Legend has it that the Necronomicon, the “Book of the Dead,” was written by the dark ones to become a passageway to the evil worlds from beyond. It was inked from the seas of blood long ago, prior to 1300 A.D., before it mysteriously disappeared. In the present day, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) vacation to an isolated cabin in the woods. As the sun sets, Ash finds an old recording from a professor of ancient history, who recounts his discovery of the Book of the Dead and recites cursed text (demon resurrection passages) which unleashes evil spirits hidden deep in the boscage. Seconds later, his girlfriend is attacked by the incorporeal demons and he’s forced to rather casually lop off Linda’s head with a blunt shovel – then bury her remains in the forest. He’s similarly assaulted by the antagonistic fiends and momentarily possessed before the sun comes up, granting him a few minutes of peace.
It’s short-lived, however, as Ash attempts to make a run for it only to discover that the bridge they used to get to the house has been completely torn up. He retreats back to the haunted cabin where Linda’s body unearths itself and torments him with a ghastly dance. The decapitated head also comes back to attack him, forcing him to drag it into the tool shed, lock it down with a vice, and further mutilate it with a chainsaw. It’s merely the beginning as the bodiless hellions continue to torment and torture the trapped victim. Meanwhile, Annie (Sarah Berry), the daughter of the professor, recovers a few missing pages from the Book of the Dead and enlists the help of Ed (Richard Domeier) to translate the writings. They journey to her father’s cabin, employing two grungy locals, Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley), to guide them via a secluded trail. All are completely unprepared for what evil awaits them.
Six years later, the acting is still dreadful. This time, Ash is alone in the cabin right from the start, playing mind games with himself and combating a possessed appendage. He’s eventually joined by more fodder for the wicked spirits, but now he’s the one imprisoned in the basement (and at random intervals he’s a possessed beast himself). The humor is less pitch black, occasionally peeking into the daffy range of self-awareness, exploiting the accidental comedy that helped make the first film such a unique experiment. Oddly, “Evil Dead II” is very much a remake of director Sam Raimi’s original cult classic gorefest, following an incredibly similar plotline, with nearly identical happenings, while at the same time serving as a sequel of sorts (despite a confusing recap, it roughly picks up where the previous movie left off, although Ash doesn’t seem like he knows what is going on – as if he forgot what happened in “The Evil Dead”). The follow-up, “Army of Darkness” certainly finishes off the strange conclusion to this middle chapter, but again must alter the opening to redefine a few details.
The hyperkinetic, aggressive camerawork returns, frequently from the point of view of rapidly moving monsters or objects. Ash reasons for the audience by talking to himself and characters fail to act as if in any real danger. Like the first film, it still feels sloppy, as if not all the concepts were carefully planned out. Some of it seems entirely spontaneous, but not in a good way. If “The Evil Dead” was a horror film that seemed funny due to its low budget, “Evil Dead II” is a full-blown comedy that is randomly haphazardly scary thanks to a couple of outrageous bloodbaths, a few jump scares, and grander, more gruesome creature and makeup effects. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s simply a louder, more obnoxious redo of the first film, muddying up the incomplex plot of otherworldly possession and culminating in utter nonsense. When viewed together with “The Evil Dead” and “Army of Darkness,” “Evil Dead II” is a failed attempt to bridge the gap between a successful scary movie and a hilariously satirical spoof of the horror genre.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)