Written and directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Starring: Tony Kendall, Fernando Sancho, Esperanza Roy & Jose Canalejas
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“You think you’ve defeated us, but we’re immortal. We shall rise from the dead to seek revenge.”
As maligned as sequels are in the horror genre, there sure are a lot of entertaining Part IIs. Oftentimes deemed unnecessary, further installments in a popular horror franchise (or unpopular one, for that matter) have always been welcomed by me. Sure, they may not always stack up against their original counterpart, but the opportunity to continue the story of or even surpass the quality of the original is always there. Without a doubt, the odds are always stacked against the each and every sequel in every franchise, but without people taking a second kick at the can, we’d never have classics such as the original Dawn of the Dead, Bride of Frankenstein and Evil Dead II. Of course, while gems as Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Hellraiser 2 and Blood Feast II do justice to their originals, many like The Exorcist 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 completely miss the mark. Basically, heads you win, tails you lose. With the success of Tombs of the Living Dead, Amando de Ossorio decided to try his luck one more time with a sequel to his Euro classic. Will we see another Halloween 2 (1981) or will we have to sit through something more along the lines of Slumber Party Massacre 2 (God bless it)?
In a place known as… Bouzano (wasn’t it Berzano in the last film? Perhaps it’s the town over), the citizens have finally captured the satanic Knights Templar and bring them to their justice after years of torment. After declaring their immortality, the townsfolk decide to burn all their eyes out so they can’t find their way back to their humble little place of residence. Flash forward a few centuries and the citizens of Bouzano are still celebrating their victory of the Templars and hold annual festivals to mark the occasion. But, this year will be the year the Templars make their return as town nutjob Murdo (José Canalejas) viciously slays a young woman on the graves of one of the warlocks. With some stock footage shamelessly taken from the original (good thing it’s good stuff), the Templars rise to wreak havoc on Bouzano once again and take their revenge hundreds of years in the making…
Return of the Evil Dead is a very different, very commendable sequel to the original Spanish gem. In the eighties, sequels would try to one up the last with more tits, more ass and more hack and slash, but director Amando de Ossorio clued into this a decade earlier with a Blind Dead film that outdoes the original in terms of violence at every level. The original was a slow moving, moody piece that focused on a small group of friends and portrayed the Templars as a mysterious, sloth moving, almost unstoppable pack. In this sequel, the action has been turned up to eleven and the tone is changed considerably. The Templars may be the villains on the screen, but de Ossorio definitely realizes that their unique appearances and movements are what the audience has paid to see. Like Jason from Friday the 13th would appear more and more as the series went on; the Blind Dead come out in full force in long, exciting sequences that will leave fans proud to own this film.
At the end of the original, the audience is still left in the dark as to how to stop the deadly cult corpses, but the townsfolk discover rather early on that the Templars are afraid of fire. They still hunt by sound, but their hearing must be going in their old ages; they can’t track victims by heartbeat in this one. They’ve gotten a lot better with the sword, though, as the townsfolk wooden pitchforks are no match for their speedy skeleton horses and long, heavy blades that slice and dice slasher style through the town’s celebration of the anniversary of their deaths. All this action makes Return a perfect popcorn flick with enough gross-out gore parts to keep the ladies eyes covered and enough smoke exerting graves spitting out nasty old Templars to make an old school gothic fan tip his hat in applause.
Whereas the original was more, well, original, Return of the Evil Dead makes no bones about being a Night of the Living Dead inspiration as the main characters capital trait is deception as most go behind one another’s backs to try to make it out alive. In the most disgusting scene (which outdoes a similar scene in the original), the mayor of the town uses a young girl as a pawn to try to get to a car and make it out of this living hell alive. Oh yeah, I was really happy to see that fucker die. While we’re drawing parallels, it’s hard not to compare the much maligned Halloween 6 scene involving Michael Myers crashing the Haddonville Halloween party with the Templars’ own ultimate genocide of virtually an entire town at the celebration held year by year in their dishonour. With the arrival of the Templars, we get lots and lots of arterial spray and a decapitation for the ages.
Blue Underground’s DVD involves two cuts of the film, just like the original Tombs disc. English and Spanish cuts are both presented in 16 x 9 widescreen and both cuts have their flaws with the Spanish cut being much worse off this time around in a very middling, grainy, noisy, dark transfer. Unfortunately, the uncut Spanish version is the one to see, so fans will have to eat crow on this one, but it's still anamorphic, so it's still worth the dough. The audio is mono and clear with a pop here or there, but overall as good as a low budget mono track usually is. Special features are sparse with only a trailer and stills, but fans of the series will surely want the limited edition box set featuring many more goodies. With more bloodletting, more Templars and more action with a good gothic touch, Return of the Evil Dead is a terrific sequel to Tombs of the Blind Dead. And with an ending that is as tense as anything the horror genre has ever seen, you’d better Buy it!
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