Bruce Campbell is Ash, the most-abused character in film history. Ash and his girlfriend break into what they think is a deserted cabin in the woods. Trouble is, it was occupied only recently by an archeologist who made the mistake of reading the wrong passage from The Book of the Dead into a tape recorder, with the result that he's awakened some very pro-active demons. Naturally, Ash plays the recording and finds himself besieged not only by his own possessed girlfriend, but practically everything else in the house; armed with only a shotgun, an axe and a chainsaw, Ash settles down to the grueling business of surviving the night.
When is a sequel not a sequel? When it's a remake with a bigger budget! Director Sam Raimi has re-created his first film with more of an eye towards bizarre, slapstick humor, while beefing up his special effects. The result is one of the best, most absorbing horror films of the late twentieth century, a funhouse for gorehounds and the strong-stomached casual viewer. Read the full review at The Bad Movie Report.
Those of you keeping score will recall that in my earlier review for Anchor Bay's original pressing of this movie that it was one of the few major disappointments I had encountered in my DVD explorations. Anchor Bay has made significant amends with this edition, providing a nearly perfect transfer with fine color and deep, rich blacks - gone is the grain and artifacting of the former version. The new 5.1 THX soundtrack occasionally goes tinny on the voices, but is otherwise superb. This is a movie whose soundtrack will clear the room of pets in record time. Another plus: the disc allows you to choose between the widescreen and full frame presentations. It could be argued that, as the widescreen version only places mattes over the top and bottom of the full screen picture, watching the full frame version delivers even more Evil Dead Goodness - still, I prefer the theatrical experience of widescreen. But it's America! We get to choose!
This disc is more generous with its extras, as well. There is a theatrical trailer in superb shape (though it gives away rather too many surprises); two still galleries, divided between movie and publicity stills, and behind the scene photos; "Talent Bios" for (predictably) only Campbell and Raimi, though these are more detailed than similar entries on other discs; and a preview of the upcoming video game, Evil Dead: Hail to the King. An obvious portent of trouble ahead is that this "preview" contains absolutely no images of the game itself. An original half-hour featurette, "The Gore the Merrier" focuses on the KNB FX team (as in Anchor Bay's THX mastered edition of Army of Darkness, and relies heavily on videotape records the artists themselves made of the production process. This is a marvelous peek backstage, and a great treat for FX geeks like myself.
The commentary track features Raimi, Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and make-up man Greg Nicotero (the N in KNB), and the only problem with the track is the producers have put four wiseguys into one booth; the wisecracks become wearing after awhile. Though there is good information to be gleaned from the track, most of it is covered - with far less superfluous material - in the featurette.
Now, at last, I can retire my venerable old laserdisc copy of Evil Dead II. The older, personally despised version of this DVD is still kicking around out there, usually at bargain prices, but don't be fooled - this is the treatment the movie deserves. Just look for the one with the unspeakably garish cover - you'll find the contents to be much more (I should resist, but I am weak! Weak!) groovy.
Dr. Freex, 10/19/00