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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Evil Dead (1981)

There are few films with a reputation as notorious as Sam Raimi’s debut, The Evil Dead. One of 80’s cinemas’ most cherished horror movies to have survived and flourished the slanderous allegations of corruption and obscenity launched at it by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who granted the film immortality by making it an official Video Nasty during the video age in the mid-80’s. Thirty years later and it’s now considered a bona fide classic by not just genre fans but by mainstream critics alike. It’s also been given a swank Blu-ray release courtesy of Sony Pictures. Oh how times change. To think that the distributors of films of this ilk once got sent to prison…

The story is a familiar one nowadays, but just in case. Five friends head off into a cabin in the woods for a fun-filled weekend but are attacked by demonic forces that live within them!


The one aspect that seems to have been lost on most audiences these days is the fact that the original Evil Dead is actually a horror film. Due to the comedic influence that found its way into the sequels, the franchise now has a comedy-horror tag that isn’t deserved for the original. Granted, there are shades of intentional humour within the original, but it’s superseded by the unintentional laughs those will find when faced with the evident budget limitations in the effects department – The monsters seem to turn into mash potatoes! Granted, there’s a ‘eww’ factor to the proceedings, but most will just chuckle at the over the top grossness of the situations now.

Where the film does drive home its horror origins, is in its balls to the wall aggression. This was made in a period where no-name actors filled up the screen and the clichés didn’t yet dictate who would be left standing come the finale, if any. It’s also made from a period where directors liked to punish their cast, and director Raimi certainly pushed the envelope in that regard here. Tree’s attack and even rape their victims, Achilles tendons are annihilated by pencils in agonising close-up and axes are used to dismember loved ones but to name a few of the classic moments.

How does a film of this vintage, not to mention the budget restraint, hold up with the transfer to hi-definition? Luckily for us, marvellously! Of course this film was never going to look like the latest Hollywood flop-buster, and why would we want it to? This is a down and dirty picture and always has been, but it’s never looked this strong. Grain is evident but not to distracting levels, like certain releases of cult films have been on Blu-ray (I’m looking at you Stendhal Syndrome), and it gives the movie a pleasing filmic look and the sounds are cracking; some slight crackle remains but it’s nice that the films hasn’t been destroyed by the falseness of computers seeing as it was created by old school visual and sound equipment – on a shoe string – and has never sounded, or looked, polished. Those wary of the 1:85 aspect ratio need not to worry as the film has been re-framed under approval from Sam Raimi himself, and it looks great.

And now we get to the extras. There are plenty of extra’s here that have popped up on the numerous DVD incarnations of the film, but the big inclusion here for the new Blu-ray is a spanking new commentary by Rami, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert. The real joy though is the picture-in-picture feature that sports recollections from various horror icons from the likes of Brain Yuzna and Stuart Gordon to the likes of Alexandre Aja! It’s a brilliant addition to a must-have Blu-ray for cult fans and Evil Dead fans alike. Good work Sony! Let’s hope we see this loving treatment given to more cult gems shall we?

Full list of extras on this release are as follows:

  • All New Commentary with Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell
  • Picture-in-Picture: Join us! The Undying Legacy of The Evil Dead
  • One By One We Will Take You The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead
  • Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor
  • At the Drive-In
  • Discovering The Evil Dead
  • Ellen and Drama Teacher
  • On-Stage Interview
  • Make-Up Test

Treat yourself to The Evil Dead on Blu-ray as of the 11/10/2010!

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