Sam Raimi’s THE EVIL DEAD broke astonishing ground in its cinematic inventiveness and willingness to go for broke in terrifying its audience. It was brutal, coarse, grimy, and fabulously scary: his preternaturally mobile camera implied–and often inhabited—overwhelming forces of evil rushing past and at his characters at all times, unseen and terrible, possessing and destroying at their whim and pleasure. EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN finds Raimi operating in a much more complicated mode, melding the horror of the first film with an increasing interest in slapstick and gross-out comedy. Neither evincing the relentless stream of malevolence that is the first EVIL DEAD film nor the good-natured silliness of ARMY OF DARKNESS, for many viewers, this second entry in the series is the best, finding the perfect balance between stupid and startling, between eerie and icky. Less a sequel than a loose remake of the first, EVIL DEAD II brings back Bruce Campbell’s Ash, the knuckle-headed zombie-slayer of uncertain destiny, now stronger, more resourceful, and more idiotic than ever. In many ways, the film resembles the tail-end entries in Universal’s classic cycle, only reflecting Raimi’s peculiar influences, as if it were MOE HOWARD MEETS THE LEGIONS OF THE DAMNED. In his precarious dance between absurd and terrifying, Raimi conjures a vision of the uncanny in which the line separating the living is less a heart-beat than a gasp, and for which the of the world is but the set-up to a punchline just about to be uttered.