There are some films which are considered cult classics. And then there are some cult classics that are considered all-time greats. And then there are some all-time greats which are considered the perfect example of their type. Evil Dead 2 (Dead by Dawn) sits comfortably in this final category, and with this fantastic new restored BD edition you can finally enjoy it in all its glory.
The first Evil Dead film was a fantastic piece of low-budget, early-entry film-making by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but everyone agrees that it was far from perfect. What it did was to spawn a whole new genre of horror cinema (the cabin in the woods) and show that gross-out horror and frat-house humour can sit side by side successfully.
When it came to the second film, the director and star choose to do a kind of re-boot…take what was great about the first film, but apply new film-making techniques and experience. They set out to upgrade, upscale and generally out-do their previous outing. And boy did they manage it?!
Starting with a brief review of the first film (re-filmed since they couldn’t get the rights to use their own movie!) we meet Ash and his girlfriend, enjoying some study-time hanky panky in a cabin in the deep dark woods. Unfortunately, Ash plays a recording of the previous owner (a professor) reading out the incantations from the dreaded Book of the Dead (the Necronomicon). This awakens a dark spirit that dwells in the woods, which possesses Ash’s girlfriend who he is forced to kill by beheading her. Here the new film begins, as Ash is forced to confront the various evil forces lurking within and without the cabin, a mixture of pure body horror and psychological attack. Meanwhile a new foursome are making their way to the cabin, the professor’s daughter and her boyfriend, plus two handy local hicks to show them the secret route through the forest. By the time they have arrived, poor Ash has been put through hell by the evil spirits, forced to cut his own hand off with a chainsaw and is pretty much a raving lunatic. With all five of them holed up in the cabin, it isn’t long before they are being picked off, one by one. There are attacks by forest demons (including the now infamous tree-rape scene), a cellar-dwelling granny deadite and by a possessed Ash. As each one dies (only to become a deadite themselves) Ash must learn from the Necronomicon how to send the spirits back where they came from.
This is a stunning piece of Blu-ray restoration and upscaling. The film has never looked so crisp and clean. Apart from the opening rehash of the first scene, which appears to be purposefully grainy, the rest of the movie is spotless. And in a film with this much spectacle, gross-out blood and gore, psychedelic imagery and OTT horrors, the restoration needed to be superb. The soundtrack has an equally stunning impact, with scenes such as the forest-demon attack and the Ash-goes-mad section having particular audio heft. It is a great session for your surround sound system. All in all, this is THE definitive way to watch Evil Dead II, and you won’t be left wanting.
Evil Dead II Blu Ray Extras
Also on the BD release are some great extras. There is a 1.5hr long making of documentary which is one of the finest examples of BD extras I have ever watched. It is split into sections which you can jump through, and covers every aspect of the film from early days, through production, to post production and the film’s continuing impact. It stars all the main players, with Bruce Campbell leading the way. The only notable name missing is Sam Raimi, which is a shame. Possibly too busy making Oz, or just too far removed from his early films…he is eulogised extensively and features in old footage, but it would have been nice to have even just a few minutes of him from the present day. This is one seriously interesting feature and gives you real value for money. There is a far shorter second feature looking at the original locations of the film. Sounds a bit dull, but it is far from being so. The director locates the original cabin in the woods (it’s still there!) as well as the old school gym where they built the interiors. As a fan it is a very pleasing extra.
Evil Dead II gets a 5/5 from me as a perfect BD package. One of the all-time greatest genre-defining films, restored and upscaled to perfection with a stunning soundtrack and a wallet-pleasing set of extras. If you are a fan, go buy this now. But be warned, watch it late at night and you could end up being “Dead by dawnnnnnn!!!!”