The first 15 minutes of the film acts as an edited account of The Evil Dead
. This alternate version starts with protagonist Ashley 'Ash' J. Williams (Bruce Campbell
), and girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler
), driving to an abandoned cabin high in the mountains. Within the cabin plays a piano while Linda dances in underwear. He has recently given her a silver chain with a little magnifying glass on it. When Ash goes into another room to get a bottle of champagne, and Linda changes out of the rest of her clothes, he finds a reel-to-reel tape player and switches it on. The recording explains that the cabin belongs to a Prof. Raymond Knowby (John Peakes
) who was busy translating passages from "Necronomicon Ex Mortis" (called "Morturom Demonto" in the recording), the "Book of the Dead", which they found in the Castle of Candar, beside a ceremonial knife with a skull on its handle. The tape says that "it is through the recitation of the book's passages that this dark spirit is given license to possess the living", then precedes to recite one of the passages, which awakens an evil force that possesses Linda.
Discovering Linda's disappearance, our Hero ventures outside and is attacked by the now-demonfied Linda. Panicking, the terrified Ash gets lucky and manages to decapitate the love of his life with a handy shovel. Following this murder, Mr. Williams decides to do the decent thing and buries his, now headless, girlfriend, keeping the silver necklace and pendant.
It's at this point the summary of the first film ends as the evil force sweeps through the woods and cabin and spins the stressed Ash through the woods, possessing him. Fortunately the sun comes up and drives away the Candarian demon, the mist in the woods retreats into various trees, and the cloudiness from Ash's eyes, leaving Ash perfectly healthy, if not a little depressed. He has a little nap in the woods.
Looking at the cabin, Ash sees a face superimposed on it and hears a voice saying "Join Us". Ash bravely clambers into his Oldsmobile and makes a dash for freedom only to find that the bridge is now destroyed (the gap it spans is much shorter than the bridge they drove over when arriving), presumably by evil forces. The sun goes down rapidly and yet again the evil pursues him, branches whipping into his face, a tree stump stopping the car abruptly enough to send Ash flying out the windshield, to have his face stopped by a tree. He runs the rest of the way through the woods to the cabin, and the pursuit continues, through at least 9 doors between 10 rooms and an unfinished hallway in the small cabin, but Ash, using all his cunning, evades it by hiding under a trap door. The evil presence continues back outside and retreats into the woods.
At an airport, Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry
) arrives by plane, with 3000-year-old pages of the Book of the Dead, and is picked up by her boyfriend Ed Gentley (Richard Domeier
). They start their drive to the cabin to join her father.
Following a manly little nap, our terrified and bloodied hero wakes in an armchair to piano music, and finds that the piano is playing itself. The music must remind him of Linda as he takes the silver necklace from his pocket. Some boards barricading a window fall, and looking outside he sees the Linda's grave marker fall over and her headless and already badly decomposed corpse (Ted Raimi
) re-animate and dance, and regain its much fresher head, which can conveniently keep facing in one direction while the body spins around many times. Her moves include seductively straddling a tree limb. She then vanishes into the dark, then reappears just outside the window and grabs Ash, telling him to dance with her. After being slammed into the window barricades several times he breaks free, and Linda's head falls off again.
Ash discovers that he is back in the chair, screaming. Was the dancing corpse a dream? The window barricade seems intact. Suddenly Linda's smiling head drops into Ash's lap, says "hello, lover", and bites hard into his right hand between thumb and forefinger. Unable to remove the head he rushes to the work shed and clamps it in a vise, causing it to release its grip, and it starts to mock Mr. Williams, who has already had a trying day. He reaches for the spot on the tool shelf marked for the chainsaw, but it's not there. The headless torso charges into the shed and attacks Ash with a chainsaw, but he deflects it with a crowbar and the corpse clumsily saws into itself, not having an attached head to let it see what it's doing. He pries the chainsaw from the body and the detached arm still holding in, and yanks on the pull-start cord. The head, looking much nicer, begs not to be hurt, then spews black bile and turns evil again, and Ash destroys it. She's obviously gotten on Ash's bad side since she gets no further burial.
Upon returning to the cabin and trading the chainsaw for a double-barrel shotgun and a handful of extra shells, Ash is further frightened by an unseen entity moving the rocking chair and moaning. It stops when he brings his right hand near it. Dropping the shotgun, he tries to console himself by telling his reflection in the mirror that everything is fine. However, his reflection suddenly comes to life, leans out of the mirror, and contradicts him, laughing at Ash's predicament and then throttling Ash before vanishing, leaving Ash holding himself by the throat. He taps the mirror with his right hand, but it is just an ordinary mirror again.
Dark veins radiate outwards from the bite wounds on the edge of Ash's right hand as it mutates and grows longer finger nails, and it begins to move around under its own control, and make strange laughing noises, then starts attacking Ash by grabbing his face. He holds it down and screams to be given back his hand.
Annie and Ed's drive is blocked by workman Jake (Dan Hicks
) putting a barricade in front of the destroyed bridge. Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva
), leaning on their car, says that there isn't any other road that leads there, and Jake points out that there is a trail through the woods, and that they would lead them there for $40... $100. Annie says sure, if they also carry the luggage. Sly grins all around.
Ash tries drowning his evil hand, and it smashes crockery over his head and bangs his head into the sink, hits him, and flips him onto the floor. After a few more plates and bottles, it spots a cleaver and starts to drag Ash's unconscious body towards it. But Ash wakes up stabs his own hand, pinning it to the floor, and hacks it off with the very chainsaw he used only moments ago to carve his lover to pieces. He starts it by pulling the rope with his teeth. "Who's laughing now?" He binds the stump of his arm with cloth and duct tape.
Annie, Ed, and Bobby Joe are preceding through the dark woods, trailed by Jake struggling along under a huge trunk.
Ash traps his amputated hand under a tin and a few books (including "A Farewell To Arms"), but it escapes and hides inside the wall. Ash fires several shells into the wall, and the hand taunts him, then gets its thumb caught in a rat trap. It shakes that off and gives Ash the one-finger salute. After several more shots, the walls begin to bleed, then spew like firehoses, spraying Ash and covering the entire room in blood. Suddenly the blood turns black and vanishes back into the walls. Ash sits on a chair that breaks under his weight. An evil-looking deer head mounted on the wall suddenly begins to laugh at Ash, and other items in the house, such as lamps, cabinets, and books, join in. Ash, who appears to be losing his sanity, laughs along with them. The laughter ends abruptly when Ash hears movement outside the front door, and unloads the shotgun into it.
The people at the door are Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry
), Prof Knowby's daughter, who has pages of the Necronomicon with her, boyfriend Ed Gentley (Richard Domeier
) - who's not really important as he'll be hacked to pieces within 15 minutes - and their two red neck guides, Jake (Dan Hicks
) and his honey Bobbie Jo (Kassie Wesley DePaiva
). Ash shoots through the door, clearly on his last nerve. This result in grazing Bobby Jo. Ed and Jake beat Ash as Annie notices the absence of her parents in the cabin. After seeing the blood on the chainsaw and on Ash, they come to the conclusion that he killed Annie's parents. The four newcomers throw Ash into the fruit cellar.
Annie, Ed, Jake, and Bobby Jo listen to recordings of Professor Knowby's, where they learn that Knowby killed Henrietta (Lou Hancock
) - Annie's mother - after she became possessed, and buried her body in the fruit cellar. Surprisingly Henrietta then rises from the grave and attacks the luckless Ash. The other four take pity on him and release him from his basement prison, hauling him out of by his head, and force the demon wife into the cellar, although this procedure results in Jake getting grabbed by the face, Ed similarly grabbed and thrown into the wall, and Bobby Jo getting a mouthful of flying eye ball. Fortunately Henrietta is locked underground.
But that's not this demon done yet, it takes human form and tries to persuade Annie to let it out (that's right, she's a crafty Candarian demon). Ash sees through this trick, grabs Annie and shakes his head. This sheer act of manliness overwhelms Annie and makes her say "That thing in the cellar is not my mother". At this point it becomes apparent that Ed too has rudely became possessed, levitating, and, even more rudely takes a bite out of Bobby Jo's hair and tells them all that they will be "Dead by Dawn". Other corpse-oids join in on the chant. Jake is thrown up and breaks a light bulb with his head. Ash appears to flee at this point and receives a shouting from Annie.
But lo and behold our hero has not fled and as the others have been frozen with fear Ash returns brandishing an axe. He hacks Ed to pieces (told you), spraying green slime everywhere.
In a lull, Jake notices through the barricaded window that the trail they came in on just ain't there no more. The clocks pendulum stops suddenly. It's so quiet. For a moment. Following some unconvincing sound affects, the spirit of the professor appears ghost-like before them and says that the pages Annie possesses are the key to dispelling the evil dead. Bobby Jo then discovers Ash's possessed disembodied hand holding hers, and she screams, and knocks down their only oil lamp, and runs into the forest, where she is attacked and killed by the trees.
Annie and Ash find a drawing in the pages of the book she brought along which depicts a hero in 1300 A.D. said to have dispelled the evil; the hero appears as a figure with a chainsaw-like hand and a "boomstick." Hysterical with fear for Bobby Jo, Jake picks up the shotgun and brandishes it at the others. Ash tries to convince Jake that Bobby Jo is dead, but Jake grows furious and throws the book pages into the cellar, and forces everyone to go after her. Outside, the trees are moving, and not the way they would in a wind. The group goes into the woods, only to discover that the trail has disappeared. A demon rushes them, again possessing Ash, and throws Jake into a tree. Ash chases Annie back to the cabin. She grabs the bone dagger from the first movie and accidentally stabs Jake as he is trying to get back into the cabin.
She has to pull Jake's body inside so that she can shut the door. Ash pounds on the door, then suddenly stops. Annie removes the dagger from Jake and then drags him to a safer place, right next to the cellar door, where of course Henrietta pops up and drags him in head-first to kill him. Annie is hosed by a tsunami of blood. Ash attacks Annie, accidentally ripping her necklace off her neck. As she lays unconscious, Ash looks at the necklace and reverts to his normal self after being reminded of Linda. After convincing a terrified axe-wielding Annie that he is no longer possessed, Ash and Annie agree to vanquish the evil together, for which they'll need those pages in the basement.
This calls for an awesome montage, as Ash uses his technical know-how to convert the chainsaw into a chainsaw hand, fitting firmly on his amputated stump and sawing the end of his shotgun. The scene ends up with a close up of his rugged face and he announces "Groovy". This establishes that the previous coward has become a lean mean deadite slaying machine.
Ash and Annie return to the cabin, where Ash cuts the cellar doors in half, and enters the cellar and finds the pages strewn about the floor, seemingly leading him deeper into the darkness. Henrietta leaps out of the cellar door and attacks Annie. Ash emerges from the cellar and begins fighting with flying Henrietta; he has the upper hand until Henrietta transforms into a more vicious demonic form. Ash is saved when Annie distracts Henrietta by singing a lullaby that Henrietta sang to her when she was a girl. While Henrietta is focused on Annie, Ash uses his chainsaw to decapitate and dismember the demon, then deals the final blow by delivering a shotgun blast to its head. "I'll swallow your soul!' "Swallow this!" Annie & Ash have a tender hugging moment, and then the trees attack.
Annie takes the pages and begins translating the text to manifest the evil, which appears in the form of a large bloody head covered in the faces of those it has possessed, and the power to wilt flowers. While Ash is grabbed by tree branches and brought closer to the creature, which he tries to fend off. The chainsaw in its eye seems to irritate it. Annie recites the incantation to rid the earth of the evil. A large vortex opens up just outside the cabin, gravitating everything around into it, including Ash's car, a large tree, and the evil itself. Annie is then stabbed in the back by Ash's severed hand with the bone knife. With her dying breaths, she speaks the last words of the incantation, and the giant head and its tree hands are sucked into the vortex before it disappears. Ash is left in the cabin with Annie's body for a moment, before the door is ripped away showing that the vortex is still there. Ash is sucked in along with trees and many items from the cabin.
Ash, his car, and a tree fall from the sky and land on a large block of rock. He looks up and finds himself surrounded by armoured and mounted medieval knights. The knights are about to attack Ash when a winged demonic creature swoops down from the sky, terrifying the knights as they scatter. Ash reaches for his shotgun and blows the creature's head off. The knights gather around Ash as he prepares to defend himself. One knight then lifts his face plate and declares, "Hail he who hath fallen from the sky to deliver us from the terror of the Deadites!" The army of medieval warriors then falls to their knees and begins chanting "hail" as Ash realizes that he is in fact the prophesied "Hero from the Sky." The film closes with Ash shaking his head in disbelief and screaming "No!" as the camera pans out to show the large army that now awaits Ash's command.