The Evil Dead is a film I first saw aged 11, in 1983, on pirate video. It didn’t scare any of us, but it was fucking brilliant!
The plot is simple. Five friends take a trip to spend some time at a cosy log cabin retreat in the middle of a forest, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), Scott (Hal Delrich) and his better half Shelly (Ellen Sandweiss) and Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Sarah York). Alas, there’s an uninvited guest of sorts…
From her room, Cheryl looks out of window and hear’s a voice echoing, “Join us…”. Suddenly, the careful artistic sketching of a clock gives way to her hand being controlled to draw a mysterious book… the book of the dead. At the same time, a trapdoor in the floor rattles away. Strange things are afoot.
Back in the living room, we see Scott going into the cellar, followed by Ash at which point they find the book and a host of other items including a tape recorder. A recording found on it features a professor who has documented that this book is made from human flesh and inked in human blood and deals with demons and their resurrection. At the end of the description, the man begins reciting in a foreign language which amuses the two guys, but outside, things are stirring…
If the voice on the tape is to be believed, one by one they will be dispatched and it’s not long before Cheryl again hears the “Join us…” request, causing her to go outside… where she gets raped by a tree, which is clearly so ridiculous but was edited in some previous releases of the film.
Overall, The Evil Dead is a wonderful film and a must-see for all who’ll enjoy a little bit of horror. Bruce Campbell takes a while to get into his stride but becomes the main man of the piece, it won’t be a spoiler to say, given that it’s nearly 30 years old, and the rest of the cast are fine, but that’s about all.
Presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition. Sadly, the worst thing about this new Blu-ray release is the Blu-ray transfer itself. The film was always a grainy one, and its “rough and unreadyness” was part of its charm. It does improve a bit as the film progresses, but it never actually *feels* like a Blu-ray and so seems like an odd choice for such a release. It’s as if Sony just thought they’d release one for the sake of it. If you’ve already got the DVD and can watch that upscaled on a Blu-ray player, then stick with that, or only buy this for the additional extras. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Audio-wise, you get a 5.1 DTS HD MA soundtrack, for which I got the 5.1 DTS version, not that you’d know it as it just comes across like a standard Dolby Surround soundtrack. There are no split-surround effects, whatsoever.
The extras are are as follows:
- Picture-in-Picture: Join Us! The Undying Legacy of the Evil Dead: Not just cast and crew members, but many director/producer/writer fans such as Stuart Gordon (director of Re-Animator), David Slade (director of 30 Days of Night), Dan Myrick (director of The Blair Witch Project) and Eric Kripke (executive producer of Supernatural), give their opinion, including the latter who says he is in the horror business today as a direct result of this movie. This feature runs the full length of the film but is mainly soundbites and there’s 60 of them in total.
- One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead (53:45): Mixing in on-set footage from the film with comments as above, this is another essential extra for massive fans of the film. Well-known faces include Eli Roth (director of Hostel & Hostel: Part II), Edgar Wright (director of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz & Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) and, as Edgar Wright says, “Most horror films are about people being picked off, while Evil Dead is essentially about one guy being picked on.”
On the downside, there’s no chapters, like some of the other big extras here.
- Treasures from The Cutting Room Floor (59:22): Deleted scenes, in very grainy quality (as you’d expect, really), running for a full hour! It’s amazing that there’s such archive material from almost 30 years ago. If only all directors and studios had saved this for eventual home release… even though they didn’t know there would’ve been such a market.
- At The Drive-In (12:03): This feature looked like it would be a Q&A with the cast at the Flashback Weekend in Chicago, in 2006, but in the short time this lasts, they only got time to dish out copies of the DVD to the fans in the audience.
- Discovering Evil Dead (13:04): More chat along similar lines from before, mostly led by film producer Stephen Woolley.
- Make-Up Test (1:06): A short amount of gross goriness.
- Audio commentary: From director/writer Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and star of the show, Bruce Campbell. Commentary subtitles are available in English, Italian and Spanish.
The menu mixes clips from the film with eerie audio and the occasional, “Join us…”; There are subtitles in English, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish. The chaptering is a low, but usual for Sony, 16 which nearly gets away with it on this film as it’s so short. I work on the rule of thumb for approximately one every five minutes, ensuring one apiece for the opening and closing credits.
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cat no: SBR49152
Released: October 2010
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA, DTS 5.1
Languages: English, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles: 9 language available
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Sam Raimi
Producers: Robert Tapert and Irvin Shapiro
Screenplay: Sam Raimi
Music: Joe Loduca
Ash: Bruce Campbell
Cheryl: Ellen Sandweiss
Scott: Hal Delrich
Linda: Betsy Baker
Shelly: Sarah York
Person on Recorder: Bob Dorian (uncredited)
Hitchhiking Fisherman/Evil Force: Sam Raimi (uncredited)
Local Yokel: Robert Tapert (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.