Halloween Endurance Test: Return of the Evil Dead (1973)

Return of the Evil Dead

Return of the Evil Dead is the sequel to the classic Tombs of the Blind Dead. Now during last year’s Endurance Test I watched Tombs… again, and decided that it wasn’t holding up too well. The sequel manages to disappoint less this time around. My memory of it being satisfactory to an extent, yet still ultimately inferior to the idea that sired it, remains intact.

One of Return of the Evil Dead weaknesses is its (strangely) reconfigured working of the original installment’s ending. There, in Tombs of the Blind Dead, the Knights Templar end up disembarking from a train which has just arriving in town. We’re served stills of the horrified townspeople gasping, screaming, and fleeing in vain.

Altogether proving the maxim: You can run, but you’ll only die tired, on an epic scale. Lastly we see the Templars chasing the city folk to what we believed to be their doom. It’s an finale that’s been utilized often enough before. Both Fulchi and Romero used variations on it to cap their zombie opuses. Not to mention the Blind Dead’s director, Amando de Ossorio, who would use a recapitulation of his first ending later in the series’ third film, Ghost Galleon a/k/a Horror of the Zombies.

Return of the Evil Dead has the (blind) Knights Templar besieging another town; with less success the second time around. Whereas the original has the Knights destroying everything and everyone in sight. Here the Knights just flounder. When they’re freed from the restraining confines of the constraints of the two minute preceding the credit crawl, the Templars just don’t know what to do.

They barely have the wherewithal to attack this terrified little girl

Gone are the (proto) lesbian antics from the first. No more exploring ancient ruins either. (Okay, maybe there’s a couple…) There’s practically nothing left after that. Just bloody, sightless, butchery. The Knights are (now) outgunned on all sides.

One memorable piece not left out is the apocalypse-loving half-wit character. The same Templar costumes reappear; same as the Templar’s own battle plans, much the worse for wear. The Knights no longer appear to be undead Christian avengers, bent on serving the dark lord. Here the Knights instead remind us of dime-store Halloween decorations.

Yet the film’s biggest gaffe is its ending. The Knights Templar are destroyed by the morning sun. Unwittingly akin to vampires’ Achilles heel, the sunbeams collapse them to dust. This contradicts the epic travel shots from Tombs of the Blind Dead. Shots that showed the Knights gracefully gliding across the screen in the greatest show of frame-rate manipulation ever achieved with a 35mmcamera. This run was, of course, in the middle of the day.

So apparently these Knights are (deathly) allergic to sunlight. The rest, one assumes, fail to suffer from the same afflictions. The Templars in the following sequels (the aforementioned Ghost Galleon and Night of the Seagulls aren’t pained by sunlight. Off setting the slo-mo horse scenes, this has to be the most dog-shit ending ever devised.

“Crap, our city is now overrun by the Templars. Most everyone is dead. So how can we end this?”

“Sunlight!”

Horseshit.

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