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.
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 DVD 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 this edition really does live up to its Ultimate Edition title.
The first thing you’ll notice when laying eyes and hands on this DVD is that the packaging is of the deluxe variety. No thin paks here—full digipak tray fold outs, one disc per tray and a high quality thick cardboard stock packaging. Despite Anchor Bay not being as high profile as other studios, this release easily trumps most of the packaging I’ve seen from other studios this year—I was really quite impressed with what they did. Sure it’s just fold out trays and cardboard, but even having owned the Book of the Dead editions (yes, “owned”—I sold them, which I’m sure I’ll regret somewhere down the road), I was still impressed by this sets packaging. With the full color poster images adorning the packaging at every turn and the fold-out double sided poster featuring two different versions of the cover art, this is really just a great package to behold. Disc art is wonderful and everything about the set is just a real treat for me—I’m not entirely sure why, but I really am quite impressed by what Anchor Bay has done with the set.
Moving onto the video and audio portions, the video transfer on the first disc appears to be the same as the Book of the Dead transfer, while the full screen transfer on the second disc is all-new to the set (I think, anyway). The film was originally shot in full frame, so the widescreen edition was essentially cropped, but it’s not anything too noticeable for the most part; Raimi apparently oversaw this new edition and approved it, so I’m not too concerned about the lost footage. Still, it’s nice to have the film in its original OAR, especially in a quality that matches the cleaned up widescreen transfer.
The audio on the set comes in a variety of flavors. Dolby Surround 2.0 for the widescreen and fullscreen presentations, along with a Dolby Digital Surround EX and 6.1 DTS-ES mixes for the widescreen. 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.
Commentaries are provided on both editions f the film, with Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert on board for the widescreen transfer and Bruce Campbell on the fullscreen transfer. These are the same as the commentaries on the previous versions released on DVD and accompany the “Discovering The Evil Dead” featurette from the third disc as the only repeated content from the Book of the Dead release.
On the first disc is the all-new featurette, “One by One We Will Take you: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead”, which is a nice and quick making-of documentary with everyone involved in the film (sans Campbell and Raimi for some reason), with plenty of behind the scenes footage spliced in. Disc two has “The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor” with nigh an hour of behind the scenes footage, most of which is just alternate takes or completely new scenes altogether. Also included on the second disc is an easter egg, which shows Ash going through the entire “Book of the Dead”, page by page. Not sure why that wasn’t in the “Cutting Room Floor” footage, but at least it was provided.
On the third disc, titled “Ladies of The Evil Dead” we get a few new featurettes that focus mainly on the fine ladies of the film, who reunited only a few years ago to discuss the film with each other and at conventions. “Life After Death: The Ladies of The Evil Dead” focuses on how the trio of women got in contact with one another and began going to conventions, while “The Ladies of The Evil Dead meet Bruce Campbell” is a similar sit down session, only this time, obviously, with Campbell. There’s plenty of humor to be had, as always when Campbell is in the room, and nearly eclipses everything else on the set. “Unconventional” shows our actors in a sit down session on the convention floor (apparently during off hours, as there are no fans present) discussing the film.
“At the Drive-In” is a quick bit where the cast of the film hand out The Evil Dead DVDs to the crowd by asking them questions to see who knows the most about the film, while “Reunion Panel” has the same group answering the audiences questions. All of the extras are a real treat to watch and these panels are especially so. It’s just really a ton of fun to see everyone embrace the fan community so much.
The extras leftover, which include two more easter eggs and include footage from a sold-out screening of the new remastered The Evil Dead cut with a Q&A with two of The Evil Dead ladies, as well as another easter egg with one of the actresses talking with her drama teacher, who also taught Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. TV spots, still galleries, make-up test, trailers and a poster and memorabilia gallery round out the extras.
If you couldn’t tell, this is really an exhaustive DVD release. While it lacks the Fanalysis extra from the “Book of the Dead” release, there is plenty of new material here to keep the diehard fans interested. It’s obvious that the release is marketed towards fans, especially with the strong focus on the “Ladies of The Evil Dead”, which are essentially just built around the fans. Whether or not you buy this release is really dependant on how big of a fan you are (or if you were stupid like me and sold the Book of the Dead release), or if you even own one of the previous releases.
Fans: Highly Recommended.
Casual Viewers with Previous Edition: Rent first to see if you really want the upgrade.
The Evil Dead: Ultimate Edition is now available on DVD.