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Evil Dead II (1987)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/2/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/23/2007
A brief history: I received my first VCR in 1982 and the first movie that I rented was The Evil Dead. This movie freaked me out and quickly became one of my favorites. Thus, I was excited when the sequel appeared five years later. (And I dragged a group of unsuspecting friends (who hadn't seen the first movie) to see it. I saw it a total of four times in the theater.) While Evil Dead II was a different experience from the first movie, I loved it as well, and it has continued to be one of my favorites. Therefore, it's a movie that I look forward to seeing with each new home video format and I was keen to check out the Blu-ray Disc of Evil Dead II.
OK, let's get one thing straight before we go any further -- Evil Dead II is not a remake of The Evil Dead. Anyone who thinks so is a moron. The opening of Evil Dead II features a summation of the first film which has been streamlined so that the sequel can begin. I get flabbergasted every time I see this movie labeled a remake.
So, following a condensed overview of the first film (which elements three characters in order to move things along), the official story of Evil Dead II begins with Ash (Bruce Campbell) having survived the events of the night before. But, just when it seems that all is fine, the "evil force" hurls Ash into a tree, where he falls unconscious. When he awakens, he is surprised to see that night is about to fall, and he soon learns that escape from the area is impossible. So he barricades himself in the cabin, but as darkness encroaches, the forces of evil begin to attack anew. Meanwhile, Annie (Sarah Berry), whose parents own the cabin, is venturing there with her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier), and two locals guides, Jake (Dan Hicks) and Bobbie Joe (Kassie Wesley). When they arrive at the cabin, they find the place deserted, save for Ash, who is covered in blood. They suspect the worst of him, but soon learn that evil is afoot. Together, the group battles the undead forces which inhabit the forest.
Along with Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator, Evil Dead II changed the face of horror in the 1980s. A decade which had been dominated by slasher movies and the occasional supernatural film suddenly saw an uprising of films which featured incredibly graphic violence, but also displayed a playful sense of humor. With The Evil Dead Sam Raimi had created a monument of low-budget filmmaking -- a movie which was violent, bleak, and disturbing. Evil Dead II contains a great deal of violence as well, as limbs are hacked off and eyeball are popped out, but it's all done with a very dark, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Ash is a bumbling fool who says incredibly corny lines like "Groovy" and "You're going down", but it appears that the one talent that he has is fighting the forces of evil. Unlike its predecessor, Evil Dead II is never really scary, but there are some good "jump" scenes, and of course, there's all kinds of violent baddies.
As with The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II is a visual tour-de-force and Raimi's camera is rarely still. Armed with more money and man-power, Raimi creates even more visual magic here, as the camera goes through the cabin, through the woods, and through a car. Each shot brings in a unique angle or point-of-view. There's also more of a color palette at work here, even down to the blood which is not only red, but black and green as well. If The Evil Dead introduced Raimi as a director with visual talent, the sequel solidified his reputation as someone who could keep the audience enthralled with his daring camerawork.
Evil Dead II isn't for everyone, as some will be turned off by the violence and others will be too busy rolling their eyes at the humor. But, if you don't mind your horror films being slightly off-kilter and goofy, then this is the one for you. When Evil Dead II played in theaters, it came and went very quickly. But, since that time, when asked what their film will be like, many filmmakers have answered, "We're going for an Evil Dead II approach." After seeing it, you'll know why.
Evil Dead II swallows your soul on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is 1080p HD. As this is one of my favorite films, I was hoping to be blown away by this transfer, but it simply doesn't measure up to comparable Blu-ray titles. A few of the scenes, most notably the few daytime scenes, look rather sharp and clear. But, the remainder of the film is somewhat dull and flat looking, and there is noticeable grain in some shots. The image doesn't look bad per se, but it doesn't look much better than the last DVD release of Evil Dead II. The colors are fine, but they don't have the extra punch which most Blu-ray releases do and overall, the image doesn't present much depth. The disc houses a uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. But, again, the overall effect isn't what I've come to expect from Blu-ray. The stereo separation is good and there are a few surround and subwoofer effects, but the track doesn't show many differences from a regular Dolby Digital track. In conclusion, if you don't already own Evil Dead II, then this is the way to go, but otherwise, the Blu-ray Disc is a let-down.
The Blu-ray release of Evil Dead II features some of the extras which have been found on previous releases of the film from Anchor Bay. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special effects make up artist Greg Nicotero. (This track was originally recorded for a laserdisc from Elite Entertainment.) Simply put, this is the best audio commentary ever (with Chasing Amy coming in a close second). Raimi, Campbell, and Spiegel rib each other mercilessly from the opening frame of the film, and make many jokes at the expense of producer Robert Tapert, who isn't present. They also share many stories about the making of the film and their careers. There's nothing better than a commentary which is informative and entertaining. "Evil Dead II: Behind the Screams" (17 minutes) is a series of still photos, narrated by Tom Sullivan, which give us a behind the scenes look at locations, actors, and the special effects. The guys from KNB Effects bring us "The Gore the Merrier" (32 minutes) which is made up of home video taken on the set of the film. We get to see Raimi in action and there's lots of footage of the FX makeup being made. The disc features the TRAILER for the film as well as "Film Fast Facts", a subtitle stream of random facts which pop up during the movie.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long