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Old 10-08-2004, 02:55 AM
 
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Default Evil Dead 2: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: August 25, 2000

Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: August 29, 2000
MSRP $29.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Sam Raimi's classic horror comedy Evil Dead 2 returns to DVD with a vengeance. Evil Dead 2, directed in 1987 is the follow-up to the original "Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror". It features goosed up special effects provided by KNB, better sets and a terrific performance by Bruce Campbell who has made this film so endearing to many Evil Dead fans the world over. So without further delay, lets venture back to the cabin in the woods for another round of mayhem.

The Story

inline Image Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) are taking a little vacation. Ash is driving up to an old cabin in the woods, which is deserted or at least he thinks it is. They arrive to the rundown place and settle in for a night of who knows what. Just as the two are getting cozy in the rear of the cabin, Ash discovers a tape recorder lying innocently on a desk. At the recommendation of Linda he decides to see what's on it. Playing the tape he hears the voice of Professor Raymond Knowby (John Peaks) who ventured to an ancient castle and discovered the Necronomicon, roughly translated the "Book of the Dead". The pages of the book spoke of passageways to another world and contained demon resurrection incantations. As the tape plays, Professor Knoby begins to translate aloud the passages of the book which, unfortunately for Ash, awaken the evil spirits in the woods.

inline Image Wasting no time, the evil force comes crashing through the bedroom window and takes Ash's girlfriend Linda. Ash hurries to the bedroom to discover the window broken and his beloved gone. Horrified, Ash drops his bottle of champagne and wanders into the woods to look for her. When he finds her she's not quite herself and seems to be possessed. Finding a shovel conveniently lying nearby Ash dispatches possessed Linda...or so he thinks. He buries Linda and heads towards his Oldsmobile when suddenly the evil force rushes at him from the back. Ash is sent flying backwards, eventually crashing into a tree and landing face down into a puddle. When he emerges, Ash has become possessed but luckily the sun begins to rise and the evil force leaves Ash's body. He then promptly collapses from exhaustion. Ash awakens sometime later and after figuring out the sun had driven the evil away, he decides to take off. Arriving at the bridge he discovers it's been destroyed, making the only way out impossible.

inline Image Ash has little time to think before the sun begins to set and once again the evil emerges and chases him through the woods. It looks like poor Ash is stuck in the cabin for another dreadful night. Meanwhile, Professor Knoby's daughter, Annie (Sarah Berry), and her friend Ed Getley (Richard Domeier) are heading up to the cabin to meet with Annie's parents to discuss the Necronomicon. Along the way they meet two country folk - Jake (Dan Hicks) and his girlfriend Bobbie Joe (Kassie Depaiva). Jake explains that the bridge to the Knoby Cabin is gone but that there is a trail they can take to reach it. When they arrive, Ash who's been through hell, attacks them with a shotgun mistaking them for evil demons. Jake manages to tackle Ash to the ground and throws him down into the cellar. Annie, noticing the destruction of the cabin and Ash's bloody chainsaw, fears the worst for her parents. She finds and plays her father's tape recorder in hopes it will reveal some clues. Professor Knoby explains what happened to his wife after he spoke aloud the demon resurrection passages. Now the four of them must ban together to fight and somehow dispel the evil forces that have been unleashed.

inline Image Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite horror films of all time and it became an instant classic for me after renting and watching it late on a Saturday night. I watched the Evil Dead films in sequence starting with the original, which I decided to rent after reading the back of a worn out VHS box at the local video store. "Sounds a lot like Friday the 13th" I thought to myself, and hurried to the counter with my find. To make a long story short, after seeing the original I became an Evil Dead fan and have been ever since. A lot of fuss has been made over whether or not Evil Dead 2 is a sequel. This is mostly due to inaccurate plot synopsis on the back of old video releases, which state: Ash "returns" to the cabin. Of course this is not the case, even Ash isn't that stupid. Evil Dead 2 is both a sequel and a remake. You can consider it either one or the other, since both Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 can stand on their own as individual films. The story goes that Sam Raimi wasn't able to use footage from the original or get the cast to reprise their roles in the sequel so Sam had to start from scratch. You'll notice one scene in Evil Dead 2 that is played out exactly like the ending of the original. Essentially at that point Evil Dead 2 becomes a sequel.

inline Image Sam Raimi's clever filmmaking and knack for twisted slapstick humor made it over from the original to the sequel. This time both qualities have been heightened to where the comedy is equal to the horror, where as the original was much more of a straight out splatter film. Through this perfect melding of comedy and horror Evil Dead 2 manages to capture the appeal of the original while creating a more entertaining film where everything is exaggerated to the extreme. There's more blood, more violence and more twisted humor, much of which is inspired by slapstick comedy routines.

inline Image What makes Evil Dead 2 work most of all is Bruce Campbell. Sam Raimi can mock Bruce's acting all he wants but it's actually Bruce's oddball performance that makes this film work as a horror comedy. One of my favorite scenes in the film is after Ash exits the shack having just shredded his girlfriend's (or should I say ex-girlfriends?) head. He hobbles back to the cabin with such a quirky expression of shock on his face, which always gets me laughing. It's moments like that that make this film so special. I really like Bruce Campbell and his acting, which is such a breath of fresh air from the usual stereotypical actor. His character in the Evil Dead trilogy is constantly being abused that you can't help but find it funny and entertaining. However, unlike the original, Ash learns to kick ass and replaces his severed hand with a chainsaw. This leads to a pretty humorous battle with possessed Henrietta towards the end of the film.

inline Image The special effects and make-up designs provided by KNB also go a long way in making Evil Dead a very entertaining film. The "deadites", as they'd later be called in Army of Darkness, are really cool and a lot of fun. They are like a cross between zombies and demons; thanks to the spectacular make-up effects they look wicked. Evil Dead's score, provided by Joe LoDuca, is another plus and really sets the tone and mood of the film nicely. I find Evil Dead 2 to be highly enjoyable and every bit as good as the original. Fans of horror comedies should definitely seek out this film and prepare for a wild ride.

Image Quality

inline Image Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Evil Dead 2 letterboxed at 1.85:1 in its original theatrical aspect ratio with a new 16x9 enhanced transfer. The thing that struck me most about this new transfer is how much different it is from the old DVD and laserdisc. Compared with the old releases the new transfer's colors have been taken down several notches and appear much darker with a blue backlight much more visible during the nighttime scenes. Flesh tones also seem to have been bumped down. However, looking at the old DVD and Laserdisc transfers it's clear that colors were oversaturated and flesh tones usually took on an orange and reddish appearance. The transfer on the new DVD is also much darker which results in some lost details that were visible in the old versions.

The new DVD is 16x9 enhanced and looks a notch above the old versions in terms of definition creating a smoother appearance, but overall the transfer can be a little soft at times. The image is free of grain and noise giving it a very solid presentation. It's also free of distracting nicks or scars with print artifacts remaining in check. I can't say whether or not this new transfer is faithful to its original theatrical look but it shows Evil Dead 2 in a different light which may take some getting used to for those of us who have seen the film dozens of times on the old DVD and laserdisc.

Sound

Evil Dead 2 is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and overall the new mix is fabulous - a great improvement over the old releases which were mono. There are some great directional effects that make great use of all speakers, like when Ash takes a swing at Linda's head with the shovel or the chaotic scene before the spirit of Professor Knoby speaks with Ash and the others. Dialogue was clear and effects were clean and prominent. The folks at Chace Digital Stereo did an excellent job with this mix effectively breathing new life into the film. An English Dolby Surround 2.0 track is also included.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Anchor Bay has finally released a Special Edition caliber DVD of Evil Dead 2 and it's been a long time coming. Elite Entertainment's Evil Dead 2 laserdisc was one of the reasons I invested in laserdisc even after I had DVD, because the prospects of a similar release on DVD at the time were slim...who knew? Thankfully Anchor Bay have come through and licensed the exact commentary that graced Elite's fine laserdisc so fans without LD players can finally hear what all the fuss is about. Elite made some of the best cast commentaries you could find and although not bursting at the seams with information they're incredibly fun to listen to. This commentary with director Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, KNB's Greg Nicoterro and Scott Spiegel is no exception. The commentary is a fun listen with the participants joking around and generally having a good time watching this film. There's some technical discussion, like how the "shaky cam" effect was achieved and some mention of the bits that were cut out. Overall the commentary is a joy to listen to and is still one of my favorites.

inline Image In addition to the audio commentary there is a featurette titled The Gore the Merrier: The Making of Evil Dead 2. Well this is not a full on documentary on Evil Dead 2 but it is a nice featurette, which is approximately 30 minutes in length. Gore the Merrier features interviews with the members of KNB Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger, which are conducted very similar to the featurette on Anchor Bay's Army of Darkness DVD. The coolest thing about this featurette is there is a lot of behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew as well as footage of the prosthetics and effects. Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger go into detail on some of the films effects and what it was like to work with Sam Raimi. This featurette also has a deleted scene in which possessed Ash eats a squirrel in the woods. I don't remember that being in the featurette that was on Elite's laserdisc.

Also featured on this new DVD is a theatrical trailer, which is presented 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. We also get a very cool preview of the upcoming video game based on the Evil Dead titled Evil Dead: Hail to the King. The preview is a full motion trailer and it doesn't seem to have any previews of the actual game but rather just an animation. The game is scheduled for Fall 2000 and I personally can't wait to play it! Finally we have a still gallery that is divided up into two categories - "Horror Highlights" and "Behind the Screams". As the titles suggest "Horror Highlights" contains stills from the film and "Behind the Screams" has behind the scenes photographs. The disc is packaged in a nice keepcase, which features the same artwork from the British Quad poster and the menus designed by Crest National are great as always. This is not a packed SE by any means but the supplements that are on this disc are highly enjoyable

Final Thoughts

With the release of this Special Edition of Evil Dead 2 the trilogy is complete and each of the films has a Special Edition on DVD to call its own. This of course makes Evil Dead fans very lucky. This DVD is a must have for Evil Dead fans and a great way to experience the film for the first time. It will be interesting to see what Anchor Bay will do with their upcoming release of the original Evil Dead.

Rating

Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Running time - 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 24 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel and Greg Nicotero
  • Featurette "The Gore the Merrier"
  • Evil Dead: Hail to the King Video Game Preview
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

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