Monday, November 11, 2013

Evil Dead II (1987)

Evil Dead IIUp until this past year's hilarious "Shaun of the Dead," this film, "Evil Dead II," really had no competition whatsoever for the funniest Horror film ever made. It would be easy to rave about this Cult Classic filled with trick photography, stop-motion animation, over-the-top gore-soaked casualties, Bruce Campbell's charming chin, and one of the most underrated endings in film history, but I will point out why this particular DVD is exceptional instead. What makes this DVD rock is that the sound has been digitally remastered into THX surround sound. The sound-effects in this film are essential to magnify the humor and horror to its great heights. The other reason to get this DVD is the commentary which includes writer-director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero. I swear that listening to these guys self-deprecate and otherwise rip on themselves and the movie is as much fun as watching this film for the very first time. No kidding. I was rolling with laughter. For the quintessential backstory on this film may I recommend Bruce Campbell's thoroughly enjoyable book, "If Chins Could Kill," which is loaded with reminiscences about his time before, during, and after making this landmark Horror film classic. "Evil Dead II" is a necessary purchase for any Horror film afficionado. Highly recommended.

If you've never owned "Evil Dead II" before, or if you've owned it a million times already across VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc, VCD, DVD, and Blu-ray, the new 25th Anniversary Edition by Lionsgate is THE version to have.

Lionsgate apparently returned to the original camera negative for this new transfer, and it shows. Detail is far above and beyond every previous home video release, including the dreaded waxed-over Blu-ray from Anchor Bay. A strong grain structure is present, although some mild DVNR tampering is visible--the grain generally moves as grain ought to, although sometimes it becomes more static, but never at a standstill. Color grading is a lot more dynamic and pleasing with realistic flesh tones and beautiful lighting I swear I've never quite seen before, while the contrast is more stable with night scenes looking appropriately dark, while daytime and near-dusk scenes look more appropriate and fitting than ever before. Black levels are solid, although there have been concerns of black crush being involved--that is, when shadow detail is lost, the shading variances gone and blacks being "crushed" instead. This doesn't appear to be any defect of the mastering, however; the film has always been dark, and it's my belief that the stark, detail-free blacks are due to underexposure during filming. The '98 VHS tape, THXand DiviMax-mastered DVDs, and original Blu-ray (all from Anchor Bay) that I own all feature the same "problem" (*); I believe it was an artistic decision and one that I find to be visually striking. To top it all off, the original age restriction warning before the Rosebud logo returns, which had been excised from Anchor Bay's Blu-ray.

*(This is not to say that old home video releases are correct and that they should be used as a guideline for how the film should look; old video masters should never be the standard of quality in any respect since they are often very inaccurate to the original film source. I'm simply saying that I doubt very much that ALL of these previous video masters would be so goofed up as to feature the exact same levels of black crush as featured on the Lionsgate Blu-ray, so it is almost definitely part of the original photography. The DiviMax/Book of the Dead DVD and Anchor Bay Blu-ray, by the way, are transferred from the same master.)

Full-res screenshots of the title can be viewed at caps-a-holic, which also compares this release to the Anchor Bay one.

Some may be upset to hear that the wires used to hold up the flying eyeball have been digitally removed. This doesn't bother me since they were never meant to be seen in the first place, but there is a quaintness that is now missing with their removal; far as I can tell, the rest of the wires remain intact, which is odd that they'd only fix the one. If only they'd gone all-out and fixed all the wires, the huge tear in Ted Raimi/Possessed Henrietta's rear, and fixed the shots where unfinished sets are seen. Hey, if you're going to fix one thing, why not fix it all à la "Blade Runner: The Final Cut"? It should be all or nothing; fix it all or leave it well enough alone.

The only audio provided is a DTS-HD 5.1 track with English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles optional. An uncompressed original mono track would have been appreciated (coded as 2.0 dual mono); I've never been too wild over surround re-mixes, especially since only the original mix represents the intentions of the filmmakers. But, the 5.1 mix does the job well enough.

Extras include an all-new 100-minute documentary titled "Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II", split up into several chapters and featuring endearing new stop-motion effects recreating scenes from the film (a whole full-length recreation of the film in this fashion would be a load of fun to see). The doc is fun and informative with a lot of new trivia that I'd never heard before, such as the existence of co-writer Scott Spiegel's short film "Attack of the Helping Hand" and its influence on the "Evil Dead II" script. A 30-minute behind-the-scenes production video is also provided, showing off among other things scenes which were deleted during the editing process which all have plenty of fascinating effects, and it's unfortunate that these scenes were not found and restored for this Blu-ray release as separate deleted scenes. A 7-minute return to the shooting locations is also new, and the standard definition "The Gore the Merrier" and Tom Sullivan photo commentary featurettes from the Anchor Bay DVDs are provided as well. The movie commentary is the same entertaining one which has been around since I believe one of the LaserDisc releases. The US trailer is thankfully presented in HD, and there are HD photo galleries as well.

"Evil Dead II", the fantastic sequel to the low-budget, DIY "The Evil Dead" (it's NOT a remake; the first seven minutes merely recap the first movie since rights to the footage could not be acquired), has never looked this pretty and detailed on home video, and is DEFINITELY worth the upgrade. (The THX-mastered DVD from 2000 can finally be retired.) Strangely, the restoration and transfer is not of the same caliber as Bob Murawski and Anchor Bay's work on the first film, so it's unfortunate that Lionsgate did not throw at the project quite the same amount of money and talent as the first film's HD restoration received, but it's an impressive transfer nonetheless, and the film has certainly never looked this good beyond its original theatrical exhibition. HIGHLY recommended for fans of this insane splatter comedy masterpiece and for newcomers as well. Sadly, the disc is Region A-locked. Sorry, overseas fans; hopefully you'll see this transfer released in your area before long.

Now if only "Army of Darkness" (both theatrical and director's cuts) would receive a Blu-ray release that doesn't look like sun-baked vomit. At least the NTSC Region 3 DVD put out by MGM exists.

Buy Evil Dead II (1987) Now

It comes in a groovy little tin with the European poster style on the top and inside has the booklet, a little ad for the video game and the dvd itself.

The booklet claims to have "rare photos", but it's just pictures from scenes throughout the movie that we've seen beforenothing special, but has some good insights from the special effects guys and Bruce.

Now for the DVD

I was really pleased with the extrasthe commentary was a lot of funI enjoyed it more than the first Evil Dead special edition because Sam Raimi actually throws in a lot more tidbits with Bruce and friends to back him up. There were no long pauses, everyone had something interesting to say and it's just a lot of fun listening to them mock the dialogue and point out the mistakes. Plus, there's only four people on the commentary so no one is overwhelmed and we can hear everyone talkingI think too many people on commentaries can be frustrating. Also find out what Kurt Russel's fav. line is from "Evil Dead 2" in a quite hilarious memory Bruce brings up.

"The Gore The Merrier" featurette was very coolit's lengthy too so we get to see a lot of the cool effects being made and used in the final product. We also see Raimi, Campbell and the rest of the crew clowning around and also a ridiculous/funny little skit that the special effects team came up with about a baby that comes back from the dead for revenge. The documentary was shot with a crappy camera, but back in '86'87home video cameras sucked anyway so I wasn't surprisedit's fine thoughjust a little grainy.

The theatrical trailer was edited very wellI hadn't seen it before and I was pretty impressed how spooky they made it.

The video game preview is awesomelike a teaser trailer, but it's really neatgotta see it for yourself.

The bios only consist of Bruce and Raimi, but they're better than most bios you find on dvds.

Photosno big dealsome candid shots.

Widescreen and full screen formatssweet. Love it when they have both.

And...sound is great. Overall, nearly poi-fect dvdI just would've liked some out-takescuz we know there was a lot of laughing going on from the reminiscing we hear on the commentary.

Buy it definately worth itgreat menu too, pretty much everything is worth mentioning!

Read Best Reviews of Evil Dead II (1987) Here

Bruce Campbell is back as Ash, the loveable, gun-toting S-mart employee turned demon killer overnight. After a slight, altered rehashing of what happened in the first Evil Dead we get to see Ash kill more demons spawned from idiots who read/listen to the Necronomicon! But wait, there's more! When Ash's hand gets "possessed" he has to take drastic measures, and that's where the true fun begins! The fight scenes involving Ash's hand have to be some of the funniest instances of pure comic genius ever put on screen. Bruce Campbell is the reigning King of Horror heroism and the Evil Dead 2 is a must for any Horror fan's collection. Any movie where someone attaches a chainsaw to his arm as a prostethic replacement needs to be watched over and over again! So if you haven't bought this movie yet do it now, who knows when you'll be in a deserted cabin fighting demons for your very soul! Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, pure classic Horror!

Want Evil Dead II (1987) Discount?

The blu-ray transfer is average at best. On a 50 inch screen its limitations are very evident. For example, the scene in the car at the beginning is very grainy and soft. This is a recurring problem, as is edge enhancement (e.g., when the demon comes for Ash towards the end). The good news is that once the blood (of many colours) starts to fly, the film becomes much more vibrant (as you would expect) to watch. Thus, reds, blacks, greens are a lot of fun in HD. Special effects are also noticeably underdone on blu-ray. One thing I did particularly enjoy was some aspects of the sound design. It often sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well, but one part of the film is great. Having seen the film in the theatre when first released, the zooming sound of the demon chasing Ash in the first part of the film is important for the impact it lends to that scene. In the blu-ray, it is very well done, moving around the listening room, and with a lot of nice bass extension and dynamic range (something the DVD lacks). Evil Dead II is a funhouse ride. You either love Raimi's demented sense of humour or you don't. I am an Evil Dead fan, so this is good enough for now, especially if you can pick it up at $9.99 (it was that price on Amazon, back in December 2009). If you want a reference quality copy of the film on blu-ray, this is not it.

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