There are three things you can count on in life: death, taxes and Anchor Bay continually issuing new home-video versions of their marquee titles. Whether the lure is a newly produced featurette or heinous smelling latex Necronomicom Ex Mortis replica book cover, fans of the Sam Raimi written/directed cult classic Evil Dead II cannot resist snatching up any new incarnation. In order to snag the fourth version, honorary Deadites will need to pony up for new Blu-ray Disc high-definition hardware to enjoy their beloved film in its most stunning incarnation yet.
For *gasp* newcomers, Evil Dead II stars “that odd man” Bruce Campbell, from Raimi’s Spider-Man films and Bubba Ho-Tep, as young stud Ash who is vacationing with his girlfriend in an old secluded cabin. The disposable girlfriend is dead weight, literally, as Evil Dead II is all about Campbell’s natural ability to steal the spotlight with his quirky facial expressions and agile physical comedy. Mad props go out to any actor who can get into a convincing deadly fight with his own possessed hand and come out on top with the aid of a kitchen knife and chainsaw.
The setup sounds more like the first film in a trilogy and not the middle, and in some respects, that’s true. Evil Dead II is technically a superior remake of the original Evil Dead, which also starred Bruce Campbell, so Anchor Bay made the right decision by releasing it on Blu-ray first. The original Evil Dead was an ensemble, straight-up horror film in the cabin that lacked the physical comedy and charm of the pseudo-sequel/remake. Evil Dead II and its sequel, Army of Darkness, can exist without the original. However, the original Evil Dead and Army of Darkness make no sense together without Evil Dead II.
Anchor Bay has a lot to prove with the presentation of Evil Dead II on Blu-ray, as not only is it the film’s first appearance in high definition, but it’s also one of the first four titles ever released by the studio on Blu-ray Disc format. Early indications from the disc specs were promising: an AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer and uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio on a BD-50 disc. It’s hard to argue with those stats from a major studio release, much less a small independent. At the same time, we expected this based on the new HD-master used by Anchor Bay on the last edition of Evil Dead II.
Before Evil Dead II can even begin, its clear Anchor Bay has done a bang-up job on their first wave of Blu-ray releases via a pre-film Blu-ray teaser trailer. All the scenes from Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, and even a trio from Evil Dead II are noticeably crisper than their DVD counterparts. One of the Evil Dead scenes with Ash awakening in a puddle in daylight is a visual highlight of the entire film, with its amazing clarity and sharpness. Night and interior scenes are generally softer than outdoor daytime scenes and more in line with the Book of the Dead DVD edition. This is understandable for an aged, low-budget production, but they still offer an upgraded picture, if only slightly.
The PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track isn’t the original mono track purists crave, but it certainly delivers. Previous re-masters of the sound effects benefit most from the extra audio information during intense scenes such as the effects-filled opening credits, Ash’s battle with his hand and the subsequent “wall” encounter, and the finale fight against a vortex and tree. Poorly originally recorded voices come across weak underneath the audio effects and take a little getting used to.
Supplemental material is mostly recycled from the Book of the Dead edition in 480p, save for Blu-ray-exclusive pop-up Film Fast Facts. During the film, viewers can choose between the pop-up facts or a hilarious must-hear Commentary with Writer/Director Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Co-Writer Scott Spiegel and Special Effects Make-Up Artist Greg Nicotero, which can be played individually or simultaneously. A pair of featurettes totaling just shy of 50 minutes, Behind the Screams and The Gore the Merrier, offer still and video glimpses into the production and special effects, while a fuzzy full-screen Theatrical Trailer is completely out of place on this release.
Poor trailer aside, everything else about Evil Dead II on Blu-ray Disc meets expectations, most importantly the high definition audio and video presentation. It’s worth a double, triple or even quadruple dip for you dedicated Deadites out there. Whether it’s solely worth making the jump to Blu-ray Disc will be entirely up to your wallet to decide.
- Overall: 8.4
- The fourth Evil Dead II release by Anchor Bay is the charm thus far. This film’s Blu-ray presentation is superior to all Evil Dead II releases before it, save for the lack of a smelly yet swanky latex cover.