- on Sunday, 05 September 2010 18:38
- by Loron Hays
"The Evil Dead is the most ferociously origional horror film of the year." - Stephen King, circa 1981
Opening with the swirl of century-old fog as it sweeps across a Tennessee lake, The Evil Dead, when it premiered in 1981, boldly announced that a new creative talent had arrived. With tight angles, swooping first-person camera perspective, quick edits, and frightening moments of ingenuity, writer/director Sam Raimi was introduced to the public eye. Sure, the team behind The Evil Dead might have been aiming for the then-burgeoning drive-in theater market, but they absolutely delivered a memorable picture that transcends the drive-ins limitations. On a shoestring budget, Raimi was able to produce a moderate hit that made audiences afraid of the evil that lurks in the woods. Now on Blu-ray, Sam Raimi’s masterpiece looks and sounds better than it ever did and, as a result, the transfer manages to capture just how ahead of its time The Evil Dead was.
Three girls and two guys. A rickety old bridge. A Book of the Dead. An isolated cabin surrounded by a thick forest and even thicker fog. A 1973 Delta 88 Oldsmobile. And, of course, Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. A recipe for disaster? I think not. For Deadite fans everywhere, this combination screams absolute excellence for the horror genre. And, in its own way, The Evil Dead delivers one hell of a cinematic brick of gold. Maybe not as funny as its sequel, but this film is sharper, gorier, and scarier in every way. There’s the grisly vine rape scene, the dismembering of the first to turn into a Deadite, the presence of the smothering woods always rushing to get those that leave the cabin, and the taunting “girl” desperately trying to get out from the cellar. Okay, so The Evil Dead isn’t for everyone, but, when a Deadite falls to floor kicking and spewing a milk-like substance everywhere, Raimi’s film stands as a testament to the power of the imagination when faced with limited funds.
Shot for over a year and a half, Raimi continually manages to land every single one of his horrific images – even if there are continuity issues and obvious stand-ins. His camera is forever in motion, usually only static when it is positioned on the floor. Handheld and close to the faces of the actors, I suppose the intimacy of most of his shots could cause a person to get dizzy, but there is a frantic immediacy to his organization and editing. Also in play throughout The Evil Dead is the use of some obvious Hitchcock themes, moments, and photographic effects. The use of shadows dominate the background framing, making a clock seem possessed; the use of sound is also pretty dynamic in the nicely-edited scene where Ash decides to chainsaw through his girlfriend; the strings are also very Psycho-like with ominous threats and shrieks which play nicely to the conventions of the genre. Then, there’s the reflecting mirror; trick-photography at its finest.
Acting-wise, this isn’t anyone’s finest moment. It’s pretty much B-movie material which makes the ultra gory effects much more enjoyable – especially when Ash’s beheaded girlfriend makes one last effort to “kill” him. Of course, Campbell survives the carnage and steals the show. He has to; there are two more Evil Dead movies with him. No surprises there, but his delivery of mostly throwaway lines is dead-on. And hysterical, with an off-the-cuff line like “Shut-up, Linda” being one of the classic moments of Campbell’s career and The Evil Dead series.
Violent, gritty, and extremely dangerous, gore-heavy splatter of The Evil Dead is not for the faint or the shy. Hell, it might not even be for the semi-curious, but that fact doesn’t change its place in cinematic history…or the fact that it still rocks. This is true splatter-fest material; the blood pours from pipes, from wall sockets, and drains into light bulbs until they burst. Gooey. Sticky. Blood-red. All while the fog outside closes in on the cabin. Welcome to The Evil Dead. Go ahead, try to outrun Raimi’s camera.
I dare you.
Available on Blu-ray - August 31, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Displaying more detail than I’ve ever seen on ANY version of The Evil Dead thus far, this transfer is solid. It might appear to be a little grainy in some areas, but there is little doubt that this release got more detail out of its 16mm film negative than was first thought. (Note: watch for the homage to The Hills Have Eyes. I had never noticed it before, but it’s there.) The Evil Dead can be viewed in the director's original 4:3 aspect ratio with vertical black bars or a zoomed-in 1.85:1 version which is also visually strong. Dolby 5.1 is the only option and it sounds pretty honest, more revealing then the original mono track.
Working to deliver a serious and educational commentary this time, Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and Campbell gather together for this commentary; very intriguing for fans, but not nearly as goofy as the previously released version.
The following featurettes are ONLY available on the LIMITED EDITION of the Blu-ray. It is also standard definition, but – let me tell you – these are ESSENTIAL to the experience of the movie and definitely make this release the ONLY ONE you will EVER need.
- One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead (54 mins): This documentary is very telling, very revealing, and absolutely necessary for fans of the film. A highlight is the discussion of Campbell as the hero.
- The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor (60 mins): This feature is basically everything – and I do mean everything – deleted from the movie. Very nice and complete, featuring some alternative scenes and an ending.
- The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell (29 mins): This reads as an extended interview session with Campbell and the actresses from the film.
- Book of The Dead: The Other Pages (2 mins): This quickie gives us a better look at the Book of the Dead prop with some deleted footage.
- Discovering The Evil Dead (13 mins): This featurette relates the story of how the film came to be released in England.
- Unconventional (19 mins): This featurette discusses The Evil Dead on the road and at the Horror convention circuit.
- At the Drive-In (12 mins): This featurette is basically a live appearance of cast and crew from the convention circuit.
- Reunion Panel (31 mins): This featurette is another from the Horror convention circuit; it’s basically a panel of the actors discussing the film.
- Make-Up Test (1 min): This brief, brief featurette displays live-action with stop-motion, highlighting the effects of the movie.