Evil Dead 2 (25th Anniversary Blu-ray)

Director - Sam Raimi

Cast - Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Danny Hicks

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 1

MSRP - $14.99

Distributor - Lionsgate

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (5/5)

     Evil Dead II is one of those films that is near impossible to write a review of, because by this point in time so much has been said of it.  25 years after it's theatrical release, it's a staple of horror home video collections, and a true classic of the genre. It's a funny, gory, sometimes scary horror film that along films like Re-Animator, Bad Taste, and Dead Alive helped reinvent the comedy-horror genre for the Mid-80's and beyond.

     Almost every horror fan has an Evil Dead II story, I happened to see Evil Dead II, before seeing Evil Dead. My friend had a copy on his shelf the first time I went over his house, and knowing I loved horror films swore I had to see it.  He popped it in, and seeing only 2 people in the car (and being accustomed to the slasher films of the era) thought it was going to be boring. Damn, was I wrong.

     Evil Dead II is like an acid trip of a horror film. Once the film gets going, the pace is relentless, and while many of us having seen it too many times to remember a point where it's elements were surprising and shocking. I can look back and remember those roller coaster early viewings, and remember being pleased to find out there was both an Evil Dead 1, and another film that follows it (Army of Darkness).

     Evil Dead II for those who need to be caught up on it stars Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice, Maniac Cop) as Ash.  A sort of every man, who in the original film took a group of his friends up to a cabin in the woods for a little vacation, but end up reading passages from the Necronomicon, and unleashing the demons in the surrounding woods. One by one the group become possessed by the demons, until only Ash is left presumably to his death.

     In Evil Dead II, due to legal issues that kept director Sam Raimi from being able to incorporate footage from the original into the sequel.  The flashback moments were re-shot, but only showed Ash bringing his girlfriend Linda to the cabin, and the sequel starts where the first ends.  With the invisible demon rushing into Ash, and his screams. Evil Dead II follows his second night in the cabin, having to deal with parts of him being possessed.  That is prior to the arrival of the cabin owner's daughter Annie (Sarah Berry), her boyfriend Ed (Richard Domeier), and the redneck couple they hired to escort them to the cabin. Now the five of them have to deal with the deadites possessing them and Annie's Mother Henrietta (Ted Raimi) in the basement.

     The Evil Dead films take a simple horror premise, and amp them up to 10,000.  Even almost 20 years after my first viewing of the films I can still see the intensity Sam Raimi injected into these films, and Evil Dead II may be the series pinnacle for an intense horror experience.  Raimi alongside writer Scott Spiegel (Intruder) have managed a perfect balance of horror and comedy. Where the first film was pure horror, and Army of Darkness went a little too far in the slapstick direction, Evil Dead II walks that line very well offering very scary moments, next to sidesplitting funny moments. 

     The lead performance by Bruce Campbell has always, and will always be the anchor point of the film, and he does one issue one of the greatest performances in any 80's horror film, if not any horror film of all time.  Bruce has excellent acting chops with great comic timing, and the physicality that he brought to Evil Dead II (and knowing that he did all this stuff himself), makes the performance nothing short of brilliant. The other performers offer typical 80's horror performances with the exception of Danny Hick's as Jake one of the two rednecks who escort Annie and Ed to the cabin.  He may be playing a typical redneck caricature but does aplomb that when he's on-screen you can't help but watch.

     And of course there are the marvelous gore FX courtesy of the guys who would become the KNB EFX group a few years later. Evil Dead's gore courtesy of Special FX stylist Tim Sullivan was superb, but what he have here really kicks it up to 11, and becomes a companion to Raimi's already intense vision for the film.

   The problem with reviewing a film like Evil Dead II is the fact that most of you have seen it.  If you haven't, and you love horror, then check it out.  This film is late 20th century horror at it's most iconic.

 

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

     I skipped over the first Evil Dead II Blu-ray knowing that it had been DNR'd to death,  and just held on to my old AB DVD of the film. Well if you bought the first AB Blu-ray it's time to chuck it out the window, DVD's same as well.  There is a new Evil Dead II king in town, and it's this Blu-ray, which has a simply glorious AVC encoded 1080p 1:85:1 transfer. The transfer retains the films grain structure quite well, the black levels are deep, and flesh tones are accurate.  You will see colors pop from the screen, and the level of detail is greatly increased from prior editions.

     Lionsgate has presented the audio with a fantastic Master Audio 5.1 track in English. This track is fairly intense.  The dialogue (and screams) are loud and clear, as are the effects and score. Everything is quite balanced, with no elements getting buried by the others.  Also, no audio imperfections such as cracks, pops, or hissing could be heard on the track.

 

Extras (5/5)

     Lionsgate really did a truly stellar job create an excellent slate of extras for their 25th anniversary Blu-ray of Evil Dead II.  The disc kicks off with the commentary track with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel, and Greg Nicotero. This disc, and a few other extras are archival and have been ported over from Anchor Bay's prior DVD's.

     The most significant new extra is Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II. This is an over and a half long documentary broken up into a series of featurettes, that cover the productions from inception to completion, and is absolutely informative and entertaining all the way through. It is lacking in participation by Raimi, who probably opted out due to already doing a commentary, and his work on OZ: Great and Powerful.  This documentary is followed up by Cabin Fever - A Fly On The Wall Behind the Scenes look at the making of Evil Dead II.   These are essentially home videos by SFX artist Greg Nicotero that give a behind the scenes sneak peek at the making of Evil Dead 2. We then have the Road to Wadesboro, a return to the shooting location featurette. 

   We now reach the archival portion of the disc.  All of these are available on various AB editions on the films and kick off with Tom Sullivan's narrated slideshow Behind The Screams showing the monsters and effects being made for the film.  We then have the Gore, The Merrier a 31 minute featurette on the ummm Gore. The disc is rounded off by the films theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.

 

Overall

   Evil Dead II has finally been restored properly and issued on Blu-ray!  The film has never looked so good on home video, and the extras are worthy of the Criterion Collection. Seriously, if you haven't seen this movie, and are HD Savvy it's cheap, you should be ordering this like NOW. If you've seen this movie, and are hesitant picking it up again, realize that this is truly the Ultimate Edition, and really the end of the road for ED II on home video. It doesn't get better than this. (10 years from now new technology makes me eat this statement.)