Blu Ray Film Reviews – The Evil Dead

These friends are about to awaken the evil deadThe Evil Dead was filmed in a real abandoned cabin in the woods, the film was shot in Tennessee after unsuccessful attempts to find a cabin in Michigan, the cabin used had to undergo extensive work as it was in poor condition, electricity and a telephone were put in and some rooms had horse manure added in order to attract flies.

The cabin used for the film has long since been destroyed but fans did find a time capsule placed by the crew in the only surviving part of the building, the brick chimney of the fireplace. The director of the film, Sam Raimi, claims he set the cabin on fire after filming ended.

Betsy Baker who plays Linda in the film was suspicious about the the filmmakers and asked to meet in a public restaurant, she also lost her eyelashes when the special makeup effects facial mold was removed.

Sam Raimi originally wanted to call the film, The Book Of The Dead, it was the producer Irvin Shapiro who changed the title to The Evil Dead, he thought the audience would be put off by the original title.

The Evil Dead was one of the first films to be labelled a "video nasty" in the United Kingdom, the term video nasty came about because of heavy handed sensationalist newspaper reporting at the time and this in turn led to mass hysteria on the part of some politicians and this led to the introduction of the video recording act 1984, although the European Commission were never informed of the act which meant it was unenforceable. The UK parliament re-introduced the act in December 2009 and thus it is now law some twenty five years after it was first introduced.

Bruce Campbell plays Ash in the film, his last name is never mentioned in The Evil Dead or it's two sequels, Raimi and Campbell toyed around with calling him Ashley J Williams or Ash Holt.

One of the sketches which can be seen within the pages of the Book Of The Dead is from William Blake's painting of The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed With The Sun.


Film Plot

Five friends head off to a remote cabin for some fun and games, they go down into the spooky cellar of the cabin and find a taped recording and a book, the book is called the Necronomicon also known as The Book Of The Dead and the recording unleashes a supernatural terror into the woods that surround the cabin, soon after demon possession leads to body dismemberment and limbs are flying everywhere, what started out as a relaxing weekend break turns into the most horrific blood splattered and heart pounding exercise in terror, the only question is will anyone survive the night!


Positives

Ash and friends gather round the dinner table in The Evil DeadI feel the low budget actually helps this movie, it means Sam Raimi and his small film crew have to be inventive, they couldn't just throw money at any problem and had to come up with clever innovative solutions, the camera swoops around at angles that seem impossible and you are drawn into the film.

Joel Coen was an assistant film editor on this production and you can see how the Coen brothers were clearly influenced by the camerawork on this film when you watch one of their movies like Raising Arizona. Raimi helped the Coen brothers when they made their first film, Blood Simple, the influences are there.

Some have said the acting performances let this film down, i disagree, i feel the acting helps this film, it's fresh, it's raw and there is energy that polished high budget productions sometimes lack.

As already mentioned, the camerawork is superb, how they managed to achieve some of this is a testament to the vision of Sam Raimi, i feel that what they managed to do with the camera's helps the film stand out from many other horror films and even to this day it keeps the film looking fresh, of course the film editing is also superb, this film shows that if you passion and believe in your movie and if you also have a little talent then you don't need lots of money to make a competent film.

Bruce Campbell, that's two words but it sums up one of the positives of this film, he created a character that has stood the test of time and i feel he deserves all the recognition since received for this role.

The music score works really well with the visuals, parts of the score remind me of some of the great Universal horror scores from the thirties, i feel a good music score is vital to a movie, this type of music dates well, for example i feel those movies with nothing but a rock score will age badly and they tend to be loud and noisy but when you have a classical music score it will remain timeless, at least to me.

The sound effects and makeup effects that they came up with are also very good and aid in making The Evil Dead work so well.

The location chosen for the film is a big plus, it took them a long time to find a suitable cabin but in the end all the work paid off, the atmosphere in a horror film is very important and that's why the location was so important and helps make the film what it is today. The enthusiasm shown by everyone involved in making this film is infectious and spreads to the audience watching it,


Negatives

Although i have praised the makeup effects work, i feel some of the blood effects shots don't work so well, i'm not talking about the stop motion work at the end of the film, i love that, it's scenes such as Ash pulling the tree part out of his friend's leg and the blood starts pouring out, it looks more like paint than blood, that's just a minor quibble though, the atmosphere more than makes up for such scenes.

One could mention many continuity errors that exist in The Evil Dead, but then i could say the same for a lot of big budget films, whether this is a negative is upto you, It's worth mentioning though just in case you spot any.

I could also mention a missing extra, the original short film that inspired this was not available as an extra, it's called Within The Woods.


Image Quality

Spooky cabin and spookier woods in The Evil DeadThe Evil Dead was shot in 16mm at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, Raimi originally had some 35mm prints made and one would assume they had an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 since American cinema's tend to show at that ratio and not the European ratio of 1.66:1 which would have been better, composition wise, for a film shot 1.37:1. The last special edition dvd release of this film had a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, many felt some scenes looked cramped and ill fitted this chosen ratio, for this release, Mr Raimi has supervised a new transfer and individual scenes were carefully checked, the result is that the film now works very well at 1.78:1 aka 16/9.

For the purpose of this review i have chosen to watch the film at 1.37:1 because i still feel it is the proper filmed aspect ratio and it works better when viewed like this.

Starz/Anchor Bay have done themselves proud with this newly minted transfer, there is superb detail on display, black levels are deep and distinct, colours look better than ever and i detected no issues worth speaking about, film grain is on display and helps give The Evil Dead a real film like quality, compression quality is very good and i feel the film will never look better as far as the blu ray format goes, indeed the level of detail on this release shows that 16mm shot movies can look exceptional when money is spent on the transfer.

They have also spent some money removing things not intended to be seen in the film, for example producer Robert G. Tapert was originally visible and hiding in bushes as the car crosses the bridge, they have digitally removed that scene.


Sound Quality

The Evil Dead originally had a mono soundtrack, for this release you have the choice of listening in Dolby True HD 5.1, shame they couldn't put the original mono soundtrack on here just to preserve things but regardless i feel they have created a convincing quality soundstage, there is lots of channel panning between the front speakers and occasionally the odd discrete surround effect, the subwoofer doesn't really do much and the few occasions it did were not that great.

The music score sounds really good and the mix overall sounded impressive to me as it had a nice open quality about it, for those who want a full blown surround experience it may disappoint you but if you watch the film with realistic expectations then you should enjoy this sound mix.


Final Thoughts

I watched The Evil Dead on a bootleg VHS tape back in the late eighties, this was the only way i could illegally view the film in its full uncut form, the official VHS release was butchered by the BBFC and was painful to watch, it annoyed the hell out of me that some censorship body cut this film and many more, what was even more depressing was that our politicians and newspapers were using horror films and violent films in general as the scapegoat for society's ills, now that the Conservatives are back in government i fear a repeat, i hope i am wrong about that but they always seem to want to control what the masses watch, they were the bad old days if you were a movie buff, i do not want a return to those times, not ever.

Its interesting to note that the sequel to this is also out on blu ray and suffers from excessive DNR, if only Sam Raimi would supervise a new transfer for that one, oh and Army Of Darkness, the third film, is also out but suffers from using an old outdated master, i would be very happy if both sequels had some money spent on them and we got new director approved transfers, i think it might happen for Evil Dead II but unlikely for Army Of Darkness.

The Book Of The Dead - Read it at your peril in The Evil DeadNot everyone likes horror films and if you don't then The Evil Dead will not suddenly make you change your opinion on them, for those who do enjoy being scared then i suggest you view this film late at night with the lights off and preferably with rain and a howling gale force wind blowing outside, get yourself in the right frame of mind and this movie will not only entertain you but might even give you the a fright or two and that's actually a healthy thing.

There is a UK release by Sony which unfortunately is only 1.78:1, its a quality release and the transfer is said to be as good as the one i am reviewing here although i recommend the American release due to getting a choice of aspect ratio, its region coded A and thus you need a multi region or USA blu ray player to view it.

If you check out IMDB then you will notice that The Evil Dead IV has been listed for some time, its unclear if Sam Raimi intends to shoot this film, i originally heard they were remaking the first film, then after Raimi left Spiderman 4 and they rebooted that franchise, i read that Mr Raimi was going to make it, now he is making Oz: The Great and Powerful, i hope they do not remake the original, i would rather see a fourth film made and Raimi directing it.

For me The Evil Dead was one of the best blu ray transfers of 2010, the film was released many times on dvd, i see no reason for many releases on blu ray since they have got it so right first time, perhaps they will add more extra features to any future release, this edition was limited and came with bonus dvd extra's, personally this is it for me and i am extremely happy with the quality of this edition and will not buy a future release just for the extra content, if only all movies got such tender loving care as this one, highly recommended.