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Featured Blu-ray Review: Evil Dead II

November 13th, 2011

Evil Dead II - 25th Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

The latest Blu-ray release for Evil Dead II is called 25th Anniversary Edition, but not because the movie was first released in theaters 25 years ago, but because it has been released on the home market 25 times. That was sarcasm, but I'm not 100% sure it was wrong. The film has been released on the home market countless times on many formats, including a previous Blu-ray release. Is this latest version worth buying? Or is it closer to being just the last Blu-ray with new cover art?

The Movie

After a brief prologue that introduces the audience to the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, we see Ash and Linda (Denise Bixler) driving up to a cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway. While getting the champagne, Ash comes across a tape recorder. On the tape recorder are the notes of Professor Knowby (John Peaks), who talks of finding the Necronomicon and its importance. He goes on to give phonetic pronunciations of certain incantations found within the book and by listening to this passage, Ash accidentally unleashes...

We are just six minutes into the movie and we've already hit unacceptable spoilers. Fortunately, the film is such a Cult Classic, I don't think I need to describe too much of the plot. It is one of the most famous, and best, horror comedies of all time. The script balances the two elements very well, while Bruce Campbell gives an inspired performance. His battle with his own hand is a perfect example of that. It also perfectly illustrates the balance between the horror and the comedy. Early on, watching Ash fight himself fight himself is too silly to be scary, but after he cuts off his hand and his severed hand escapes, there are some truly tense moments in the movie. Granted, it's funnier than The Evil Dead and it is impossible to take the film seriously, even in some of the more tense moments, but it still works as a horror film. It works best if you are a fan of B-movie horror films from the 1950s.

There are some flaws in the film. Some are stylistic. For instance, some might complain that the film tilts too far to the comedy end of horror comedy, but this is personal taste. Some are plot related. For instance, Professor Knowby's tape recorder always seems to be queued up to the right place for exposition. Also, outside of Bruce Campbell, some of the acting is a little suspect. Finally, the film is less of a sequel to the first film and more of a remake. None of these problems are a deal-breaker for me and I can enthusiastically recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the genre. In fact, even if you are not a fan of the genre, you should be entertained by Evil Dead II.

The Extras

While the movie is worth owning, is the 25th Anniversary Edition - Blu-ray worth the upgrade? Yes. First of all, there are numerous new special features, plus a number of extras ported over from the preview releases. These holdovers start with an audio commentary track with Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel and Greg Nicotero. (Star, director, co-writer, special effects respectively.) It's a highly energetic track with plenty of information. Absolutely worth listening to. There are also 17 minutes of behind-the-scenes pictures with voiceover by Tom Sullivan and a 32-minute making of featurette.

There are a trio of new special features starting with Swallowing Souls, a multi-part, nearly 100-minute long featurette that talks about the entire franchise. It obviously focuses on Evil Dead II, but we hear a bit about all three films. We hear about the origins, actors, special effects, etc. It's mostly talking heads, but there are a wide range of people interviewed. Added in are behind-the-scenes stills, footage and clips from the movie. Cabin Fever is 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage that includes the making of several of the big special effects sequences, plus behind-the-scenes of some deleted scenes. Finally, there's an 8-minute featurette called Road to Wadesboro, which talks about the location shoots and goes to the original locations.

As for the film's technical presentation, the original Blu-ray release was a bit of a mess. But this Blu-ray looks impeccable, given the age and budget. The level of detail is better than expected, blacks are very deep, contrast is good. There are no problems with print damage, although this was a trade off, as there is a bit of DNR here and there. It's nothing that's distracting, but if you are keeping an eye our for it, you will notice. The audio has been remastered as a 5.1 track. Dialogue is clear, with plenty of ambient sound.

Finally we get to the price... The Blu-ray only costs $10. It would be a deal at twice that.

The Verdict

Granted, this is not the first time Evil Dead II has hit the home market. It's not even the first time it has been released on Blu-ray. However, with new extras, an improved video presentation and and a bargain price, the 25th Anniversary Edition is Pick of the Week material.

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