ben_halford’s review published on Letterboxd:
Evil Dead made a big impact in the early-80's. In America, the film industry took notice of Sam Raimi whilst in the UK, further attention came when the film was condemned as a "video nasty" banning its uncut form for 20 years and ensuring cult immortality. When it came time to finally make a sequel, things had changed. The budget and production values became a lot greater but Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, was a shift in other directions as well.
For starters, whilst the film is a sequel it's also a remake of sorts with a truncated and re-shot version of the first film serving as the introduction. Once that is out of the way, things change noticeably from the first film. The setup is similar (Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, holed up in a cabin in the woods fighting off demons) but the tone has changed. The first film was, for all intents and purposes, a straight-forward horror film. There were odd jokes here and there whilst the slightly amateurish production and sheer gusto of the blood-letting meant a good laugh here or there, it was a horror movie and a very effective one at that. Evil Dead 2 tones down the scares and amps up the comedy, eventually delivering a 50/50 balance between the two genres.
Bruce Campbell is clearly giving it his all as Ash. He does a fair job in the first film, but here is the emergence of the charisma factory we know as Bruce Campbell today. He mugs and he hams every moment and a scene where he has to literally fight himself in the kitchen is a masterpiece of fast-paced physical comedy. Being what it is, the performance does outshine some of the other supporting players who, as entertaining as they are, never attain the same level of attention.
I also feel that, in an interesting twist, the higher production values may have actually hurt this film. As simple as it was, you could admire Evil Dead's ingenuity. For people in their early-20's making a movie out in the wilderness, there some incredible camera work given the limited resources. Here, there's a set and there's sophisticated effects (and a not so sophisticated stop-motion sequence) that detracts from the majesty.
This version has its own fans like all three Evil Dead movies because it caters to something different and there are other films in this vein which are similarly enjoyable (check out the even more daft 1977 Japanese film Hausu for example, which bares some striking similarities) and whilst I do really like Evil Dead 2, between the really impressive horror of the first film and hilarious tome-shift into mediaeval fantasy-comedy with Army Of Darkness, it's the slightly lesser part of a great trilogy.