HTF REVIEW: "Evil Dead: BOOK OF THE DEAD" Limited Edition *Special Review*

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 7, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Evil Dead: Book of the Dead

    "it's not gonna let us leave"
    For Stymee.....
    To understand better what inspired me to sit
    and watch a film like this in the first place,
    I need to tell you about my friend, Stymee.
    Stymee is a co-worker of mine who I have known
    for the past 12 years. He can be best described
    as a very unique individual who enjoys the most
    abnormal forms of entertainment I have ever known.
    From far-out musical groups to the most bizarre
    movies ever made, Stymee has grown to appreciate
    a culture that many of us do not know. It is that
    culture that makes him one of the coolest, most
    full-of-life individuals I know. I am proud to call
    him a friend.
    The first time I ever heard of The Evil Dead,
    was from my friend, Stymee. He practically worships
    this film. He has collected every version ever
    released on VHS, LASERDISC and DVD. What is not
    available, he has found at collector shows and has
    even set up his own website dedicated to this film.
    I'll try to post that website address later in this
    Me? I don't like shlocky horror films. I don't
    usually waste my time with B-grade movies. Stymee
    will be the first to tell you that it took him years
    to get me to watch The Evil Dead. My first
    viewing was about two years ago, and it was off of
    a second generation VHS tape. My overall opinion
    was that I wasn't sure if I liked it or not, but I
    was certain that it was the most shocking film I
    had ever seen.
    Originally filmed in 1979 on a shoestring budget
    of $375,000, Director Sam Raimi created a movie
    so gruelling, that it would stand the test of time.
    What I have never grown to appreciate until now
    is that The Evil Dead has grown to become
    one of the most influential and renowned cult films
    ever made. Skillfully photographed and edited,
    its success can be attributed to the many video
    releases over the past years and the scores of
    fans that turned on their friends to this movie
    filled with blood and gore.
    The film concerns five college students who
    take a weekend holiday at a lone cabin buried
    in the woods. It is there that they find unspeakable
    evil lurking in the forest. In the basement they
    uncover a "book of the dead" and audio tape that
    translates the text inside. Once the tape full of
    chanting is played, an unspeakable force is released
    and slowly possesses each of the teens, turning them
    into deadly zombies.
    Though the film has gone through as many video
    incarnations as there are zombies in the film, Anchor
    Bay has finally done the ultimate justice to this film
    by releasing it in a special Limited Edition. The
    packaging on this disc is is so incredible that I
    had to include my own pictures so all my readers
    could see it first-hand. The DVD comes encased in
    a rubber/latex book that replicates THE BOOK OF
    THE DEAD as seen in the film. The look of this thing
    is just incredible. I have never seen packaging as
    creative as this before. If the look of it isn't
    awesome enough, you can look forward to the nice
    rubbery smell it will give your room (if that is
    your sort of thing).
    Opening up the book, we are introduced to the
    very pages that make up the BOOK OF THE DEAD, filled
    with the ancient incantations that when read, may
    cause terrible things to happen to your next door
    neighbor. On the last page of the book is a list
    of internet fan sites dedicated to the film and the
    cast and crew. On the opposite page is a pocket
    that holds a small pamphlet entitled, "Bringing
    The Dead Home For Dinner". It's penned by our friend,
    Michael Felsher, who writes a very detailed history
    of the many video releases over the years including
    the repackaging and horrible transfers that plagued
    this title. It wasn't until ELITE ENTERTAINMENT did
    an outstanding laserdisc release of NIGHT OF THE
    LIVING DEAD that a new attitude about the film's
    presentation came to light. Filled with pictures
    of the many past phases of the film's video releases,
    this is a fun little read that should earn your
    utmost appreciation for this pristine DVD that you
    now hold in your hand.
    How does the transfer look?
    The last time I saw this film was on a crappy
    VHS copy. You could imagine my surprise watching
    this brand new digitally mastered anamorphic
    widescreen (1.85:1) release.
    Before I can talk about the film's picture
    quality, I need to remind everyone that this was
    a low-budget film, originally shot in 16mm (if my
    memory serves me right). You can only take an
    original print of this caliber and make it look so
    With that in mind, I can tell you that although
    the print is in outstanding condition, with little
    blemish or film scar, the picture quality can only
    be described as good. Overall picture looks very
    faded and soft. Flesh tones run more on the red
    side, and some scenes look a little out of focus.
    I would put the blame of the overall look of the
    picture on the original film elements and the budget
    of the film.
    I must warn all of you that having this film
    cleaned up for DVD does have its drawbacks. Twice
    during the film, with the first at the 23-minute
    mark, you see a picture of the lit moon hovering
    over the woods. Thing is, that moon was never
    originally there. It seems to have been superimposed
    in the picture and the square blocking around it
    can be visibly seen. Perhaps the grain that
    was common in lower resolution video formats hid
    the flaws in this effects shot.
    And now, here is where the DVD really shines....
    I couldn't believe that a movie like this could
    be remixed in THX Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1
    surround. I opted to listen to the DTS surround
    track, using a 5.1 setup. The sound just blew
    me away!
    The Evil Dead relies mostly on things you
    cannot see. Visually, that means trees suddenly
    falling from the forest or a running camera shot
    of unseen evil closing in on its prey. But sound
    is just as much an important element this film and
    you suddenly realize that when your viewing area is
    suddenly encompassed by the thumping of an old swing
    against the cottage wall or whispering evil passing
    through each of the speakers, not knowing which
    direction it will strike from. This is a totally
    active surround mix that has to be heard to be
    believed. It literally gave me the creeps.
    Sound placement is quite good, with dialogue
    staying in the center speaker, as the film's main
    action spreads over the remaining 5 speakers.
    Major gripe: No English subtitles for the hard
    of hearing.
    Once you pop the disc in, you are treated to a
    short menu sequence starting with Bruce Campbell
    filling in a burial hole as the dirt drowns out
    the scene and dissolves into a fast lurking shot
    towards the cottage. THE EVIL DEAD appears in
    blood-like text with menu selections beneath it.
    To begin with there are 2 sets of running commentaries.
    One is with Writer/Director Sam Raimi and Producer
    Robert Tapert. The other is with star Bruce Campbell.
    Though I rarely have the time to rewatch a film
    and listen to commentary, I gave this DVD special
    consideration and listened to the first 30 minutes
    of Bruce Campbell's commentary. I must say, it is
    a wildly funny commentary as Bruce pokes fun at
    Raimi and Tapert being these old senile guys that
    won't get the facts right on their commentary. Bruce
    pokes fun at just about every scene pointing out
    the goofy shoes he wore, to the face masks that could
    only be worn 5 minutes at a time to the art of breaking
    a window before the camera gets to it. He even points
    out the cameo appearance of Raimi and Tapert on the
    side of the road. You can tell Bruce is having a
    really fun time with all of this as he laughs many
    times through it even making jokes at the dialogue.
    At the top of the list of EXTRAS is the film's
    original theatrical TRAILER. Interestingly,
    the source material is very good and it is even
    presented in widescreen.
    There are four 30-second TV SPOTS included.
    The source material contains some film blemishes,
    but looks fairly good. You even get a listing of
    the theaters the film was playing in at the time
    of the TV spot.
    There is much to see in the Poster and still
    gallery that consists of dozens of production
    stills; behind-the-scenes photos of the crew; shots
    of the latex masks; effect shots; artwork and
    storyboards; original poster art.
    If you want a peek into the odd, check out the
    people that make up Fanalysis, a 26-minute
    documentary that examines the many levels of
    fans that make up the convention circuit. Bruce
    Campbell takes us on a fascinating and often
    humorous look at fanmail and public appearances.
    This is a terrifically fun piece that you are sure
    to enjoy.
    Discovering Evil Dead takes us back to the
    early beginning of schlock horror. Told through
    the words of Stephen Wooley, Nick Powell and other
    early pioneers at Palace Video, we learn how
    Sam Raimi took a small film and turned it into
    legendary status. This 13-minute featurette examines
    the marketing success that the video medium
    brought to this film.
    Eighteen minutes of Behind the scenes outtakes
    and footage shows us how much perfection goes
    into creating a believable zombie, or, taking an
    axe to a rubber hand placed below the cellar trap
    door. Cameras stop as smoke effects are added to
    a zombie with a fireplace poker. A zombie lying
    on the floor is properly placed as she coughs up
    black blood. The quality of this footage is in
    reasonably good shape.
    Rounding out this disc is Talent Bios
    that gives us more than just a list of who has
    done what. We actually get nice snippets of
    information about Bruce Campbell who appeared
    in local productions as a teen, or, Sam Raimi
    who made Super 8mm movies about the Civil War
    at age 13, or, Robert Tapert who has interesting
    things to say about how studios treat inexperienced
    Final Thoughts
    I am not particularly a fan of grade-B horror
    films. However, there is no denying that The
    Evil Dead is the grandaddy of all horror
    movies of its kind.
    This is a great time for the release of this
    film. I haven't seen a good horror movie in
    the past 10 years. Watching The Evil Dead,
    I am taken back to a grand era of time where
    horror films spared no expense in scaring and
    shocking its audience. You can take this movie
    and put it up against anything released since
    it and realize that it is as effectively scary today
    as it was two decades ago. Even with its low-budget
    effects, it remains the most shocking film of our time.
    I dare any newcomers not to be affected by it all.
    Thank You, Stymee, for turning me on to this
    film. Thank You, Anchor Bay, for caring enough
    to do this release justice.
    Release Date: March 5, 2002
  2. Walt Riarson

    Walt Riarson Supporting Actor

    Jan 13, 2002
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    Sounds like a keeper.

    Can't wait for this one.
  3. Greg_Y

    Greg_Y Screenwriter

    Mar 7, 1999
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    Thanks for the review, Ron! I'm looking forward to this one.

    Anyone who wants the movie at its "other" aspect ratio can find the Elite Special Edition DVD cheap. I have two versions of Army of Darkness, and I guess I'll end up with 2 versions of this one too!
  4. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

    Jul 1, 2000
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    The only dilemma I am facing with this title is the price. Translating this to our currency makes this a very high price for one film. Evil Dead is the only one I don't own in the trilogy and I would really like to make this a purchase especially after seeing those neat pictures of the packaging. I think I will have to make a decision closer to the release date.

    Does anyone know how long the Book of the Dead packaging will be available for?
  5. Chris M

    Chris M Second Unit

    Apr 15, 2000
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    Got my order in at A&B Sound in Canada already! Can't wait! Wohoo! I love the Bruce Campbell commentaries, the one on Army of Darkness[​IMG]C was fantastically funny!
  6. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

    Oct 16, 2001
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    I was gonna pass on this...I already have the AB Evil Dead 2 SE, and the Army of Darkness 2 disc limited set, and those two are my favorite films of the trilogy, but with that packaging, the features, and that killer disc art, I'm sold.

  7. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Second Unit

    Jun 8, 1999
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    Does anyone know if Bruce's commentary is different to the one on the Elite disc?


  8. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

    Aug 6, 2001
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    Northern Virginia
    Real Name:
    Chuck Mayer
    Nick, I am, unfortunately, in the same boat as you. I was going to pass, but after seeing those pics, I am sold[​IMG]
    Take care,
  9. JayF

    JayF Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 11, 1999
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    Great review as always. I saw this in the theaters when it first came out and the full moon shots were very obviosly mattes then, too. You could see the square outline around the moon.
  10. Brian Kelty

    Brian Kelty Extra

    Jan 31, 1999
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    Nick Sievers: you can save quite a few dollars at the moment by preordering it from Bensonsworld ( for 16.99 pounds, shipping included. It used to be 15.99 but probably ramped up a bit after a rash of orders. It'll be PAL, too.
  11. Mike Miskulin

    Mike Miskulin Second Unit

    May 31, 1998
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    what are the dimensions on the packaging? (keepcase size, tin size, etc?)

  12. Todd Beachler

    Todd Beachler Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 10, 2000
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    Groovy. [​IMG]
    I can't wait for this one. It looks better than what T2:UE appeared to be before release.
  13. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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    DVDFile has their review up, and has given the transfer a rating of only 2 out of 5.
    This quote concerns me:
    "... I was disappointed that this new remaster actually looks significantly worse than the previous Elite and Anchor Bay releases, both of which utilized the same transfer. I suspect a new print was used, but alas it is not in great condition. Doing direct comparisons between the previous Elite release, this new transfer suffers in almost every way."
    Maybe this is yet another attempt by Anchor Bay to sell an improved version in the future.
  14. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

    Jan 18, 1999
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    Does anyone know if this is the same commentary track from the Elite disc, or a different new one?


  15. Kevin Leonard

    Kevin Leonard Supporting Actor

    Mar 11, 2001
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  16. Neil White

    Neil White Supporting Actor

    Jan 8, 1999
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    My order is in! (But that DVD File comment concerns me some.. [​IMG] )
  17. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Well, shoot! I cancelled my pre-order for this when I found out that it wouldn't include Within the Woods which was my primary motivation for buying it. Now I want to get it again! [​IMG] Hmmmm, I should have my tax refund by then...
  18. Zack Scott

    Zack Scott Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 12, 2000
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    i can't wait for this one. Jeez I thought just the cover art was cool but Inside MAn oh Man!!!!![​IMG]
  19. JeremySt

    JeremySt Screenwriter

    Aug 19, 2001
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    I already have the Elite Edition, So basically, I get spend $40 to gain:
    1. a neat cover
    2. a couple new documentaries
    3. A marginally improved soundtrack
    4. A marginally worsened picture
    5. A hard matte applied to the frame, with anamorphic video
    I would catagorize this release as "different" as opposed to "better" But I'll reserve final judgment until I see it.
    Oh well...... I guess my collection has to be complete[​IMG]
  20. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    There is also going to be a special edition dvd release of this film the same release day which is the one I pre-ordered for $14.94


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