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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Comedy > The Evil Dead – Limited Edition (1981/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)

The Evil Dead – Limited Edition (1981/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B+     Extras: B+     Film: B+



The Evil Dead started as a low budget, passion piece for director Sam Raimi and has grown into one biggest cult film franchises of all time. Now, you can’t think of The Evil Dead without thinking about the wonderful sequels (Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness) it spawned; at this point acting as one gory, hysterically funny, insane odyssey.  When The Evil Dead was filmed there was no money, little support and a starred a cast/crew of unknowns that participated in Sam Raimi’s madness merely for the love of acting and imagination.


Entering the film with an open mind is key to the viewing experience.  From the beginning the viewer notices the film is low budget, but what is also seen is the film’s unusually creative tone that equally mixes both horror and comedy.  The film is violent, the film is gory, but the film is also full of slapstick comedy that manages to breakup the more grotesque moments.  The creative take on the horror genre set Sam Raimi apart and launched his career, allowing him to make the even (at times) more treasured sequels.  So in the backwoods of Tennessee a young Sam Raimi gathered a crew of friends and acquaintances to make his first real venture into film, in turn making a cult classic for fans across the board to enjoy. 


The film’s style is what makes it unique, whereas the story itself is very typical of other horror films of then and now.  A group of five young college students venture into the woods for a weekend getaway, where they settle down for the night in a dusty, creaky, old cabin.  Two of our young protagonists, Ash (the epic Bruce Campbell) and Scotty (Richard DeManincor), stumble across an old book called ‘The Book of the Dead’ in the cabin’s basement along with a tape recorder.  Playing the tape recorder the boys hear a man reciting an incantation that unbeknownst to them resurrects maliciously violent demons.  The cabin and woods are soon overrun by evil with Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) being the first one possessed and the other two females meeting violent ends soon after.  Cheryl is the victim of the infamous vine/tree root rape scene that over the years has garnered so much controversy; even leading the film to be banned in certain areas.  Bruce Campbell (as Ash) ultimately becomes the film’s unwilling and hesitant hero as he is forced to fight for his life.


The film is infamous in so many ways; from its style down to the editing process.  Sam Raimi was only 21 years old when he started to make his experimental Evil Dead project with his friends, but after shooting finished it took him over 1year to finish editing the film.  Not only did the editing process take an exuberant amount of time for such a low budget project, but also led to an array of reshoots and infamous stand-ins to get the job done.  It seemed that the young Sam Raimi made a lot of amateur mistakes (as many critics of the film like to point out), but in the end the shots of a slightly older Bruce Campbell and different statured stand-ins gives the film part of its charm.  The Evil Dead is a classic film regardless of the genre you classify as.  Horror, comedy and a splash of suspense The Evil Dead has it all working for it to stand the test of time and perhaps even cheat death.


I think I own 4 copies of The Evil Dead on DVD (one of which I reviewed elsewhere on this site) and none of them look even half as good as this Blu-ray.  This Blu-ray’s 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 picture transfer was personally overseen by Sam Raimi and was taken from the original 16m footage delivering an awesome viewing experience.  This is the best the film has looked to date and finally offers fans the picture quality they deserve.  Though not perfect the picture is crisp, clean and clear as it delivers inky blacks and solid colors.  The film will never be demo quality (without destroying it with digital manipulation), but compared to the previous DVD releases this Blu-ray is astonishing.  Whereas shadowing appears nicely throughout, the contrast could be better and there is an understandable amount of grain.


Surprisingly on this Blu-ray are two aspect ratio options, including the original 1.33 X 1 ratio as well as the new enhanced 1.85 X 1 ratio (that Raimi prefers).  I think the difference is barely noticeable, but other fans will fight tooth and nail otherwise, but it is nice to have options.  The sound is even better in the Dolby True-HD as we finally are treated to great directionality and crisp dialogue.  In the past the sound came blasting from the front and the dialogue was always slightly muffled, not now.  The atmosphere is supremely well presented as we get treated to wide ranging soundscape in ever dimension.  In the end, this Blu-ray is great and fans should be happy to finally see a worthy release.


The extras are contained on the second disc, which is a DVD.  The extras are nothing new as they have all been found on the various releases, but nice nevertheless.  Extras include Reunions Panel; Unconventional; At the Drive-In (which is the cast giving DVDs at a special screening); Book of the Dead: Other Pages has different Ash takes; Documentary; Photo Gallery; Trailers; Discovering the Evil Dead; The Ladies of the Dead Meet Bruce Campbell; Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor; Audio Commentary.  There are a bunch of previous released extras that are not include, which should have been, but other than that extras are all well done.


One by one you shall all be taken… into Blu-ray.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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