Evil Dead II (1987)
By: Devon B. on November 5, 2013 | Comments
Studiocanal | 1.85:1, 1080p | Region B | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 84 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel
Country: USA
I bought my first copy of Evil Dead II about 20 years ago, an ex-rental tape from Safeway. I then upgraded to a remastered tape with some extras, before upgrading again to DVD. Then I bought the Book of the Dead release of the DVD. When I started my Blu-ray collection I held out on grabbing Evil Dead II in HD because the Blu-ray wasn't getting good reviews and I was tired of buying this movie over and over. Then a much better release came out, but I maddeningly found myself unable to play it due to region coding issues. When I got a region switchable player I planned on ordering the Blu-ray, but then it was announced the improved release was coming out in the UK. After a lengthy wait I was finally able to see the new fandangled transfer...and buy Evil Dead II again.

Evil Dead II starts with a reimagining of the events of the first film. This time Ash is cabin crashing and brings along his special lady friend. He eludes the forces of darkness for the night, but then is assaulted by an evil entity at dawn (spoiler alert for The Evil Dead). Ash is hurled through the woods and possessed, only to be rescued by the light of the sun. Exhausted, Ash passes out and sleeps through his opportunity to get away. He awakes to find himself stuck at the cabin for another night and shit is about to get bizarre, to the point it seems like he got off easy on the first night. Meanwhile some more people are making their way to the cabin, providing more fodder for the army of darkness.

Castaway was really fucking boring because Tom Hanks couldn't hold my interest on his own for a large portion of a movie, and that's because Tom Hanks is no Bruce Campbell. Campbell has some moments that get too hammy even for the live action cartoon that is Evil Dead II, but overall he does an exceptional job as the tormented Ash, providing plenty of laughs and collecting much sympathy from the audience as he puts himself through the paces in the name of entertainment. Sam Raimi does a great, innovative job as director and co-writer, but I can't imagine Evil Dead II being the classic that it is if anyone other than Campbell had been cast. Thank fuck Tom Hanks turned it down or he might've spent the movie playing with a possessed volleyball.

It's easy to think of the movie as The Bruce Campbell show, but he had a lot of help behind the scenes. Naturally Raimi was hugely important and Evil Dead II is the best example of the symbiotic creative relationship he shares with Campbell. Also bringing a fevered urgency to the proceedings were the future KNB team, lead by Mark Shostrom. Campbell is obviously the most important cast member, but his co-stars are very entertaining, too, with Raimi's brother Ted doing a show stopping turn as a dead old lady.

One thing I did wonder while watching the movie again was whether or not the events that happen are Ash's doing. In the first film it seems the evil dead have gone back to sleep after a period of inactivity, but in the sequel it hasn't been anywhere near as long between cabin occupants when Ash arrives so the dead may have still been active when he got there. I guess it doesn't really matter who summoned the evil dead, but in the first movie there's a definite sense that the friends could've just had a nice holiday if they'd heeded some warnings. If Ash is just a wrong place, wrong time guy in the sequel than it's just fate that he gets wrapped up in battle with the deadites. I guess that plays into the destiny story arc that the character goes through in the whole trilogy, which just makes poor Ash even more sympathetic. Except for the many times when he's just pathetic.

Evil Dead II sometimes catches crap for leading the charge in infusing the horror genre with comedy, but I think that's unfair because there's long been a connection between the two thanks to cool people like James Whale and Roger Corman. The movie still holds up as a gleeful descent into madcap mania, and people who don't like it are wrong.
The Disc
Evil Dead II might be much slicker than its predecessor, but it was still a lower budget feature, and some signs of that are on display in this HD release. The back cover says the movie "was remastered from film to HD in 2006" which had me a little nervous, but this does appear to be the new transfer. The movie is mostly set at night so there is crush, but the film often looks amazing when there's a bit more light in a scene. Some of the FX work doesn't hold up as well with the added clarity, but that's not a problem with the Blu-ray's transfer, and honestly the only thing I noticed that didn't seem like a part of the source material was a touch of macroblocking. There're grain and specks and flecks, but this is by far the best home release of Evil Dead II I've seen, and as I said I've seen a few. I won't go so far as to say Evil Dead II will never look better, but I feel confident I won't ever feel the need to upgrade again for image quality. The audio is available in a DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 remix, which is fairly underwhelming. There are a few moments where the soundscape effectively expands, but mostly this is another silly remix. Luckily, unlike the inferior Region A release, this version also includes a DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 track, though it's not listed on the cover and it's labelled as an LPCM track on the menu. I found this track much more fun, with its louder sounds augmenting the film's cartoonish qualities better than the 5.1 remix. There seemed to be a bit more clarity in the 5.1 track, but I still preferred the more bombastic 2.0 mix.

This Blu-ray is a deluxe edition, with a large array of special features. Collected from previous releases are the commentary track with Raimi, Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and Greg Nicotero; The Gore the Merrier; the behind the scenes slideshow with commentary from Tom Sullivan; the trailer and photo galleries. If a fan has somehow missed the commentary track that should be remedied as it's one of the best I've ever heard, hilarious and informative. New to this Blu-ray release are a collection of featurettes that combine to create a lengthy making of, behind the scenes footage shot by Nicotero, and a featurette that sees one of the FX dudes revisiting the location. There aren't a lot of movies that warrant a making of that's longer than the main feature, but Evil Dead II is one of them. This new making of isn't the best I've ever seen, that's still Apocalypse Soon from Citizen Toxie, but it is good fun and features interviews with several members of the cast and crew. Sam Raimi is absent, but otherwise everyone I would've wanted to hear from makes an appearance. The behind the scenes footage will be fascinating to makeup afficianados and even the least FX minded will want to check out the final segment which is a look at stuff that didn't make it in the movie. The other featurette is, well, a guy revisiting the location. It might not qualify as an extra, but the disc's menu is the funniest I've seen since Monty Python and the Holy Grail's.
The Verdict
Barring some major revelation or innovation, this may be the definitive release of Evil Dead II. At the very least, I'm not ever buying it again. Take that, Anchor Bay!
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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