Yes, my horrorphile compatriots, the wait is over. Soon your wallets will be slightly thinner and you shall be the proud owner of The Evil Dead on Blu-ray. Anchor Bay, bastian of catalogue horror titles, is releasing the hi-def treatment of Sami Raimi's classic, ultimate cabin-in-the-woods film on August 31st. Having recently viewed the Blu, I thought I would provide a breakdown of the release's picture/sound quality and special features to aide in your decision-making process. Though if you own a Blu-ray player and are actually pondering whether or not to buy The Evil Dead on Blu-ray, I don't really want to know you. I know Luke or Alison usually provides you with DVD/Blu-ray reviews and I bow to their superior knowledge. I am however, a rabid collector of anything and everything home video and my specific penchant is for the technological bookends: VHS and Blu-ray. My VHS are my wonderful relics and my Blu-rays are my futuristic jewels that I love especially when they allow my relics to shine in ways previously unseen. Enter The Evil Dead. I really do love Anchor Bay for not only their treatment of the titles they release but for the selections they decide to high-defirize Long ago and far away we were treated to Evil Dead II on Blu-ray. But, for reasons I can only assume are related to rights ownership, we are only now getting the inaugural installment of The Evil Dead trilogy. So how is it?
The Picture/Sound Quality
Overall, The Evil Dead looks fantastic. When considering the guerilla style of filmmaking Raimi employed in the face of his meager budget, the quality of the picture is even more impressive. That being said, I wouldn't call this a perfect transfer. There are moments wherein the clarity and sharpness of the picture belies the near 30 years since its release and the bargain-basement methods used to create it. But it appears several different film stocks were used for this transfer and some of them may not have been in the best of shape. There are scenes that are so grainy as to make you wonder why you wouldn't simply instead watch the standard DVD version. I will warn you that most of these moments are right at the beginning so be patient and do not get discouraged; your reward will be bountiful.
The sound quality of The Evil Dead Blu-ray is sensational. I have to admit that when listing the reasons why I love this film; which I do even more than Evil Dead II although that's an entirely different discussion, the sound design is typically criminally omitted. The incredible sound of The Evil Dead is part of the reason it shines through its independent, budgetless exterior. Every howl of the unseen demons outside, every teeth-clinching squeak of rusty nails waiting to find purchase in some schmuck's flesh, and every cracking bone is lovingly enhanced and given the moment in the spotlight it truly deserves
As you would expect from Anchor Bay, The Evil Dead Blu-ray comes fully loaded with a host of special features. Having sifted through them all, here's my two cents on each one...
The bulk of the extras can be found on the second disc. But on the Blu-ray itself we get a brand new audio commentary with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert Tapert. The second disc lineup is as follows:
One by One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead--Really solid featurette examining both the making of The Evil Dead and its subsequent influence on horror. Fun and insightful with an impressive collection of interviewees including; Eli Roth, Joe Bob Briggs, Edgar Wright, and makeup guru Greg Nicotero. The two that faces suspiciously absent from the featurette are those of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.
The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor--Like many of the features on this release, I would recommend this one to the most hardcore of Evil Dead fans only. It is essentially every reaction shot, alternate take, and unimportant piece of dialogue that ultimately got the chop. What makes this more interesting than it sounds is the fact that the severed, forgotten pieces of film are strung together chronologically so it's almost like watching Raimi's home movie version of the film. But again, only for the diehards.
Discovering The Evil Dead--This is probably the most fascinating and insightful feature of the bunch. It is a short documentary recounting how The Evil Dead found release and staggering popularity in the UK. It centers around a pair of cinema proprietors turned film distributors who picked up The Evil Dead in London. It was actually part of a landmark censorship trial in England and this feature details how the film had just as much cultural relevance overseas as it did in the states.
Unconventional--This one seems a bit self-indulgent. You basically have cast and crew sitting around at a horror convention talking about what they like about horror conventions. Boring; not for me. But if you simply must know what Bruce Campbell's favorite part of being worshiped is, feel free to give it a look.
At the Drive-In--Footage of the gang at a special screening in Chicago. I hate to sound like an ass, but being that I live so near the Alamo Drafthouse, where an event like this could not only take place but foster some more thought-provoking questions during the Q&A, I was again bored.
Reunion Panel---Standard stuff, not terribly interesting.
Make-Up Test--Probably the most chintzy of the features. This is literally three minutes of footage; one of fake blood running down a white board and two of a stop-motion decomposing head effect. Why they didn't put something together where anyone who actually knows the craft talked about the astounding makeup work in this film is beyond me. Instead we get this measly breadcrumb.
The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell-Weird title considering all these actors not only worked together on The Evil Dead but lived together as well; safe to say they've met. This would be a fun little reunion piece if Campbell wasn't monopolizing the conversation and would let any of the actresses get a word in edgewise.
Book of the Dead: The Other Pages--This is a must for any art nuts who also dig the film. It's basically just an extended shot of Ash skimming through the necronomicon looking at pages that ultimately did not end up in the final cut. It is mind-blowing to think about how much work the artist put into all these pages knowing that only a handful would be used. Beautiful work, very cool stuff.
Wrap all that up with the obligatory trailers, TV spots, and still gallery and you've got yourself a Blu-ray well worth the MSRP price of $29.97 (but only because you will most certainly be able to find it cheaper). Even if things are tight financially, I have no doubt all of us here at Horror Squad will be purchasing this Blu-ray. Join us!