Return Of The Evil Dead, despite its rather questionably ripped off title, is a pretty solid sequel to the highly regarded Italian horror classic Tombs Of The Blind Dead. It is also known under the title of Return of the Blind Dead, which annoys me less. It's a baroque, gothic horror romp with some delightfully cheesy characters and some delightfully nasty gore. Basically, it's everything you would expect from the European horror scene at the time.
The back story of the Blind Dead (horse-riding zombies in Ringwraith-style cloaks) is covered in some detail by way of a flashback to the 13th century, and then we're brought into the 1970s and all of the fashion horrors that you can stomach. If the clothes and the hair of the time weren't enough to turn your stomach, then maybe some of the rather well-staged violence will. On the anniversary of the Blind Deads' deaths, the mayhem gets underway with the dead riding upon the town at the height of a festival.
Originally, the town's local idiot sacrificed a girl to incite the return of the dead, but this is sadly the trimmed version of the film, which lacks all of the brutality of the original Italian version. Still, it's entertaining and unsettling. Once the dead are back, chaos and blood ensue. The authorities ignore the mayor's pleas for help, assuming him to be off his face on booze, and thus it's up to the townsfolk to defend themselves against the ancient marauding undead!
While this cut of the film is missing the full extent of the nastiness that took place in the movie, it remains a fascinating film for fans of classic horror cinema. The designs of the Blind Dead themselves are fantastic, and the film's main strength. They genuinely look like nightmares given form. Eyeless, skeletal and wrapped in filthy rags, they embody evil in great style. As a film, it's uneven, as the scenes with the living cast are ropey at best, but once the action gets underway, it's gripping. An entertaining curio, but it won't make you crave the other films in the series. To get hooked, check out the 1971 original.