Evil Dead II: Book of the Dead Edition DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel
1987, Region 1 (NTSC), 84 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on September 27th, 2005
Bruce Campbell as Ashley 'Ash' J. Williams
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks as Jake
Kassie DePaiva as Bobbie Joe
Ted Raimi as Possessed Henrietta
Denise Bixler as Linda
Richard Domeier as Ed Getley
John Peaks as Professor Raymond Knowby
Lou Hancock as Henrietta Knowby
For the few that may not be familiar with this film, I'll give a brief overview. Ash is back in the cabin in the woods again. This time just with his girlfriend Linda. While checking out the cabin Ash turns on the tape recorder with Prof. Knowby reading from the "Book of the Dead". Next thing you know Linda is possessed and Ash is fighting for his life one more.
The professor's daughter and her friend Ed are led to the cabin to join her parents by local yokels Jake and Bobbie Joe. They discover Ash in the cabin and initially suspect Ash has done harm to the missing professor and his wife. Soon they are all involved in a life or death struggle that can only result in them all being "dead by dawn"!
For fans of this film one of the big points of discussion is whether or not Evil Dead II is a sequel or a remake of Evil Dead. It's my opinion that it's actually both. In the way that Robert Rodriguez's Desperado is to El Mariachi is a remake and sequel. Where both Raimi and Rodriguez were both severely limited in budget for the first films, in the second they retell the story and take it further along than their first efforts. Raimi though, wanted to put more comedy into Evil Dead II and avoid the X rating that Evil Dead had so he could present it to a wider audience. He was unsuccessful in that attempt and Evil Dead II initially received the same X rating.
There's also a lot of debate on which film is better. I have a friend who thinks Evil Dead II is far superior to Evil Dead. I, on the other hand feel that the first film had much more terror and was a really original film that knocked me for a loop the first time I saw it. Both films are worthy to be on anybody's top 10 list of horror titles!
The big question with this release is whether or not you should double dip. Anchor Bay has been highly criticized for putting out new releases of their franchise titles. Is this new release worth making that investment? If you don't own a copy of this on DVD, it's a no brainer, this DVD belongs in every horror fan's library. If you already own the first film in the "Book of the Dead" packaging, again a no brainer, this is a great companion. However if you own the second release, especially the LE Collector's tin, you're not really gaining that much and personally I feel that this would then only be for die hard fans. I don't blame AB for taking Evil Dead II to the next step in technology, it's a very sound business decision.
Video and Audio:
Evil Dead II is the latest entry in Anchor Bay's Divimax series of their existing catalog of films. The result is an absolutely stunning transfer of the film. Shot on 35mm film processed in Technicolor, Evil Dead II is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I've seen the first AB release and own the collector's tin they released later on. This is heads above those two earlier versions of the film. However... In a way it's almost too good quality wise. While it retains the look and gritty feel of a 16mm film, the higher definition transfer takes away a bit from the special effects. The stop-motion photography used for these effects is not as effective when you get a better look at it resulting in the effects looking dated. Outside of that, overall it's a plus for the film.
Evil Dead II has both the original mono soundtrack along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. Using my receiver, I took that to 7.1 EX. The remix is very lively and sounds come from all over the room at you! It's very enjoyable and really enhances the viewing experience.
Anchor Bay has used extras from previous releases of the film and added a new Evil Dead 2: Behind-The-Screams featurette host by Tom Sullivan, the man who created the "Book of the Dead". Carried over from the last DVD release is the featurette "The Gore The Merrier". Also included along is an commentary audio track by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel and special effects artist Greg Nicotero which was originally released on the Elite Entertainment LD of the film. Rounding things out are cast bios and the theatrical trailer. There's also new packaging for the film, to go along with their release a couple of years ago of Evil Dead: Book of the Dead, Evil Dead II is packaged in a "Book of the Dead". Overall a great set of extras!