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review added: 10/30/01



Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn

reviews by Florian Kummert of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified


Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn


Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
1987 (2000) - Renaissance Films (Anchor Bay)

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/A

Specs and Features:

84 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with writer-director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero), The Gore the Merrier featurette, theatrical trailer, video game preview of Evil Dead: Hail to the King, still gallery, talent bios, THX-Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English




Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (Limited Edition Tin)


Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
Limited Edition Tin - 1987 (2000) - Renaissance Films (Anchor Bay)

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/A+

Specs and Features:

84 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), tin box case packaging with jewel case interior, audio commentary (with writer-director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero), The Gore the Merrier featurette, theatrical trailer, video game preview of Evil Dead: Hail to the King, still gallery, talent bios, THX-Optimode test signals, 5" x 7" theatrical poster replica, 48-page booklet featuring rare photos, a 1987 Fangoria article and liner notes by Bruce Campbell, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English



"Groovy!"

It's just so much fun being reminded again why I'm a horror fan. When I hear the name Sam Raimi, I get down on my knees and thank God for Raimi's cinematic masterpieces. No silly, not for For the Love of the Game. This is about his older films from a time long, long ago, when people listened to The Bangles and thought Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas were really cool guys. This is about the Eighties. I know, "The horror, the horror!" But amidst squirm-inducing fashion, Mr. Raimi showed the world what the word "cool" really meant and created two of the most original, scariest and funniest horror-slapstick-chainsaw extravaganzas of motion picture history.

The first Evil Dead (1982) was banned for years in Germany and in many other countries. When I was finally able to watch it in a nice movie theater, the film scared the hell out of me. In that moment, I turned into an instant "Evil Deadite". Raimi has enough energy and visual innovation to provide half a dozen directors with ideas 'til kingdom come. The 1987 sequel, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, is as cool as the original on every level. And with its innovative style, it turned out to be one of the most influential movies of the decade. (If you've seen High Fidelity, you know how important Evil Dead II is.) The sequel is not as scary as its predecessor, but that was Raimi's intention. He went for comedy and slapstick instead. But never fear - the gore and the groundbreaking FX are still here, courtesy of such innovative folks as Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman. And, of course, the original hero is back - our favorite imbecile, Ash, played by the great Bruce Campbell. You gotta love this guy. He's a total moron, but when it comes to kicking a demon's ass, there's no one better to have around than Ash.

For those who don't know the story of Evil Dead, here's a quick recap. In the first part, Ash, his girlfriend Linda and a few other friends want to spend a weekend in a lonely cabin in the woods. But, as it turns out, this locale isn't exactly the perfect choice to bring your date. Ash and his friends find an antique leather-bound book and an old tape recorder that belonged to the former owner of the cabin, a mysterious archeology professor. The book is the fabled Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead) and when the group listens to the creepy recordings contained on tape, they unknowingly raise some very evil spirits: the Candarian Demons. One by one, Ash's friends get possessed by these demons and turn into some funky-looking monsters. Oh yeah, and one girl is raped by a tree. How could I forget that? Now, "the only way to kill these demons," the professor recommends on tape, "is the dismemberment of the bodily parts". And as easy as that, poor Ash loses everyone, including his sweetheart Linda, whose head he has to chop off with a shovel.

The second film just picks up the story where the first Evil Dead left off. (The filmmakers couldn't get the rights to show clips from the first part so, for the re-cap, they had to reshoot parts of the first Evil Dead, omitting the friends and just starting with Ash and his chick Linda). Again, Linda (here played by Denise Dixler) turns into a nasty, deadly monster and loses her head. Way to go, Ash! In the meantime, Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry in a truly ugly-looking Eighties outfit), the daughter of the archeology professor, and her colleague Ed try to return to the cabin to visit Annie's parents. But they find the bridge to the cabin destroyed and meet Jake (Dan Hicks, looking like a drunk, redneck version of Gary Sinise) and his girlfriend Bobbie Joe, two locals who know a hidden trail to the cabin and agree to show Annie and Ed the way. At the cabin, they meet Ash, who by that time is already soaked in blood and bordering on mental derangement. But the demons simply won't rest and so Ash, whether he wants to or not, has to heat up that chainsaw from the shed once again…

The enormous feat of Evil Dead II lies in its combination of splatter and slapstick. Both elements in this film fit together perfectly and make it work. Raimi is a master when it comes to using crazy camera angles, movements (a flying eyeball!) and smart surprises. The humor works so well because Bruce Campbell delivers a powerhouse performance that turned him into one of the most beloved actors of the horror and comedy genre. Campbell has incredible talent for Three Stooges-like slapstick, hitting himself with plates over his head, tumbling around and cutting a near-perfect flip straight onto his back. And once you see these special editions of Evil Dead II you'll see that Raimi apparently had tons of fun shooting these scenes and torturing Campbell while doing it.

After the successful DVD presentation of Army of Darkness, Anchor Bay Entertainment went out of their way to turn their Evil Dead II DVD into a real winner. The film is presented in an THX-approved, anamorphic transfer, letterboxed at 1.85:1. A full-screen version is also included. Anchor Bay's earlier DVD release of the film featured no extras and was in icky mono with overly bright flesh tones. But comparatively this transfer looks gorgeous. The image is clear: no grain, no dirt and no artifacts disturb the viewing pleasure. The look of the film is darker now, which enhances its mood. The remixed 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio track also adds a tremendous liveliness to the film and the subwoofers have a lot to do with that, with all the evil demons roaming through the woods. Also thrown in is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. But hold onto your old edition if you want mono, because it's not included here.

The extras that come with the discs are terrific fun as well, although for some reason, I felt there was still much more out there that could have been included. Let's start with the commentary. And, boy... this is not just a commentary; this is probably the funniest and most interesting audio commentary I've ever heard. Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, writer Scott Spiegel and makeup man Nicotero deliver fireworks of gags and are almost as funny to listen to as is the regular soundtrack. When Raimi and Campbell pull each other's legs, I almost fell off my couch, laughing so hard. The stories in this commentary are great, too. Who knew that the Bobby Joe character was based on Holly Hunter, who (for a while) lived in one of the filmmaker's apartments or something? (You also get a terrific Holly Hunter imitation of her getting mad.)

The 30-minute behind the scenes featurette, The Gore the Merrier, basically consists of new interview footage with the FX meisters Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger (who, shortly after completing Evil Dead II, would go on to found the successful effects company KNB). It also features some wacky video footage shot on set by Nicotero. The featurette tells, in detail, how the numerous effect shots were done. Sam Raimi's younger brother Ted had to suffer the most as he played the basement demon, Henrietta, wearing an almost unbearably heavy suit that heated up enormously on the inside. But the effects guys seemed to have had the time of their lives on set, and even managed to put together a hilarious short film called Evil Dead Baby, in which a baby is stalking the effects crew. The still gallery consists of almost a hundred production stills and behind-the-scenes photos. You'll also find the funny theatrical trailer for Evil Dead II and a preview for the video game Evil Dead: Hail to the King. Topping it all off are two well written, in-depth biographies of Raimi and Campbell. And for those in need of calibrating their monitor and surround system, the included THX-Optimode program might be of some help.

For the serious collectors out there, there's a tin box set limited to 50,000 copies. The tin box looks absolutely gorgeous, with the beautiful poster artwork on the cover. Inside is the DVD in a jewel case package, a 5"x7" replica of the original poster and a huge 48-page booklet featuring a 1987 Fangoria article on the production of Evil Dead II with color photos, illustrations and some funny liner notes by Mr. Bruce Campbell himself. The movie-only DVD edition is the exact same disc, but the package isn't tin, and it doesn't include the booklet or the poster replica.

Anchor Bay didn't exactly deliver with their old Evil Dead II DVD. But this new edition is almost flawless. It's terrific transfer, super funky bonus features and stellar audio commentary should convince every horror fan in the world to pick up this wonderful disc and enjoy one of the coolest films ever made. Now I just have to wait to get the new THX-certified edition of the original Evil Dead, packaged as a replica of The Book of the Dead, that's slated for release next year sometime. Groovy!

Florian Kummert
floriankummert@thedigitalbits.com


Evil Dead II


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