Blu-ray Disc REVIEW
Release Date: October 03, 2007
Film Rating: /
Dead By Dawn. That’s what director Sam Raimi’s demons chant in this less-than-scary sequel to the graphic blood oozing horror in 1981’s The Evil Dead. Evil Dead II offers copious amounts of blood, dancing corpses, heads gripped in a vice, and lots of chainsaw dismemberment. Sounds like a horror film, doesn’t it?
What makes this movie different than the original is that some of it turns slapstick with its humour and half of it is a remake of the original (minus the friends). Some of the material is repetitive such as Bobby Joe’s attack in the forest (making her character redundant in Evil Dead: The Musical - if you’ve had the pleasure to see that theatrical performance – I have, and it’s funny as hell). Still, it’s an entertaining 85 minutes as we watch Bruce Campbell as Ash, get tortured beyond belief in the quiet cabin in the woods.
This sequel introduces new characters; Annie, the daughter of Professor Raymond Knowby, her boyfriend, plus two hicks they used as guides to the cabin late at night. Upon their arrival to the cabin, they find Ash bloodied and handless, and the bodies of her parents no where to be found. The lock Ash in the cellar thinking he’s a killer, when the real demon is buried beneath them all. The newcomers will have to learn to trust Ash as they attempt to send the demons back to the place where they came from by using the missing pages in the Necronomicon, aka, the Book of the Dead.
VIDEO QUALITY: 2/5
This is a disappointing release of Evil Dead II in high definition. It’s the same transfer used for the Book of the Dead DVD release a few years back. While the video does deliver high definition images with some better depth and colour improvements over the DVD, this can’t be the best this title could look in high definition. Original photography put aside, my first gripe is regarding the processed look of the image. One needs to look at the film grain to see that it doesn’t look natural at all; in fact much of the noise looks “fixed” rather than in motion, suggesting that something is wrong, something’s amidst. It isn’t a demon causing the problem either. This gives the image an unnaturally soft appearance and says that something else could have been done to prevent this. I would like to think that if the best film elements went back to the drawing board and were worked on from scratch, we’d see a much better result.
The DVD and laserdisc before had many shots out of focus. I used to wonder how much this would improve on a high def release and now I know the answer is not that much. The film is littered with soft and out of focus moments that may never be corrected in any future release because whatever has been captured on film is about as good as it’s going to get. Still, the improvements you will get over DVD are many. I find image contrast is better and colour resolution is better and much more vibrant. Blood (and all the many colours and shades of it to please the ratings board) has never look so good, and I’ve never noticed the colour of Ash’s clothes as nicely as I did on this release. Detail can be very good when the shots aren’t out of focus. For example, as Ash and Jake try to keep Henrietta in the cellar with their body weight on the trap door, textures in the wood floor and chains have never been so clear, and the cuts on Ash’s face overlapped with dripping sweat never appeared so noticeable before. This is a very variable release in terms of quality, but ultimately I’m left wanting for more. If you asked me how much of an improvement this release is over DVD I’d tell you there is, but at a rate much smaller than other titles. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
I applaud Starz Home Entertainment for providing uncompressed PCM 5.1 tracks on their discs. Even though this 5.1 mix is a remix of an original mono soundtrack, differences can still be heard between uncompressed PCM and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track. If your home theatre equipment can reveal the subtle differences between the two soundtracks then you’ll want to listen to the uncompressed option (the default is Dolby Digital). There is a slight amount of openness that the uncompressed soundtrack delivers that is virtually eliminated on the Dolby encoding, and that’s expected because lossy codecs aren’t intended to be lossless. Thus, the soundtrack does have a bit more room to breathe at 16/48 resolution. On the other hand, the recording quality isn’t that great to begin with so we aren’t hearing many sounds that are truly convincing of a real soundscape. Dynamic range is limited and the only real aggressiveness in the soundtrack happens when Annie’s father breaks through the dimensions to warn them. The soundtrack never appears bright but bass is limited in both LFE and main channels. This is a front-heavy soundtrack with a little action happening in the rears to help widen the front soundstage unsuspectingly.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
There isn’t much going on in the LFE channel in this film. Take it or leave it.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2/5
As expected, little new features have been added for this Blu-ray release, although it’s nice to see that most features from previous DVDs have carried over. Like all feature films on Anchor Bay’s list, the Blu-ray exclusive Fast Film Facts subtitles appear when activated.
Ported over from the old blood-red Elite Laserdisc that I proudly still own, the audio commentary is still a hoot to listen to. Featuring writer/director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-write Scott Spiegel, and special make-up artist Greg Nicotero, there isn’t a better group of guys that could have got together to joke around while talking about this film. You’ll laugh your guts out.
Evil Dead II: Behind the Screams features Tom Sullivan, from effects and animation, narrating through a series of photographs for 17 minutes of behind the scenes material. It’s one-on-one feel compared to the group effort behind The Gore the Merrier featurette, where Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero of make-up effects talk together about the making of the film while old behind the scenes footage and photographs are displayed. The theatrical trailer is also included, but like the rest of the features, is not in high def (but is 16:9).
IN THE END...
Even though I was left wanting for more, I will retire my limited edition collector’s tin of this film as well as my stinky Book of the Dead release. With Anchor Bay being Anchor Bay, I would expect a fleshy book Blu-ray release in the future with an entirely new transfer of this film, or at least a re-release with the older and much better known “skull” cover artwork that the videotapes from the ‘80s used to carry. I liked that one much better than this cartoonish one. If Anchor Bay were trying to make this release as horrific as possible, they certainly succeeded.
September 23, 2007.