‘Return of the Evil Dead’ or ‘Return of the Blind Dead’, it’s more literal and faithful title, is the follow on to Ossorio’s ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’, a film in which we see blind templar knights rising from their graves to exact a revenge on anybody foolish enough to disturb their slumber. In ‘return’ we get a similar plot to that of the first, so much so that many consider this more akin to a remake than a sequel.
Stylistically, many aspects of the franchise remain the same. The props used and costumes for both the templars and zombies are identical to those we saw in ‘Tombs’ as is the location for the knights resting ground. Also back are the outstanding slo-mo galloping scenes which I loved from the first movie. Simply put, if you liked the first film you will more than likely find this a worthy successor, and in all honesty if you are starting out then ‘Return’ could also be considered as a good place to start.
The plot of the movie is obviously nothing too cerebral. In the opening scene we see the knights performing one of their infamous breast piercing, blood drinking immortality rituals from which we then see the townsfolk mobbing up to lynch the murderous knights. As they are burning to death, eyes and all, the head knight utters a promise to avenge their deaths in 500 years time. Guess what... cut to the future and in modern time, well 1970s modern time, the town are celebrating their 500th anniversary of the destruction of the order. If only they knew what lurked beneath the ground... one blood sacrifice later, performed by one of the towns less popular residents and the knights are back in business.
The movie is divided into two distinct halves. I always thought the first movie wasn’t really capitalising on what a good concept zombie knight’s offer and in this movie it would appear that Ossorio also recognised this. In the first movie the knights were given very little screen time and the kill count was really quite low. This time round though they get more than their five minutes of fame and, whilst don’t get too excited, it’s not very gory at all, they get to kill the entire residency of the village. In the second half we see the stragglers holed up inside an old church, its sanctuary keeping the knights at bay whilst the group try to hatch a number of rather fool hardy escape plans.
I feel, in terms of pace, that this movie might even appeal to some people more than the first. There certainly is a lot more going on, but for me it lacked that creepy atmosphere that ‘Tombs’ encapsulated me with. Don’t get me wrong, Ossorio’s knack for creating a haunting feeling with nothing more than a simplistic synth score and a good location is still in abundance in this movie but for me it isn’t quite as prevalent.
Despite the extra screen time the templar’s still don’t manage that many memorable kills and as with the first (although in that movie it didn’t seem too much a handicap) there is a distinct lack of gore. The effects too are this time a little too cheap to hold the atmosphere, the burning model nights held up by a blatant single pole is one example where the movie comes close to being a little bit too dodgy for its own good.
Overall, whilst I still consider the first as my favourite of the franchise I recognise the argument that this movie was as close as Ossorio would ever get to making his Blind Dead franchise a true success. The story is good enough, and in terms of film making I would argue that Ossorio is up there with the best of them, but the lack of gore really hampers the franchise as a whole. The breast piercing scene and the odd decapitation just isn’t enough to stand up to other movies in the genre taking the limelight at the time.