August 6, 2010

Return of the Evil Dead (1973)

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Return of the Evil Dead (1973)

(aka Return of the Blind Dead )
(aka El ataque de los muertos sin ojos)

Director: Amando de Ossorio

3.5 / 5 zedheads

Not quite a sequel, not quite a reboot, Return of the Evil Dead is nevertheless the second installment in the Blind Dead franchise. Picking up the action and intensifying the dread, the Blind Dead hit the town in full force in a far more accomplished and exciting film than its predecessor.

Mmmmm. Just like Mamma used to make.
I was not thrilled with Tombs of the Blind Dead, but Return of the Evil Dead is by far a more enjoyable horror film. Retconing the origin of the Blind Dead by naming them as Knights Templar involved in witchcraft who have their eyes burned out before being murdered, the film fast-forwards to "modern day" where the townsfolk are planning to celebrate the historic torching of the Knights Templar with a burning in effigy, booze, and a big ole party.

Greet and Meet Your Meat
Jack Marlowe (Tony Kendall), the Spanish Hugh Jackman, comes into town to operate the fireworks for the festivities. Hired by the spineless Mayor Duncan (Fernando Sancho), Jack does not expect to find his ex-lover Vivian (Esperanza Roy) fixing to marry the mayor in a union of financial convenience. Jack was hired to bring the fireworks for the celebration, but he unexpectedly rekindles the fire in Vivian's heart. They conspire to run away together but their plans are waylaid when village-reject Murdo (José Canalejas) summons up the Knights Templar. The Blind Dead rise again from the ruined abbey and mount their steeds to lay waste to the revelling villagers. The blood and gore, by no means excessive, is nevertheless far more accomplished than the last outing of the Knights.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Stephen King
If you thought the Knights looked awesome on horses in Tombs of the Blind Dead, they spend the majority of this  film on horseback hacking and slashing at the townsfolk and boxing people into traps. The Blind Dead, overall, don't look much different but act much more robustly. They invade homes. They smash in windows. They cavort and gallop. I love it! Where I felt Tombs of the Blind Dead lacked dread, Return of the Evil Dead manages to make use of the situation by barricading strangers in a home while the Blind Dead lay siege outside. In this way, Return of the Evil Dead works more like a conventional zombie film as the characters' personal conflicts splinter the group and make them easy pickings for the sinister Templars.

Hi-ho. Hi-ho. It's off to work we go.
Return of the Evil Dead is still not a very engrossing film. There are whole sections you can miss without losing out on anything integral to the plot. If watching the Spanish version as I did, you don't even need to read all the subtitles to follow the trajectory of the film. On the other hand, it's a fun bit of disposable horror entertainment with a larger and more interesting cast than the first film. Finally, this does the Knights justice by letting them get down to bloody business on a larger scale.