THE EVIL DEAD
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Five young folks head for a secluded cabin in the woods, and after awakening the evil Kandaarian demon spirits in those woods, they are possessed one by one and can only be stopped through bodily dismemberment! It's Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's classic indie gorefest that has become the stuff of horror legend, and the beginning of poor Ash's never ending battle with the deadites and that damn bloody book!
Is it good movie?
What can I say about Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead that hasn't already been said by about a million other reviewers, a lot of them better than my sorry ass? The truth is not, not much at all. But I am a fan of Raimi's trilogy (and the rest of his work as well). Hell, I've even played the damn video games and read the comics based on Army Of Darkness (good shit by the way)! So from a fan's perspective, how does this homegrown indie sensation stand up after almost 30 years? Pretty damn good! This demonic slasher-to-end-all-slashers is just as much fun when watched in your 30's as it was when you were eight years old and your Dad was letting you watch shit your Mom would kill him for (Thanks, Dad!).
Anyone who's read Bruce Campbell's loaded and hilarious autobiography knows about the sordid tales and misadventures had while making this movie. And despite all of the obstacles, they pulled off a winner. All of the elements that make for great horror are there. Unknown actors (and some pretty bad ones too), copious amounts of homegrown gore, unintentional comedy (intentionally played up in the sequels), trademark visual style and a no-holds-barred attitude to filmmaking and storytelling. Sure the story is paper thin, but really, does it need to be anything but. What's on display here is the grueling horror, and poor Ash being put through the ringer tits first! Who gives a rat's ass about story.
This DVD release is gorgeous in both the picture and sound departments, and a perfect start to a movie marathon of Raimi classics. Even the extras are sweet. It would have been nice to have the three guys do a commentary together. That would been hilarious! But in the end, this is an awesome release for such a classic horror indie. So much better than the shitty video transfers we all watched for years on end. It's the ultimate homemade gore fest, and still one of the scariest movies out there. For the fans, the "Ultimate Edition" is definately the way to go with this one. For the uninitiated and the newbies, look at this with an open mind. It's not the slick and boring horror of the MTV generation, nor is it the pointless gore and vapid storytelling of "Splat Pack" hacks. Along with other classics like Halloween, Friday the 13th and The Exorcist, this movie IS what horror is supposed to be.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.85:1. Seriously, the movie has never looked this good. The digital transfer is simply amazing, especially after having seen the film a hundred or more times on crappy VHS. Nice clean up, and it's amazing how well Raimi's visuals (and the start of his unique style) hold up after almost 30 years. Still as creepy and atmospheric as hell.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0) and English closed captioning. Great clean up on the sound as well. The deadites moaning "Join Us" takes on new levels of creep through a good audio system, as does all of the demon screaming!
Now here are some awesome features. Aside from the cleaned up transfer of the movie we get not one, but two Audio Commentaries. The first is by Raimi and best friend/producer Rob Tapert, and the friendship of many years between these guys is evident from the beginning. It's awesome listening to Raimi reminisce about the making of the movie and all of the little stories that come along with such a classic and troubled production. He also talks about his style, and how they achieved a lot of the effects in the movie, which was cool. I love those on the set stories, especially from talented directors who started out small like this and then hit the "Big Time". The second commentary is from Bruce Campbell himself, and it offers up still more stories from the production. His memory of the shoot is encyclopedic, as evidenced by the chapters covering the shoot in his autobiography If Chins Could Kill. Some great stuff from Bruce here, and he's not using an Elvis accent this time! There is also a short bit of Behind the Scenes and Outakes footage, which for any fan of these guys and their movies is a riot to watch. The tales of the hijinks on the set are legendary, as are the levels of increasing bodily punishment heaped by Raimi on Campbell every day. They really are madmen. This excellent release is rounded out with Trailers that appeared in both theatres and on TV (those are hilarious), an extensive Poster & Still Gallery and finally some Talent Bios for Raimi, Tappert and Campbell. The DVD insert is a booklet of interviews with the Ladies Of The Evil Dead, which cover everything from their horrid recollections of the shoot, their fond memories of "The Boys", and their plans to reunite for the horror convention circuit. This disc is loaded.
Now I'm not just some blithering fanboy (well, I am to a point), and I am the first to be critical of so called "classics" that severely don't deserve the hype, but for someone who has grown up with The Evil Dead, its sequels, and the work of Raimi and Campbell in the genre as a whole, for me this is still one of the best horror movies that has ever been made. Even all of the problems, technical goofs and dated cheesiness involved only add to the most excellent bloody stew that this movie ultimately is. There's not much more that can be said. If you are a fan of horror, you own this movie already (probably in multiple formats that you watch repeatedly). For newcomers to the genre, what are you waiting for. This is required viewing, and this DVD release (which severely makes up for previous Anchor Bay clusterf*cks) finally does it justice. It's as groovy as it's always been, and maybe even more so now.