Evil Dead II Review
With the new Evil Dead remake now playing cinemas, it was inevitable that some cash-in releases would come into play hoping for a share of a spotlight. Here in the UK that means a repackage of the first sequel, upgrading the previous StudioCanal Blu-ray of 2008 to a more extras-heavy offering. Whereas that original release contented itself with an audio commentary and ‘making of’ featurette as special features (both of which had been available in the UK since the original Momentum DVD from 2001), now we find all of additions of the US Blu-ray too, including the feature-length ‘Swallowed Souls’ documentary.
Over the years, we’ve reviewed Evil Dead II plenty at the Digital Fix so there’s little need in discussing the movie once again. Instead I’ll refer readers to our earlier efforts from 2001 (the Momentum DVD), 2003 (the Anchor Bay UK Evil Dead Trilogy boxed-set) and 2008 (the original UK Blu-ray). What follows below is a discussion solely of the presentation and the various extras…
Picture-wise Evil Dead II has clearly undergone a considerable amount of restoration work. The image, framed at 1.85:1, is pretty much pristine with only some of the optical effects shots (understandably) looking a bit rough. Blacks are solid and colours are strong (particularly during the daylight scenes), though grain perhaps isn’t as prominent as some may expect. With that said, detail doesn’t appear to have been lost and the clarity is excellent. Indeed, much of the effects work is far more apparent than it was on earlier DVD editions, although that simply adds to the pre-CG charm. Noise and other digital ill-effects are minimal, the disc coping just fine with scenes involving smoke, spray and excessive movement. All told, plenty to be impressed by.
The soundtrack appears in both LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 formats. Evil Dead II originally screened in mono according to the IMDb, though as always we should take their claims with a pinch of salt. I opted for the stereo rendering which, surprisingly, proved really quite forceful without losing sight of the dialogue. Other reviewers have picked up on misbalances in the 5.1 mix, noting how the dynamic range veers and how the cast can often get lost in it all. As such, the stereo option is the one to go for.
Commentary by writer-director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero
This is the same chat-track that’s been accompanying home video releases for years. The four men goof around incessantly and are fond of bad pun, but still find the time to convey a great deal of information. As I wrote when reviewing the trilogy boxed-set in 2003, the jokey tone of the commentary fits the film perfectly and makes for a highly entertaining listen.
Here we find the original special features from the original Anchor Bay US DVD release: two featurettes (‘The Gore the Merrier’ and ‘Behind the Screams’) plus the original theatrical trailer. For some reason ‘Behind the Screams’ has never appeared on a UK disc before as far as I can tell. Essentially, it’s a photo gallery with commentary as animator Tom Sullivan discusses the SFX work over the course of 18 minutes. ‘The Gore the Merrier’ also concentrates on the effects, in this case talking to four of the crew and intercutting their reminiscences with camcorder footage from 1986.
Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II
This first appeared on the US Blu-ray in 2011 and is now making its UK debut. It can be watched as seven individual featurettes or as a single 98-minute documentary. In effect, it takes us through the entire process of the film, from its initial conception as an extension of Scott Spiegel’s Attack of the Helping Hand comedy-horror short (which starred Sam Raimi and utilised Bruce Campbell as a cameraman) to its current status as a cult favourite. In-between times we get plenty of info, whether it’s the rights issues which demanded the opening scenes ‘remade’ the end of the original Evil Dead (though, as noted, some viewers didn’t make the connection) or Rick Domeier’s subsequent career on QVC. All of the major cast and crew members turn up to discuss the movie, of which everyone remains incredibly fond.
The camcorder footage that appeared in ‘The Gore the Merrier’ is given even greater prominence here. Apparently six hours’ worth exists in total, though viewers will have to content themselves with 31 minutes of selected highlights. The featurette is broken down into five parts, four of which are devoted to individual designs and the last, entitled ‘Deleted Scenes’, showing effects work that never made it to the final cut.
Road to Wadesboro
Tony Elwood, who earned a ‘special props’ credit on Evil Dead II, returns to the North Carolina town where the picture was shot to revisit some of its locations. Not all remain, but it’s an engaging little piece, totalling just eight minutes.
Four to choose from, entitled ‘Ads and Memorabilia’, ‘Behind the Scenes’, ‘Special Make-Up Effects’ and ‘Stop-Motion Animation’, which provide pretty much every production still, snapshot and poster you could imagine. A fitting way of concluding the disc as it sums up perfectly just how exhaustive this release is. If you’re looking for a definitive UK edition, then this is it.