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Come get some! Region 2 fans rejoice as the un-holy trilogy comes to DVD – including a 4th disc featuring the first film again (more on that later) and a load of extra features. I think this trilogy has had more DVD releases than any other series on DVD so it really is about time this was the final incarnation, so here goes.

Evil Dead Trilogy

The Films
By now I would image a lot of our readers are familiar with the Evil Dead series so I won’t spend too long talking about each film, so I can concentrate on the plethora of extra features included.

The Evil Dead
The film that started it all, filmed primarily on location in Morristown, Tennessee this was one of the first and certainly one of the best remembered films about a group of kids that head off into the woods to spend a relaxing weekend in a deserted cabin. In the dilapidated cabin amongst other strange things they find a book, bound in human, flesh called the Necronomicon and a taped recording of the professor who owns the cabin reading aloud from the book. Whilst the book is fine by itself, when it is read from evil is released. It is this taped recording that summons the force that will lead the groups’ destruction. The evil force attacks and possesses each member of the group one at a time until only Ash played by the heroically chinned Bruce Campbell remains, fighting off his now evil ex-friends intent on destroying him.

Evil Dead 2 – Dead by Dawn
This sequel is not like normal sequels in that it does not follow on from the first film, but instead is for all intents and purposes, a remake with a bigger budget however the main difference apart from the “effects” is that now Bruce “Don’t Call Me Ash” Campbell’s character is now transformed from weak coward into a “leader of men” with a carved physique that would look good under a torn shirt. By now we know the only way to kill the possessed people is by decapitation which makes for a lot of explosive blood scenes. The possessed or Deadites as they become known, again go after Ash and the evil gets into his hand, so he chops it off. Some incredibly nifty work in the famous “Machine Shop!” scene, and he has a chainsaw where is hand once was allowing for the carving of Deadites. The addition of a sawn off shotgun to his arsenal completes the hero’s image – let battle commence!  

Evil Dead 3 – Army of Darkness
At the end of the previous film, Ash is sent hurtling through time to the medieval era. This instalment picks up where the last left off (bar plot inconsistencies and continuity errors!) and our big chinned hero ends up as a prisoner in a castle. The only way he can return to his present time is to retrieve the Necronomicon which will not only help fight off the evil that has cursed the land surrounding the castle, but provide the time travel details he needs.

There you have an overview of all three films. The first is a fairly serious affair however the second makes a move to a funnier film with the gore and horror associated with the first, and the third is not horrific at all and has a lot of comedy moments, including a homage to the Three Stooges (in fact, a lot of the slap stick comedy moments seem to have their roots in that trio). The version od AoD presented here contains the original darker ending as opposed to the happy ending the studio made Sam add on instead.

Evil Dead Trilogy

Video
The video here is pretty varied, and none of it reference quality. The first film was shot on 8mm film if I remember correctly and so had to be blown up to the 35mm standard used in theatres and one would assume, DVD. This in itself makes the picture softer than usual but nothing too drastic. Yes its low quality, but it makes the film look gritty which adds to its atmosphere. Also, it was shot in 4:3 and then cropped into 1.85:1 widescreen which means some of the footage is missed – except here as the full screen unmatted version is also included on the bonus disc! This allows for a better vision of the film in that some of the scenes were shot for a 4:3 frame, and this version then gives a view of the film that the director originally conceived. I could talk for a while about the nuances of the video in each film but I think I am fairly safe in saying this is the best these films will look. Apart from one. Army of Darkness has had numerous DVD releases over the past few years with I believe another one just out on R1 DVD and we had all assumed that the poor colours and low definition were here to stay. That was until Universal released the Region 3 version which I have to say, has a much better picture. I you want a look at the various video qualities then check out Warwick’s <a href=http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=8&c=18>Army of Darkness Video Comparison</a>.

Audio
Evil Dead 1 is presented with English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 as well as Dolby Surround 2.0. French Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 are also present. The surround mixes are affluent and the channel mixing is good, and the very strange collection of sounds used in the film are conveyed well. The screams grate a little every now and again as they are so loud but over all, these tracks are well put together. The DTS track has a little more bass than the Dolby Digital one. Evil Dead II comes with Dolby Digital English 5.1, as well as German, Spanish and Italian 1.0. While this is obviously not the classic of the series, it has some great lines in the film and since the stance Ash takes in the film is different to the first (him being more macho) I would have thought that to hear his trademark “Groovy!” would have been better with the option of DTS, but alas. Army of Darkness is presented in Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 as it is the Director’s Cut of the movie. The other Anchor Bay AoD release has both cuts of the film, but the theatrical cut has a DTS ES 6.1 mix included. A shame that this mix was never created for the Director’s Cut of the film.  

Evil Dead Trilogy

Extras
Wow – where to start?

Evil Dead 1 has some great extras. Fanalysis is a hilarious documentary in which the man (BC) talks about his fans and how surreal he finds them. There are some scary fans who still believe they are not totally nuts. A woman (55 years old?) in a Xena the Warrior Princess explains how there are some really mad fans out there as though she isn’t one of them. Come on - she changed her name to Xena – queue the Looney Tunes music. The charisma of this man is just incredible as is his devotion to his fans. I smiled all the way through its 26 minutes and when I wasn’t smiling I was laughing, except for the bit when Harry Knowles (Web Guru!?!) is on screen (I wonder how much the DVD producers paid him for his few kind words?).  Some of the dressed up fans are hilarious. It makes me want to move to the States. With a video camera.

Discovering Evil Dead is a 13 minute feature dissecting the origins of the films. Not its birth, but its transition from The Book of the Dead with no distribution company to the Evil Dead with. This is a brief look at how a film can if it is lucky, start out with nothing and end up with a theatrical and video release, even if they did have to go to court over its release.

The Behind the Scenes Footage and Outtakes runs for 18 minutes and adds to the humour of the film. It is amazing to see how such a load of shoddy test footage can eventually be re-shot and turned into a great movie. Unfortunately not much in the way of outtakes is present here in the way you might assume in the form of people messing up however it is still interesting footage.

Next are a few throwaway features like a Trailer, TV Spots, Poster and Stills Gallery, Talent Bios and a THX Optimizer are included. There are two Easter Egg extras hidden here.

The Commentary tracks are something any die hard fan will be interested in and I would recommend them to the casual viewer as well as they are both amusing and interesting. Imagining what these people accomplished with such little money is fascinating. The first track is by director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert. This is the more serious of the two as they are able to talk about the way in which the film was made, where as the second is the comical look at the film through the main actors (Bruce Campbell’s) eyes. He starts out blasting Rami’s commentary as fiction and not worth listening to – which is always a good start. Any listener should listen to Bruce Campbell – he’s a very funny man.

Evil Dead Trilogy

Evil Dead 2 has the least of the extra features however as with both other movies it has a Commentary. This features Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Scott Spiegel. Again the commentary is excellent – it is like being in a pub with the cast and crew discussing the film. It is very involving and is a fans dream come true as they compare this film with the first in terms of story, content, props and action. They mock the movie for its fantastic miniatures and blue screen use action as well as talking again about Sam’s car. Sam loves his car – it’s been in all his films bar 1 (or possibly 2) – it was even in Spider-man. They even point out flaws in the cinematography such as when you can see over the walls over the cabin and into the rest of the set. Its totally disgusting to see the sweat pour out of the ear of one of the Deadites (played by Ted Raimi) as the suit was so unbelievably hot (however understandable since it was filmed in July).  This commentary appears to be exactly the same as the one recorded for the original laserdisc.

The Making Of Evil Dead 2 (or The Gore the Merrier) is an 31 minute documentary about the effects and behind the scenes shenanigans that went on in this picture. It goes into quite specific details for how some of the special effects were created including how the effects guys had to rub Vaseline onto one of the actress’s breasts before taking a cast of her body. Again it is pointed out how Sam tortures Bruce and even his younger brother Ted. There is even a scene showing Ted holding an oxygen mask up to his face between scenes trying to combat the heat. Also interesting is the use of the “Reverse Acting” as Sam puts it. This is when the scene’s climax happens first and then the actors have to work back from that. One of the times this was used was the classic eyeball scene (taken directly from the Three Stooges in which a grape was used) which shoots through the air into the screaming mouth of Kassie Wesley. The scene was filmed with the eye already in her mouth and then pulled out quickly and then shown in the film backwards, so Kassie has to scream with her mouth open the moment the eyeball left her mouth so it looked good when reversed. Some good footage and lots of behind the scenes information make this a proper documentary – unlike those awful promotional “documentaries” that TV stations make to hype a film.

Army of Darkness again does not have the plethora of extra features of the first film. We are fortunately treated to a Commentary track with Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and co-writer Ivan Raimi. This is essential listening for any of the fans out there and it is both funny and informative. Poor Bruce really does take a beating in this film (actually Sam mentioned in the Spider-Man commentary that he wanted a way to somehow hurt Bruce a bit more in the film of the wall crawler but they couldn’t work it in – you can read my review of that <a href=” http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=2&p=info&n=1&burl=r%3D0%26s%3D11%26c%3D31&c=530”>here</a>). They talk at length about the way shots were filmed, the acting of the extras and which were their friends and which part of a scene Universal wanted cut from their version of the DVD release. Basically, you have to listen to it.

The Deleted Scenes are next. These are not scenes removed for problematic reasons, but for editing purposes. There are four scenes and each is accompanied with an optional commentary track with Sam and Bruce. The scenes are: Original Opening, Ash Confronts Arthur, Original Windmill Scene and Ash Recruits Henry the Red. The Storyboards follow this and are not presented in a usual way. Instead, whilst the film is playing, the storyboards appear on screen during the scene they relate to, to give an idea of what was originally proposed, and what magic they managed to create from one of Sam’s awful drawings. They feature as a subtitle track so if you require the subtitles to be on for the film, you have to make a choice of either subtitles or the storyboards unless your DVD player can support two on screen subtitles at once (I believe PowerDVD can do this). The Creature Concept Drawings is a gallery of disgusting concepts for some of the horrific monsters created for this film. A shame so few Army of Darkness related extra features are included here as the current two disc version available from Anchor Bay (review <a href="http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?r=0&;s=2&p=info&n=1&burl=r%3D0%26s%3D11%26c%3D31&c=539">here</a>) is excellent and includes several features not available here.

Evil Dead Trilogy

The forth disc labelled as the bonus disc features the entire first movie, as it was originally shot i.e. in the aspect ratio of 4:3 unmatted. This is a nice “extra feature” as it means we get to see a few extra bits and pieces in the film that Sam originally envisaged. It is presented with the same Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1 soundtracks that the first disc comes with. Real extras wise, the first up is entitled The Incredibly Strange Film Show which is a program hosted by (the young looking) Jonathon Woss from way back in 1988 just after Evil Dead 2 had been released. This features interviews with Sam, Bruce and Robert (also all very young) as the talk about how they started out making super-8 films, and then moved onto making Within the Woods – the short version of Evil Dead which was created as a preliminary to the main feature to drum up the financial support required to make the full length feature film. This is great as the whole experience is still so fresh with the team and so they are more animated when talking about it than perhaps they are these days when they have spent the last 20 years talking about it. This runs for 34 minutes.

The Living Love the Dead is a TV program hosted by Emily Booth. Originally it was supposed to include Within the Woods however due to legal reasons this did not happen, which is a shame as it is a very interesting bit of footage. The program features interviews with magazine editors, special effects people, a Professor of Film Studies and even Emily Booth (queue soft focus) which is a little odd since she is also hosting the program. It’s a watch once experience but it’s a good experience. This runs for 36 minutes.

Bruce Campbell – Geek or God is an 8 minute show delving into the Ash character, and the actor that portrays him. It starts with interviews from all the people from the previous extra feature. I was hoping for a lot more from this to be honest, but it was a bit a rubbish viewing. I wouldn’t bother watching this one. Dead Good Marketing again features the same people as before (spot a trend?) and this goes over the way in which the film was marketed opening with discussing Stephen King’s endorsement of the first movie. This then progresses to the artwork and how the campaign was made and even features an interview with the graphic artist. This 10 minute affair is interesting in its entirety and includes an (awful) advert for the film, starring a young Jonathon Woss in a cinema. Antihero is a feature based on the creation of a music video which was made as homage to Evil Dead. The finished video is included taking this feature to 6 minutes. I can’t remember if Antihero was the band’s name, or the song, and to be honest, I don’t care. The song was not very good and while the video is good for its meagre budget, it’s still awful.

Overall
It is hard now to convince people to get the new Evil Dead release as there have been so many that only hardcore fans will purchase this for the extra features of the forth disc. People new to the trilogy should consider checking it out if horror interests you and for all it’s faults, I still love it so yeah, I’d buy it again, and again, and again.


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