Plot: What’s it about?
Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) decide to spend a relaxing weekend in a remote cabin the woods, but their weekend will be anything but relaxing! Ash finds an old tape recorder, and is curious at to what is on the tape, so he gives it listen. The content of the tape is a recording by Professor Knoby, who is reading selections from the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead. What Ash does not know is that the mere reciting of the passages from the recorder is enough to awaken the evil spirits in the dark forest. Linda is taken by the evil spirit, and only after a long, exhausting encounter is Ash able to finally defeat the evil within his dead love. But that’s just the beginning for Ash, as there is evil everywhere in the house, and soon a the daughter of the Professor makes her way to the cabin with a few people, and mistakes Ash for the killer of her parents! Needless to say, Ash has a very bad streak of luck, and it only gets worse as the movie goes along. Can Ash and the visitors find a way to quell the evil, return the woods to a safe place to be, and save their own lives before it overtakes them all?
This is the second DVD release for Evil Dead II and while the first was a decent effort, this one blows it right out of the water. The first disc was released before Anchor Bay became serious about pushing out great discs, so it was lacking in several aspects. The transfer (non anamorphic) was decent, but still flawed and the supplements were all but absent. Now they’ve chosen to amend those errors and release an awesome disc for this flick, and the results are impressive indeed. The new anamorphic transfer marks the finest visual presentation ever for this film, while the newly minted Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks makes sure it sounds good also. Add in a bevy of terrific supplements and this disc is no brainer for fans of the flick. I do want to note that this review covers the single disc version, not the limited edition tin release. That tin contains this disc in an unmarked jewel case along with some bonus features. But the discs are the same, so no content is lost in this disc, you just miss out on some trinkets. Once again, Anchor Bay has delivered an incredible treatment for a true cult classic. Ok, so enough about the disc, right? How’s the flick?
This is a true cult classic in every sense of the word and to be honest, this is one heck of a series of horror movies. You can watch as the series evolves with each new installment, which is quite impressive. The first film seems based on horror, the second blends horror with comedy, while the third film is downright slapstick comedy. This is a natural process though and as such, the fans never become alienated by the changes. This one is a deft blend of gore and humor and the results are nothing short of inspirational. This film had a shoestring budget, but manages to have some terrific special effects and never really show the lack of funds. The make up effects are well done, with some very interesting choices, such as the stop motion ballerina dance of Linda’s decapitated corpse or the flood of a red visceral liquid from the cellar. I happen to love the sequence where Ash loses his mind and begins to laugh along with the cabin’s objects, especially the bit with the lamp. All in all, this film delivers on all counts and I see no reason fans shouldn’t own this spectacular disc.
Directing is Sam Raimi, who also directs the original Evil Dead and the third film in the series Army of Darkness. Raimi’s work can be also be seen in For Love of the Game, A Simple Plan, Darkman, and The Quick and the Dead. The acting is decent on the whole and while this isn’t classical style in motion, the actors capture the tone and pace of the flick very well. Ash is such a likable character, and is played with mastery by Bruce Campbell (The Hudsucker Proxy), who plays Ash in all three Evil Dead films. Ash’s frequent turns into desperation are so funny to watch, as he goes from crying to laughing desperately to crying again. Ash is one of the true icons of the horror genre, and seems to get better with each film in the series. Other cast members include Denise Bixler, Sarah Berry, Richard Domeier, Theodore Raimi (Shocker, Army of Darkness), Dan Hicks (Class Action, Darkman), and Kassie Wesley. While not exactly a star studded cast, the cast does a nice job. Not Shakespeare or anything, but good for this style of film. But really, Evil Dead 2 is a one man movie, with Bruce Campbell carrying the film, and he is spectacular.
Video: How does it look?
Evil Dead II is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version also included on this dual layered disc. I’ve never seen a great looking transfer for this movie and I expected this disc to be more of the same, but I was wrong in that assumption. The first thing I noticed was how clean the source print was, most of the grain and debris evident on previous versions had been removed. The grain had obscured darker scenes in previous releases and now with it gone, some scenes looked like a brand new film. The dark portions were so stark and well balanced, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming a couple times. The colors look good too, with vivid hues, no traces of bleeds (well, aside from intentional bleeding of course) or smears, and accurate and warm flesh tones. I also noticed no edge enhancement or other compression flaws, this is one amazing transfer!
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes a newly mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track and while I never really thought of this as an audio driven movie, I do now. The music sounds very good in this mix and takes advantage of the surrounds at times, but the sound effects steal the show in this track. A few scenes really shine, but this mix always offers an active experience. You’ll hear some awesome directional use and some sequences toward the end of the picture will have your head spinning from all the audio movement. I wasn’t sure how much difference this track could make, but now I can testify that there is a world of difference. The dialogue isn’t a casualty of war though, as vocals emerge in crisp form and show no volume errors in the least. This disc is also closed captioned, though no alternate languages or subtitles were included.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As if the improved audio and video weren’t enough, this disc also includes a nice selection of bonus materials to peruse. You’ll find the film’s theatrical trailer, some talent files, and a preview for the Evil Dead video game, but there’s still some supplements ahead. There is an audio commentary track that features actor Bruce Campbell, writer/director Sam Raimi, special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, and cowriter Scott Spiegel. This track is a fun ride and while you won’t learn too much about the production, you will have some laughs. I like these humorous tracks, but I wish more information were included as well. A still photo gallery is also included, which is short, but contains some interesting stuff nonetheless. The final supplement is The Gore The Merrier, a behind the scenes featurette which shows some special effects works and interview segments. This piece runs about half an hour and is well worth the time to check out, if you’re a fan of the flick.