Evil Dead II (1987)
By: James Gillett on May 11, 2009 | Comments
Universal (Australia) Region B, 1080P. 1:85:1 (16:9 Enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS HD MA 5.1. 84 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Country: USA
External Links
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After Sam Raimi's second film Crimewave failed to make an impact at the box office he and producer Robert Tapert were a little worried. Since another flop could further stall their careers, they decided to go ahead with a sequel to their successful debut The Evil Dead. Horror fans the world over have been thankful ever since; In Evil Dead II new horror classic was born.

Beginning moments after the events of the first film (after a short recap) Ash (Bruce Campbell) continues to battle those Evil Kandarian sprits summoned from the Book of the Dead. With his girlfriend Linda now gone, Ash desperately tries to survive another night in the isolated cabin alone. Until some unexpected visitors arrive...

Since legal issues prevented Sam Raimi from showing any footage from The Evil Dead, he opted to shoot a 7 minute recap to get audiences up to speed. While he had to purge some characters for time, the upside was he could re-establish the films tone and seamlessly transition the events into the next film. It worked; in fact it worked so well it led some to believe Evil Dead II was a remake. Raimi later confirmed he always intended it to be a sequel, adding that without the recaps, all three films can be watched together as one movie.

So how do you make a sequel to a nasty, balls-to-the-wall horror fest like The Evil Dead? Well if you're Sam Raimi, you make it a comedy. Though similar to the first, the innovation of this follow-up is its generous servings of black humour and slapstick. Raimi is a big Three Stooges fan and it shows. The end result is a fantastically funny and gory slapstick horror comedy that would became a strong influence on the horror landscape. Guys like Peter Jackson especially owe great deal to this film.

With the story and setting quickly established, Evil Dead II jumps straight into the action. With a lightning pace and inventive camera work, everything about this movie just screams high energy. Raimi takes the frenetic style he employed in the original and cranks it up a notch, creating one visual feast of a horror film.

The outlandish effects are equally notable. The now famous K.N.B. EFX Group (From Dusk Till Dawn, Hostel) began earning their great reputation with this film. The gore, makeup and creature effects all look amazing. It's all the more impressive when you consider the films relatively small budget. Who can forget the chainsaw attack from the headless Linda or the demons elongated head repeating "I'll swallow your soul; I'll swallow your soul"?

No Evil Dead II write up would be complete without a mention of the film's star Bruce Campbell. His role as Ash in The Evil Dead series made him nothing short of a cult Icon. While he was great in the first film, it's in this particular entry he developed into the hammy, ass kicking, one liner spewing hero he's best known for. Watching his transition from terrified to insane to courageous is just as entertaining the 100th time as it was the first. Whether he's smashing plates on his head or sawing off his own hand, he makes it look cool, disturbing and funny as hell, all at the same time. Without a doubt Bruce Campbell's flair for physical comedy is one of Evil Dead II's biggest assets.
Video
If you're wondering if Evil Dead II looks better on Blu-ray, the short answer is yes, if only a little. After an image comparison with both the Region 4 DVD from Universal and the Region 1 Book of the Dead Edition from Anchor Bay, The BD'S improvement was only marginal.
The Blu-ray has less image noise and slightly more depth due to more accurate black levels. The colours are a little more vibrant here than before and there's also more detail in the image, mostly noticeable in better lit scenes. However it's just not a great leap over its DVD counterparts. For a HD transfer the image just looks too soft. Considering the source material Evil Dead II may never look crystal clear but I'm sure most people will be hoping for a bigger upgrade.
Audio
A choice of either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS HD Master Audio. At least the sound gets a decent lift. The DTS HD Master track presented here is great considering the age and budget of the film. Effects, especially sprits flying about the room and the vortex finale, are more immersive than ever. Fans will be pleased.
Extra Features
We get an Audio Commentary with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero. This commentary is a fan favourite and has appeared on previous Region 1 and 2 DVD releases.

There's also a 32 minute making of titled 'The Gore the Merrier' which deals with the makeup and effects. It includes interviews with the guys from K.N.B. EFX Group plus on-set footage of the cast and crew. It's great stuff but like the commentary, it has appeared on previous Region 1 and 2 DVD releases. It's presented here in non-anamorphic 4:3.

This Australian release is actually the same disc available through Optimum Releasing in the UK. Unfortunately compared to the US disc from Starz / Anchor Bay it misses out on a 17 minute 'Behind the Screams' featurette (production photos narrated by animator Tom Sullivan), the Theatrical Trailer and the Film Fast Track trivia track.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Evil Dead II set the benchmark for what a horror comedy could be. It showcased Sam Raimi's enormous directional talent and made an icon of its star Bruce Campbell. It's simply one of the finest horror films of the 80s.

As for the disc, while this is the best Evil Dead II has looked thus far, it isn't much of an improvement over the various DVDs available. Die-hard fans will want this BD either way, but it might be worth holding out for some inevitable Remastered Special Edition. That said it's still an easy choice over our bare bones region 4 DVD.

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