of the dark background and the secrets of the book used in the film, the Necronomicon. This fictional book is the source of Ash’s problems in Evil Dead 2 and the beginning of the film explains its history very briefly. The film doesn’t need all that much detail though, because the book is evil and it is a portal to other worlds, and that’s all that we need.
The full title of the book given by the narrator is Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which he explains translates to Book of the Dead. It is a book borrowed directly from HP Lovecraft and his writings. Sam Raimi was reportedly a Lovecraft fan, but changed some of the book’s primary traits and details to fit his movies. In effect, it’s the same book pretty much.
According to the movie, the book was written long ago. A date is never given, but the book dates to ancient or Medieval times, a time-period mysterious and old enough to be responsible for it. The narrator explains that the book served as a “passageway” to the evil worlds beyond. This can be taken quite literally, as the finale of the movie shows, where Ash is sucked into a portal to another world. However, the movie also uses the book as a catalyst for evil creatures, possessions, and other weirdness.
The narrator explains that the book was written when the “seas ran red with blood”. This is possibly a Biblical allusion, or a reference to the Hundred Years War. Coincidentally, the Yangtze River in China turned blood red in 2012, but no one had any real explanation. It has changed colors in the past thanks to runoff that occurs due to heavy rainfall. The river used in the movie can be assumed to be more evil in origin. The narrator explains that the blood from the sea was used to ink the book.
Several pages are then shown with occult-like symbols, demonic references, and human skulls. The movie quickly flips through many pages in the book and slams closed with an ominous final thud. The narrator explains that the book was lost in 1300 AD, although how it ends up in a cabin in the woods is touched on in the first film, The Evil Dead (1981). A professor found it and began studying it, as described in the first film. Evil Dead 2 expands on this history, giving a name to the generic professor and expands on his discoveries. Ash finds a tape-recording and the professor explains that the book speaks of a “thing” of evil that roams the forest, a dark spirit that can possess the living. Ash unleashes the evil when he plays the professor’s translations.
One of the first pages shown in the book depicts a human skull. It is surrounded by a snake and a black raven, symbols of death. Strange writing appears on the pages as the introduction goes on for another few minutes, etching its way across the pages. The first page though, is our introduction to powers that want to kill Ash and his friends. The skull illustrates death pretty vividly and stares us right in the face.
The pages turn and we can see a mass of symbols being written like a foreign language. Many of the symbols look like cuneiform, the language of Sumeria. This could be a direct reference to the first movie, where the book is described as Sumerian in origin. This gives it an even more ancient origin. The only other image on the pages is that of a web, which is more dark imagery.
The third series of pages show a medical study. The first page on the left shows the deterioration of a human arm, perhaps due to the torturous power of the Necronomicon. Some notes scribbled below the arms make it look like a medical study of the arm’s atrophy. The third image is of the skeletal remains and we can see that the arm’s muscles and tissues have somehow been lost. The adjacent page shows a demon and its tail, wings, and torso. Whether this is Cthulhu is never explained, but the connection between the arm and the demon is pretty obvious. The two don’t mix well.
The fourth series of pages show some bones and hands, of human victims or of human remains. This is foreshadowing and an allusion to the supernatural forces that will attack Ash. The pictures might also show the demons themselves, as they take control of humans and warp the human form. The pages with the decapitated head are the ones we see Ash flipping through in the actual movie. He is horrified, obviously.
Next, one of the more interesting pages shows a sword, medical tools, and the movie’s famous evil trees. Women are attacked in the first two Evil Dead movies by these trees. These gross scenes use a warped version of the Tree of Life, which is probably why it has misogynistic overtones. The Tree of Life is supposed to have caring, healing properties, but the trees in Evil Dead 2 are out to warp life, like the opposite message. It is a metaphor for an invading evil. Totally gross.
The tools are more interesting. There are knives, picks, and other Medieval medical equipment pictured, like you might find in a history book. There are a pair of pointed forceps, hooks, and a corkscrew of all things. The allusion is to pain is quite obvious, but the pictures also reference Egyptian rituals and early doctors, reminding us what pain was really like before modern medicine took over.
Maybe the strangest pages are those that flip by at the end of the introduction. They show many images in quick succession, which are meant to reference the occult and other symbolic pictures. The moon is one of the largest pictures in the whole book and the phases of the moon are underneath. This is probably a quick reference to moon phase magic, paganism, or other rituals. The huge picture of the moon itself is very detailed and shows lines, craters, and other spots. HP Lovecraft often used the moon in his literature during passages about dark rituals. The moon has a strange, eerie nature, especially because it is a constant in the night sky. Night is often associated with evil.
Bound in human flesh, the Necronomicon is probably the most famous horror prop ever. It has much more history and detail than what is shown in the movie and what I have covered here. It is used as the source of evil to inspire attacks on Ash and his friends. It is more of a MacGuffin in Army of Darkness, the next film in the Evil Dead series. As something created to inspire horror and dread, it does its job.
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)