Judge Ryan Keefer can't get too much sugar from his baby, as he's on a Byetta treatment.
Our reviews of Evil Dead II (Blu-ray) 25th Anniversary Edition (published November 21st, 2011), Evil Dead II: Book Of The Dead Limited Edition (published October 10th, 2005), and Evil Dead II: Limited Edition Tin (published September 7th, 2000) are also available.
Kiss your nerves goodbye.
Evil Dead II remains a guilty pleasure for many, and for others it has memorable scenes and lines that resonate two decades after its release. The film was the second part of director Sam Raimi's "Dead" trilogy, and the guy who just recently put the wraps on his own more mainstream and wealthier trilogy in Spider-Man was certainly knowledgeable in this regard. So now that this gem is on high definition, is it really "groovy?"
Facts of the Case
You know the story and the characters by now, I presume. And if you don't, let me bring you up to speed. Ash (Bruce Campbell, The Ladykillers) manages to survive in a log cabin in the wilderness after his friends have been possessed and eventually killed. So hey, for fun, why not go back to that cabin (or a reasonable facsimile therein) where the fun started and see if it happens again, right? And they go back to the woods, where things get down to business rather quickly, and Ash undertakes a fight, which occasionally is with himself, but you get the general idea.
Sometimes the best storytelling seems to occur when the director is comfortable within the boundaries that others (or money) set for him, so he knows just what he can get away with. With the sequel to Evil Dead, Raimi uses a clever mix of horror, action and comedy to develop a story that is scary and fun, sometimes all at once. In Campbell, the man he loves to torture on set, you get a guy who can deliver lines with quite a bit of gusto and make you believe he's about to kick a lot of arse, but he could pull off some physical comedy a la Chaplin, which he seems to do in this film.
Is the movie profound or anything like that? Well, not really, no. It's just good old fashioned fun. Many a time I'd frag someone while playing a game of Tribes (well, most of the time I'd kill my brother sniper style, but that's a whole other story), and making sure to utter Ash's "groovy" after doing it. And in an era where horror films have been so incredibly cheapened to the point that they've unknowingly spoofed themselves, Raimi was spoofing himself years back and still managing to scare people in the process. That, my friends, is a textbook way of saying, "See? I can make it funny and you will still come back for more, because that's how I roll!" That's also why he's making big budget comic book adaptations as well.
Starz is releasing their horror films using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, and this 1.85:1 widescreen version of the film looks pretty good. The image is pretty sharp throughout and blacks are surprisingly solid. The PCM soundtrack remains a sore spot for me though. Unless actual work is being done to commission a new soundtrack or something, this is the fourth such release from Starz that has left me underwhelmed and wondering just what it is they're doing to head toward or separate themselves from the high def format war.
The extras are for the most part, the same as those found in that latex "Book of the Dead" edition that stinks up your DVD collection. The commentary with Campbell, Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel and makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero is the gem of the disc. For my money it's been one of the better commentaries out there. Campbell and Raimi frequently poke fun at themselves and each other, with Spiegel and Nicotero throwing in their two cents when necessary. They have fun with the movie (Raimi pokes some holes of logic when viewing), and there's a lot of joking and ribbing. There's not a lot you'll learn, but if you want to listen to four guys reminisce about their time on the film, this is the perfect track for it. From there are two smaller featurettes on the film, the first being "Evil Dead II: Behind the Screams," a series of stills with running narration and commentary by special effects designer Tom Sullivan. They show the location, cast and crew in their lighter moments, along with the occasional look at some conceptual art for the film. It's long in nostalgia and short on information. The other piece, "The Gore The Merrier," has some on-set camera footage of the cast and crew, along with the visual effect team recalling how some of the shots came together, along with even more teasing of Raimi without his presence. It's also a similarly decent piece too.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With all the varied editions of the film over the years, I guess it's only natural that Evil Dead 2 would be the first thing that Starz would release when it came to Blu-ray titles. In five years though, the film will celebrate a quarter century of lively and fun memories, so I can't help but think that this latest version is hardly definitive, and that we'll be quadruple-dipping at some point down the road.
Evil Dead II doesn't really do anything to offend for the discriminating high definition video buying enthusiast. The technical qualities don't necessarily warrant replacing your Book of the Dead edition, which is probably the only part of this review that you've skipped down to and read anyway, right? But hey, if you feel comfortable rebuying it, don't say I didn't warn you, you might be disappointed with the results.
This is the fourth Starz Blu-ray release I've seen, and I'm wholly disappointed in their work, or lack thereof. The court finds them guilty and sentences them to remedial instruction in video remastering.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• Commentary by Director Sam Raimi, Star Bruce Campbell, Co-Writer Scott Spiegel and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero
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