Evil Dead II: Special Edition (UK - BD RB)
Chris checks out the latest in a long line of home releases of this film - groovy...
Ash (Bruce Campbell: Army of Darkness), the sole survivor of The Evil Dead, takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler: Crisis in the Kremlin) to a secluded cabin in the woods where he plays back a professor's tape recorded recitation of passages from the book of the Dead. The spell calls up an evil force from the woods that turns Linda into a monstrous Dedite, and threatens to do the same to Ash. He is forced to single-handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal - and groovy - hero in horror movie history. (Taken from the PR.)
Okay, so the above synopsis contains a few inaccuracies, but it's not a million miles away from the basic plot of Evl Dead II. The film is often incorrectly referred to as a remake because of the extremely simplified recap of the original Evil Dead that accounts for the opening ten minutes or so, but that's not the case. The truth is that the filmmakers couldn't obtain the rights to use footage from the original film, and so had to re-shoot the basic elements to introduce the characters and the situation in which they found themselves. (Personally I think there were better ways around it, but hey.) However, even without the opening recap it's easy to see how people could jump to the remake conclusion, because Evil Dead II is basically a more accomplished, gorier, and dare I say it, maniacal, version of its predecessor.
Now I'll freely admit to being slightly bemused by the love people have for the Evil Dead films because their particular style of slapstick gore isn't really up my street, but I appreciate their place in cinema history and respect Raimi as a filmmaker (except for Spider-Man 3 - there's no forgiveness there). With that in mind I have no particular desire to discuss the film at length, especially because this must be at least the twentieth release of the film on a home format (conservative estimate) and pretty much anything worth saying has already been said by more qualified people than me. On the off-chance that you're one of the two people who have never seen the film and are interested in reading in-depth reviews, I've linked to a couple (from our own Gabe and Marcus) in the 'related links' section below. As for me, I'm going to concentrate on the technical merits.
Studiocanal has actually released Evil Dead II on Blu-ray Disc once before, back when they were still called Optimum Home Entertainment. That release was pretty disappointing on account of the sub-par visuals, which comprised of a dated master slathered in noise reduction. Thankfully this release is based on Lionsgate's 25th Anniversary edition, so it's much better all-round and features, gasp, grain! Joking aside, the image is far more textured than the previous release, finally offering something that looks relatively filmic. That's not to say it's without issues; for one thing I still have my suspicions that it's been filtered to some degree, but detail is still a definite step up from the previous release even if some scenes are inherently soft. There are also times when the 'grain' looks less than natural. It's never anywhere near as bad as releases plagued by obvious digital grain (such as some of Arrow Video's Italian features), but neither is it entirely convincing throughout.
Anyway, enough about the grain; on to the other elements. The image is decidedly darker than the previous release, with a slightly cooler appearance overall. Crush is an issue in a number of scenes, but there is still plenty of detail for the majority of the running time, and indeed some scenes actually look quite impressive. Colours are generally pretty natural, if a little subdued, although skin tones can look a little too red at times (especially if directly comparing to the older release). The new scan presents more visual information on three sides of the picture - which is a small positive, but a positive nonetheless - while dirt and debris is also kept to a minimum (although I'd be lying if I said it was entirely absent). Generally speaking this isn't a bad effort overall, but for my money Sony's release of the original film is more visually impressive.
As with the video, the disc offers slight upgrade over the previous effort with a choice between DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 tracks. I was curious as to how well the soundtrack had fared during the transition from stereo to surround, so for the purposes of this review I went with the multi-channel surround track. To be completely honest the track doesn't really make much use of the available channels; there's very little in the way of directionality, with the rears used only sparingly and never to great effect. Dialogue is often buried in the mix and levels fluctuate wildly throughout, but given the age and budgetary limitations this didn't come as a huge surprise. The subwoofer doesn't have a whole lot to do either, but it sprung to life during the fountain of blood and the end sequence when the forest comes to life. Basically there were no surprises here - I got exactly what I expected from this track. At the end of the day Evil Dead II is not the sort of film you use to demo your sound system, and if you keep your expectations realistic you should be happy enough.
At first glance the bonus material looks a little lightweight, but once you actually start delving into the various features you quickly realise that there's plenty here to enjoy.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell, Co-Writer Scott Spiegel, and Special Makeup Effects Artist Greg Nicotero: A fun, fact-filled commentary with a bunch of guys who obviously have a great relationship.
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: This making-of is over an hour and a half in length and includes interviews with all of the principal players. It's an extremely engaging feature, particularly for someone like me who isn't intimately familiar with the film.
- Cabin Fever: Fly on the Wall Behind-the-Scenes: A series of Greg Nicotero's own on-set movies that show the cast and crew goofing around between takes.
- Road to Wadesboro: Revisiting the Shooting Location of Evil Dead II: Props manager Tony Elwood returns to the scene of the crime all these years later.
- Evil Dead II: Behind the Screams: This archival featurette has Tom Sullivan talking the viewer through numerous stills.
- The Gore the Merrier: The Making Evil Dead II: Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero discuss working on the special effects for the film, and provide many an interesting anecdote.
- Theatrical Trailer: If you need me to explain this one...
- Photo Galleries: A series of still galleries round things off.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 15th April 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Documentary, Featurettes, Trailer, Photo Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 84 minutes
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