With a remake of Evil Dead in cinemas, Studiocanal has dusted off Sami Raimi’s 1987 movie Evil Dead II for a spruced up Blu-ray re-release, with some new extras added in. There’s no doubt the film is a horror classic. While less grossly gory than the original Evil Dead (although no slouch on the gore front), it’s much funnier and yet still manages to be original, strange and scary.
There’s often a bit of confusion over whether it’s a sequel or remake of Evil Dead, and that’s because circumstances made it a bit of both. Raimi originally wanted to use clips from the first movie to recount how Ash (Bruce Campbell) got to the cabin in the woods where the events of the sequel take place. However that earlier film was owned by a different company, so they couldn’t use clips. As a result, to explain thing how Ash got there, the first 15 minutes of Evil Dead II are essentially a mini-retelling of Evil Dead, but with different events, before it continues into a new yet similar story.
Ash is at a small cabin where he uncovers the ancient Necronomicon. When some passages from the book are read aloud it unleashes demons, which possess Ash’s girlfriend so that he has to kill her. Ash also gets possessed himself but is saved by the coming of the dawn. By the following evening a group of strangers arrive, who are involved with the scientist who found the Necronomicon. Ash tries to warn them it isn’t safe, but they think his tales of demons and evil are nonsense – until, that is, they find themselves in the cabin under assault from supernatural entities.
After Ash loses him arm, the only way to survive may be to replace his hand with a chainsaw!
It’s a film that’s absolutely nuts but very entertaining, with Sam Raimi filling the movie with unusual ideas, shots and images, which even today feel novel. From Ash flying through the woods at the beginning to the way the camera swoops around as if it’s the evil demon, it’s extremely well done, ensuring that there are as many scares as there are laughs. While a few of the practical special effects look a little dodgy, most are excellent and very gruesome. Indeed it’s the Evil Dead films along with The Thing that tend to be where horror fans go to try and prove practical effects are better than CGI.
The film looks pretty good on Blu-ray. While there’s a bit of grain – as you’d expect with a 25 year old film made of a low budget – but the quality is still a big jump up from DVD. However it’s the special features that fans will be most interested in. While there’s some old stuff, such as an audio commentary with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, along with some archive featurettes, there’s plenty of good new extras.
The best of these is the feature-length documentary Swallowed Souls, which goes through the entire production, from how the film got going (after the first Evil Dead, Sam Raimi initially had no intention of going back to horror), through the making of the movie, the creation of the special effects, the confusion over whether it’s a remake or sequel, and loads more. It’s fascinating and a bit of a must-see for fans. It’s a shame Sam Raimi isn’t interviewed, but thankfully many others involved in the film are, including Bruce Campbell. Also included on the disc is ‘Road To Wadesboro’, where one of the crew members returns to the town where the movie was shot, to show us where everything was filmed and discover if any of the sets or props still exist.
Overall Verdict: A great HD re-release for a horror classic. The film looks good and the new special features will be great fun for fans.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac