One of, if not the most, influential horror films in the past few decades has seen many DVD releases in its time. Multiple single disc releases and even the ultimate and fancy Book of the Dead edition. But with a film that has such a rabid fan base it’s no wonder that Anchor Bay took another look at the seminal movie and opted to release yet another edition—and this time it eclipses even the deluxe Book of the Dead edition, without any of the smelly latex packaging.
The Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi’s (Darkman, Quick & The Dead, Army Of Darkness) first feature film, is a true cult classic in every sense of the word. Originally released in 1982, The Evil Dead tells the tale of a group of friends who go to a cabin in the woods, where they find an unspeakable evil lurking in the forest. They find the Necronomicon, the Book Of The Dead, and the taped translation of the text. Once the tape is played, the evil is released. One by one, the teens become deadly zombies. With only one remaining (Bruce Campbell), it is up to him to survive the night and battle The Evil Dead.
Teenagers, the woods and an abandoned cabin: no one in their right mind would find this setting suitable for anyone of any age group. Regardless of the generic premise for a horror film, The Evil Dead was anything but. Combined with Sam Raimi’s unique handling of a camera and the strength of the actors in the film, not to mention the absolutely gruesome effects in the film that manage to turn stomachs to this day, it’s no wonder that The Evil Dead is the classic that it is today. Any film that was made on such a low budget in the 70s that can still stand the test of time with a large legion of fans deserves as much attention as it can get, for as long as it can get.
Of course, I basically just described Star Wars above, but The Evil Dead was such a horrorfest to watch, not to mention to produce for the cast and crew, that it’s obvious why it’s fanbase is so large and it has endured the test of time. While I’m sure a modern remake could be done to beautify it, part of the films charm lies in the stop motion effects and film grain that you can only get with older films. It’s not surprising that Raimi has opted out of remaking the film in any form; it’s simply not something that should be tampered with. For all of its flaws, The Evil Dead is a classic that is best viewed in its pure, unadulterated form.
I first saw The Evil Dead a few months before this new edition of the DVD streeted. I didn’t really know what to expect; I’d only decided to watch it because of Raimi and Campbell’s work in the more recent films about an arachnid superhero. I’m not a fan of horror in the least, either, which made the move to watch it all the more curious. Still, even through the many times my stomach decided to twist into a knot and squirm, it’s hard to deny that the film is just flat out scary as hell. That’s not to say I was given nightmares, but the scariest elements of horror films have never been the gore that they may contain or the being chased by boogey men…it’s always just been the demon possession of individuals. Heads spinning around and the like just creep me out and The Evil Dead had some truly disturbing examples of this to see.
It’s easy to see why this film was blackballed in its day, especially when the home video market started to boom. The gore and the shock value that the film had was truly new at the time and while we may be desensitized to such violence and gore (at least I am—that’s the only explanation for why I didn’t actually throw up from the amount of blood and other freaky crap that went on in this film), there’s no denying The Evil Dead’s place in horror film culture. As I mentioned before, I’m no horror fan—but I did enjoy The Evil Dead. Recommending a film that is of this age and so engrained in pop culture seems silly at this point, but I’ll do it anyway. The Evil Dead is Highly Recommended.
Sure the films still bad ass, but what about this Blu-ray release? With so many releases already under its belt, both in and out of the US/Canadian Region 1, it’s going to be hard for some to justify the purchase of yet another edition of The Evil Dead. Still, with so many editions over the years with the different commentaries and aspect ratios and special features, it’s safe to say that while the previous 2007 “Ultimate Edition” release was definitely that when it was released, this new Blu-ray release is all that and more (literally—we get a bonus commentary track!). Sadly the exquisite three-disc packaging for the “Ultimate Edition” is left behind as we get a simple two disc Elite Blu-ray case this time around…but we save shelf space, I suppose.
If there was ever a film to showcase when referring to “low budget visuals,” then this is it. The transfer prepared for this Blu-ray release (which, according to the packaging, was supervised by Raimi) is as good as this film is ever going to look. There are still plenty of video problems, but it has to do with the source more than anything. Overall it’s a brilliant looking transfer considering its age—there’s tons of grain and whatnot but that’s to be expected. It should be noted that there are two ratios presented here: fullscreen and widescreen, with the fullscreen preserving the ratio in which it was shot, while the widescreen is a more modern TV friendly approach. Both look pretty much the same in terms of clarity.
The audio on the set comes in a flat Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix (or a French Dolby 2.0). While the sound does sound a bit tin-canny at times, there’s plenty of surround action that makes the film more than a formidable opponent for your home theater setup; be sure to watch out for the rear speakers, they’ll scare the poop out of you if you aren’t careful.
All of the extras from the previous “Ultimate Edition” are ported over, so I recommend reading that review for the full details on what’s contained within that set. For this particular release we get a solitary new extra, but it’s a big one: a 2009 recorded commentary with Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell. It’s a great track (as they often are with Raimi and Campbell) and definitely worth checking out if you’ve already delved into the hours and hours of extras that this set has to offer from previous releases.
Overall a Highly Recommended release, even if you own the previous Ultimate Edition. The video upgrade is quite astonishing plus having everything in a smaller, tidier package makes things easier. Even if I will miss that nice cardboard fold out package.
The Evil Dead: Limited Edition is now available on Blu-ray.