Evil Dead 2 Review
The original Evil Dead movie is justly regarded as a cult movie great. If you watch again these days on a good display with digital clarity you may find yourself becoming more aware of some of its technical shortcomings. The disintegrating zombies do look like plasticine and many of the tricks that are necessary in such a fantasy film become easy to break down and consequently less believable. And this is as it should be, as it was a very, very cheaply made movie. With its success and the chance to make a sequel, Sam Raimi would basically use a bigger budget to do some of the same things much better.
To hide the poor acting from the original and to tidy up the story, Raimi would shoot a new prologue but this would remain four young people stuck in a barn in the middle of evil woods as things go bump in the night. Raimi would also keep Bruce and his chin and he would benefit from a much improved actor whom he would set loose on some of his favourite Three Stooges gags. The film would be more professional and funnier and the effects would hold up better over time.
At DVD Times, we always give this film a 10. We do that as we know that the internet was invented by the kind of people who love this film and that some of those people may have access to sharp knives. So you will have to forgive me for not following suit, but what can I say? "I was under pressure at the time trying to work out if the frame rate of this disc is 4 hundredths of a second out", or "the dog ate my review" or "someone else hacked in to the dvd times super computer and wrote it instead of me". Failing those age old excuses, I can most definitely say that it is Gordon Brown's fault. Honest, cross my heart. Please don't hurt me.
Evil Dead 2 is great entertainment. In the light of what Raimi has done with the Spiderman franchise, it is clear that he was meant for fast, furious exciting blockbusters when he made this film. Stripped down to the bare element of Ash still stuck in the woods when the real owners of the barn come back, the film reprises the same shocks with some slightly better execution than the first film. Raimi twirls his camera through pirouettes, somersaults and forward rolls and slams Campbell against every hard surface he can find. And the result is, to quote Cilla, a "lotta fun".
Its not as dirty and nasty as his first go at the genre but it's still pretty bloody and actually funny as Hell. The hand, the dishes and the unintended killing still rock, and Campbell revels in iconic status as he wheels out the catchphrases - "groovy", "swallow this" and so on. The supporting cast are a little more believable and much more is made of the tape that chilled your blood the first time around. The sound design is brilliant and the use of the surreal "mad" moments is both witty and stylish.
But you know all this if you like the film and if you don't well haven't you got anything better to do than read about it? I can't give it a 10 as the Harryhausenesque effects are very poor, its also not quite nasty enough to really deserve it and, well, comic horror never gets a 10 outside of Bride of Frankenstein in my book. This film is fun but it isn't Bride of Frankenstein or Cat People, and Sam Raimi is not James Whale or Jaques Tourneur. He has made three of the most fun modern horrors and deserves his kudos alongside the likes of John Landis and Joe Dante, but that is all.
Evil Dead 2 is still rather good if not a masterpiece.
The main feature comes courtesy of an MPEG-4 encode and is presented at the original ratio of 1.85:1 much like the US Blu-ray. The Blu-ray is a single layer region B only disc. To my mind the transfer is goodish with the second half of the movie sharper and more detailed than the first. Colours are managed well but skin tones do look a little waxy at times, black levels are strong and the detail overall is disappointing. Grain is surprisingly little and edges show a small amount of enhancement. It does look like a lot of digital cleaning up has gone on and the image looks less than natural or film like for the greater part. It's better than I have seen the film previously, but bear in mind the small filesize of the transfer of 18.5 GB and perhaps you may be disappointed with this treatment.
The sound comes in the 5.1 track that you will be familiar with from previous DVD releases and a DTS HD MA track. I was not impressed with the clarity of this track, with voices sounding rough and some of the sound coming over a bit tinny. It is very well mixed in terms of space and dimension and the surround effects will do their job in freaking you out and shocking you out of your seat. Still this track seems very similar to the one that Raphael describes in his dvd review on this site.
Unlike a lot of the recent Optimum Blu-ray releases, this disc does come with some strong extras although nothing new. The riotous and fun commentary track with Raimi ripping the mickey out of Campbell is provided again and the 37 minute making of documentary is the final extra. The featurette includes FX men Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger talking about the film and it is intercut with footage of the crew and Raimi larking as well as working during the shoot of the movie. We learn that the film has influenced the likes of James Cameron, Robert Rodrigues and Frank Darabont, and there's even time for a homage to Re-animator - Evil Dead Baby.
As sure as night follows day more releases of this film on Blu-ray will come as the whole trilogy has probably received more DVD releases then any other set of films I can think of. This edition may tide you over until a better looking and better sounding release is available or you may just be able to wait a little longer...