Every week Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a horror movie worth checking out. Today: Another year, another reason to replace your current copy of The Evil Dead.
There’s not much to be said about The Evil Dead that hasn’t already been said in a hundred other places by a hundred other people.
Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror film is near close to a Holy Grail for horror nuts and gore enthusiasts. The low-budget film has built a legacy for itself that’s as impressive as it is daunting. Two sequels, several video games, a handful of comic book series and enough merchandise to choke a Hot Topic employee are proof that the film has assembled a legion of devoted fans.
For those not in the know, The Evil Dead stars Bruce Campbell as a young man whose trip to an abandoned cabin in the woods with his friends ends in an explosion of pus, bile and blood once ancient demons possess the bodies of his friends and wreck havoc on his social life.
The film offers a wonderful peak at the directing style being developed by a young Sam Raimi, who would go on to direct the Spider-Man trilogy and Drag Me To Hell. Campbell, who has since established himself as the King of B-Movies, offers a much more subdued performance than he usually exhibits. To put it bluntly, Ash Williams, the man who would eventually saw off his own hand and graft a chainsaw to his bloody stub, is a bit of a pussy in The Evil Dead.
If you have never seen the movie before, you need to just stop reading this review and go and watch it. My words will still be here when you’re done but there is really no reason why you should go another minute without watching Raimi’s classic.
Watching The Evil Dead at an early age has shaped much of my sense of humor and interests. It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The Evil Dead is like a birthmark or the way I pronounce the word “rooster” — it’s something that seemingly has always been with me.
Much like puberty is a sign of a boy’s transformation into a man, watching The Evil Dead for the first time is a rite of passage for any aspiring horror film fan. You’re just not a scary movie aficionado unless you’ve seen Bruce Campbell mug it up in front of the camera as he’s covered in fake blood, ooze and other assorted bodily fluids.
The Evil Dead has recently been released on Blu-ray and it looks fantastic. It’s not the best looking Blu-ray to ever be released but it’s by far the best The Evil Dead has ever looked. Mastered from a pristine original 16mm print of the film under the direct supervision of Sam Raimi, the Evil Dead Blu-ray is available in two separate versions — the film’s original 1.33.1 aspect ratio and a 1.85.1 widescreen ratio favored by Sam Raimi. Both versions look fantastic with the widescreen aspect ratio offering a bit less detail thanks to the zoom-in used to matte the film.
Also impressive on the Blu-ray is the film’s soundtrack — presented in Dolby True HD. The film sounds incredible. While the sound design for The Evil Dead is not nearly as impressive as Raimi’s later films — the film’s soundtrack provides ample atmosphere and sharp detail.
The Blu-ray comes for a limited time with two discs. The first disc is the only Blu-ray — including both versions of the film and a really fun new commentary track from Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert. While a new track from these life-long best friends is always a good thing, one gets the impression that the three are starting to run out of things to talk about when it comes to The Evil Dead. There is little new information in the commentary track but fans will enjoy it nonetheless for the trio’s friendly banter.
The second disc is a DVD. While you may be grumbling about a lack of HD special features, the set doesn’t feature any new documentaries or featurettes. All the features are culled from the countless previous releases of the film on DVD and were probably not shot in HD.
By presenting the special features on a DVD instead of the Blu-ray, the image will be unconverted by your Blu-ray player and the quality will be much better than if the features had been included on the first disc.
Features on the second disc include:
“One by One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead” (54 min) — A retrospective look at the film’s production and legacy
“The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor” (59 min) — A long, rambling collection of alternate takes and deleted scenes
“The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell” (29 min) — Bruce Campbell interviews his female co-stars in this fun, light featurette
“Discovering The Evil Dead” (13 min) — A look at the film’s legacy and reception in the United Kingdom
“Unconventional” (19 min) — A collection of interviews with the film’s cast about their career in the horror industry
“At the Drive-In” (12 min) — A look at a Chicago screening with the cast in attendance
“Reunion Panel” (31 min) — A cast and crew Q&A at Chicago’s Flashback Weekend convention
“The Book of the Dead: The Other Pages” (2 min) — A few glimpses at the Necronomicon that were cut from the film
Make-Up Test (1 min) — Raw footage of make-up work and effects tests
Trailers — A collection of early television and trailer marketing material for the film
Photo Gallery —More marketing material including production stills, poster art and behind-the-scenes photos
Anchor Bay’s recent Blu-ray release of The Evil Dead marks the film’s umpteenth release on home video. While there seemingly may be little reason for you to replace the DVD copy you already have of the film, let’s face it — you’re going to do it anyway. Any true fan of The Evil Dead trilogy has double-, triple- and probably quadruple-dipped when it comes to buying the series’ films. The Evil Dead looks fantastic in HD and the features really are the best of the bunch — so don’t feel too bad when you buy the Evil Dead Blu-ray and set it down on the shelf exclusively for the dozens of various copies of the film you’ve bought over the years.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.