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THE EVIL DEAD
Blu-Ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Bruce Campbell, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Sarah York
Director:  Sam Raimi
Audio:  Dolby True HD 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  See Review
Length:  85 Minutes
Release Date:  October 9, 2018

“Her eyes…what about her eyes…for God’s sake, WHAT HAPPENED TO HER EYES?!”

Film ***1/2  

The Evil Dead is one of the quintessential cult horror films, and also one of the best.  It’s the kind of movie that proves that small budgets and major duress can’t stand in the way of a few dedicated people with great imaginations, a lot of faith, and the chutzpah to make a unique mark in a genre that often fails to get respect.

Sam Raimi was 18 when he conceived and wrote the film, and 20 when he started filming it.  Raising money was a consecutive string of headaches, shooting went on much longer than expected, as did editing and sound work.  It took four years for the film to finally find distribution, and even more years to find its loyal audience.  Stephen King praised it, and censors feared it.  Success (and sequels) followed, but there’s just something about the first one that keeps attracting horror fans generation after generation.

The simple plot has two guys and three gals heading off to a God-awful shack in the middle of the woods for a little vacation.  The creepy setting gets positively spooky when Ash (Campbell) finds the Book of the Dead in the basement, along with a tape recording of translations from it.  When played, the quintet awakens a horrible presence in the woods that wreaks deadly havoc on their best laid plans.

The story isn’t the attraction so much as the style.  Campbell’s book includes some of Sam Raimi’s ingenious yet simple diagrams for his camera tracks:  how they could smash through windows, track smoothly without steadicam technology, and even race through the woods at high speeds, over obstacles and through doors…it created one of the genre’s most menacing presences, essentially putting us in the point of view of the evil stalking force.

As the film builds, so does Raimi’s visual style.  The final stretch with Ash is a hodgepodge of clever imagery.  His movements are tracked from the ceiling, or in rotating arcs that make every shot askew.  The final shot is a horror movie landmark, which I won’t spoil for you.  But if you’ve never seen the movie before, chances are you’ll back the disc up at least once to see it again before you stop it.

Raimi, of course, parlayed his humble beginnings into an impressive career as a Hollywood A-list director.  But I’ve never personally believed his heart was as much in pictures like For the Love of the Game.  I have to think it’s still out in that ramshackle cabin, where lack of money, time and resources only served to fuel his creative fire.  Not many artists could create what he did under those conditions.  The Evil Dead is a standard every young, poor hungry filmmaker can try to shoot for.  Raimi and crew proved it could be done.

Video ***

The 4K transfer done for it this disc is quite good.  I've seen this movie many, many times, and this is the best presentation I've come across.  The low budget and now quite old movie looks very good in Ultra HD, with clearer images and more solid coloring and definition.  There is some unavoidable grain here and there, especially in dark scenes, but nothing you haven't seen from this movie before, and certainly never on top of images this well-presented.  Very high marks!

Audio ***

I'm not even sure what the original audio track for this movie sounded like, but I'm sure it was nothing like what's presented here in TrueHD sound.  WOW.  You can say some creative liberties were taken with the mixing, but all for the good.  In the early going, the film sounds about what you would expect...a bit thin in the dialogue department, nothing really happening on the rear stage or .1 channel, but wait until the evil awakes, then it's an all out assault on your ears.  The subwoofer rumbles and roars with menacing undertones, and the terror comes at you fast and full from every direction.  Kudos to Sam Raimi for creating a vision that so easily supported future audio technologies long before they ever existed.  This is a potent, dynamic and thoroughly fun listen.

Features *1/2

The extras were really skimped on this time around...both the 4K and Blu-ray contain the audio commentary from Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell, and...that's it.  If you have an older version that's more loaded, you definitely are going to want to hang onto it.

Summary:

The Evil Dead is a welcome addition, but could have benefited with a few extra features, even the classic ones from earlier releases.

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