Evil Dead, Sam Raimi returned to the franchise with a bigger budget and bigger ideas, many of which he wouldn't manage to realise until 1992's third installment, Army Of Darkness - the budget wasn't quite big enough to match the size of Raimi's imagination.
Evil Dead II sits - at times somewhat awkwardly - somewhere between a sequel and a remake, with the story of the first film retold here in condensed form within the first five minutes. A number of The Evil Dead's beats are also revisited throughout, which at times makes it tricky to place Evil Dead II in terms of its relationship with the first film. In contemporary cinematic terminology, this could even be considered as Raimi rebooting his own original film. It's a curiosity of Evil Dead II which is never conclusively resolved, but thankfully not to the film's detriment: those who have seen The Evil Dead can enjoy Raimi recreating familiar elements with more money to splash, whilst those who have not can enjoy this as a film which confidently stands alone.
Evil Dead II is also a refinement of what Raimi attempted in his first film, the director cherry-picking the strongest elements from his debut and fleshing them out. Everything that gave The Evil Dead its cult appeal is cranked up several notches here. Where the first film's horror was overt, here the gore flies with wanton abandon, Raimi clearly having the time of his life soaking (literally) his actors in torrents of blood and slime. And whilst it can at times seem unclear why the original is classed as a horror-comedy, its humour occasionally so subtle as to pass under the radar, Evil Dead II never has this to worry about. Early scenes involving Ash (Bruce Campbell) battling his own demon-possessed hand are a complete riot, the film wearing on its sleeve strong influence from the work of Dick Van Dyke and - most of all - Raimi's comedy heroes, The Three Stooges.
Campbell from the word go is the beating heart of Evil Dead II, a whirlwind of B-movie energy and charm from his very first scene that only escalates as the body count and bloody torrents increase. Ash develops from unwilling hero to chainsaw-wielding dispatcher of the undead in glorious fashion, and come the end of the film the character's status as one of the all-time great horror heroes will be firmly ensconced in your mind.
Whilst there's a lot to like here, Evil Dead II does inherit some of the original's problems too. Plot is clearly not at the forefront of Raimi's mind, and whilst there's a little more of substance here than in The Evil Dead, anyone looking for carefully crafted, watertight plotting will likely come away disappointed. But taken for what it's meant to be - a horror film with its tongue regularly firmly in its cheek and made purely to entertain - Evil Dead II delivers in a hugely satisfying way. If The Evil Dead is cheesy, then this is the entire deli counter at Sainsbury's, and it's all the better for it.