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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Comedy > The Evil Dead – Ultimate Edition (1981 – 3/3 Disc DVD Set/Anchor Bay Collection)

The Evil Dead – Ultimate Edition (1981 – 3/3 Disc DVD Set/Anchor Bay Collection)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: A     Film: A-



It is strange to think that a low budget film that took almost four years to make (premiering in 1981) could become such a huge cult classic horror film.  From the now famous director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man 1, 2 and 3,) The Evil Dead was no easy task in creating and in many senses is a credit to Raimi’s painstaking and detailed love for the gruesome film.  Many actors and crew members came and went through the production of the film, Raimi having to use stand-ins as place holders for many shots, but in the end the horror fest turned out to be one of the best horror films to have ever been made.


The film’s premise is simple and follows a horror film formula that has become very standard over the past half century.  A group of Michigan State students set out on a vacation to a secluded cabin in the mountains and chaos ensues.  The group of naïve young adults find an evil and cursed book in the cabin known as ‘The Book of the Dead,’ as well as some other creepy and cursed items; of which an odd tape recording of mystical words is the most important.  Not before long and after reading the book while playing the tape, do the cabin dwellers one by one become possessed.  What occurs can only be described as horrifying and gruesome.  The Evil Dead is a must see and will live on as one of the best horror films to ever be made.


This reviewer finds Sam Raimi’s works to be interesting and full of heart; it is clear that he has always had a passion for detailed and entertaining films, it all starting with The Evil Dead.  Many individuals may be more familiar with the sequels of The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II and especially Army of Darkness, and may even mistakenly assume that the original film has the same humorous edge as its spin-offs.  Make no mistake; The Evil Dead is a pure horror fest that surprisingly after over 25 years holds up well without becoming corny or laughable.  The visual effects (with the exception of a few technically challenged Claymation scenes) are quite good and it is obvious how much work went into getting them right.  The film is not for the light of heart exhibiting tons of gore, pencil stabbings, violent attacks, and even a very tense rape scene.  The rape scene coupled with the gore actually got the film banned in many countries until the late 90’s.  The question may arise, is The Evil Dead better than its sequels?  The answer is that they are not even comparable.  After The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi definitely took the film series in a different direction, a direction that could not have been accomplished without great character actor Bruce Campbell.


Bruce Campbell is what makes The Evil Dead series and you won’t find many people who deny that fact.  He was the only cast member to stick by Sam Raimi from beginning to end and it is obvious that Raimi recognized Campbell’s dedication and loyalty.  The Evil Dead series made Bruce Campbell a cult hero himself, spawning comic books, video games, and countless lecture appearances.  In The Evil Dead, Campbell’s portrayal of Ash is not quite as in your face and cynical as the Ash we all know and love from Army of Darkness, but played as a more of a nice guy just trying to survive.  Without Bruce Campbell The Evil Dead would not be what it is today.  And for fans who love Army of Darkness or even Evil Dead II, seeing Ash’s character evolve only makes the experience all the better.


The technical features of this 3-Disc set are simple and adequate in the areas of picture and sound, but impressive with the vast amount of extras that are offered to long time fans.  This being about the 5th release of the cult classic film one would expect that the picture quality could have been vastly improved, but once again the picture presentation for this Anchor Bay release is just as underwhelming as ever.  The picture is presented in both 1.85 X 1 Widescreen (Disc 1) and Full Screen (Disc 2), mutually being unrestored and equally disappointing.  The picture quality is grainy, color imbalanced, and has an array of light/dark issues.  Viewing the film is almost painful because you would expect the quality on a nice 3-Disc set of a favorite film to be perfect and this presentation is far from.


Sadly the sound on this set is also lacking; though it seems as though a stronger attempt was made at the sound than the picture.  On Disc-1 (Widescreen) the sound is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0, Dolby Digital Surround EX, and 6.1 DTS-ES; whereas Disc-2 (Full Screen) is only presented in Dolby Surround 2.0.  The sound on the Widescreen presentation of Disc-1 is fuller and has fewer issues than Disc-2, but is far from perfect in that many times it sounds distorted and has high/low issues.  The sound on Disc-2 for whatever reason has more noticeable issues and definitely detracts from the viewing experience.  Overall, the picture and sound presentation of this 3-Disc set is less than stellar and this reviewer will personally be looking forward to a ‘real’ special edition on Blu-ray, where picture and sound will have been upgraded to the level they deserve.


The extras on this 3-Disc set are plentiful and interesting, being full of interviews and behind the scenes looks that have never been seen before. Extras include the following:



  • One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sam Raimi and Producer Robert Tapert
  • The Evil Dead: Treasures From the Cutting Room Floor
  • Audio Commentary with Star Bruce Campbell
  • Life After Death: The Ladies of The Evil Dead
  • The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell
  • Discovering The Evil Dead
    • Unconventional
    • At the Drive-In
    • TV Spots
    • Reunion Panel
    • Still Gallery
    • Make-Up Test
    • Trailer
    • Poster and Memorabilia Gallery



This reviewer did not find any of the extra features boring or unnecessary, but instead each feature only highlighted why the film is a horror classic.  The bonus features are mostly interviews and audio commentaries with the cast and crew, but they are updated and that is what fans want with a retrospective look back.  Also included are some deleted scenes that this reviewer though neither added nor detracted from the film, but were nice to see nevertheless.  The ‘Discovering The Evil Dead’ featurette lets fans see what the film was like back when the film premiered and is very interesting, letting fans experience the Drive-In, the TV Spots, and the recent memorabilia that has come to light.  This reviewer thinks the bonus features were perfect and other studios should look to this set to understand what fans want out of a Special Edition release.


The Evil Dead is an excellent film and one of this reviewer’s personal favorite horror films (along with its two sequels).  If you have not seen The Evil Dead, now is the time; because before long ‘one by one we will take you.’



For our coverage of the sequels so far, try these links:


Evil Dead 2 DiviMax DVD



Army Of Darkness HD-DVD




-   Michael P Dougherty II


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