“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” is, for all intents and purposes, a loose remake of director Sam Raimi’s debut, “Evil Dead”, but with a slightly larger budget, better production values, and a much larger focus on the sort of slapstick humor Raimi so obviously adores. The result was a cult sensation and one of the most influential comedy/horror films of all time. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend venture off to a remote cabin in the woods. Upon their arrival, Ash discovers mysterious artifacts and a tape recorder left behind by the previous occupants. Ash learns that the recordings are the journals of an archaeologist who has discovered the ancient Book of the Dead, and has taken it to this same cabin to unlock its secrets. While listening to the tapes, though, Ash unwittingly summons the spirits from the book, who then possess his girlfriend, and, ultimately, him. So much for the romantic getaway.
Meanwhile, Annie (Sarah Berry), the archaeologist’s daughter, hires a pair of locals to escort her and a friend to the cabin to meet her mother and father. When the quartet arrives at the cabin, they find a weary, beaten Ash, and instantly assume he’s done something with Annie’s parents. It’s not long, though, that the truth is revealed, and Ash and Annie are forced to save the world from the evil dead. While not quite as scary as its predecessor, nor as laugh-out-loud funny as the third entry in the series (“Army of Darkness”), Evil Dead 2 is still my favorite of Raimi’s films (and, yes, that includes all three “Spider-Man” movies) as one can’t help but feel the director’s love of filmmaking ooze from every frame of this movie. From the over-the-top gore to the stop motion photography and comparably restrained Three Stooges-style humor, Evil Dead 2 perfectly encapsulates everything I love about Raimi as a filmmaker. This movie is, quite simply, the perfect horror comedy.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is yet another fantastic HD release from Anchor Bay/Starz, sporting a pristine 1.85:1 transfer that features rich, velvety blacks, vibrant blues and reds, and the requisite amount of cinematic grain. The uncompressed 5.1 audio track is fantastically balanced, and is especially effective during the scene in which Ash is “taunted” by the cabin as he finally cracks at the end of the second act (the laughing deer’s head, dancing lamp, etc.). This is really immersive stuff.
I know it’s become something of a trend in my reviews of this company’s Blu-ray releases, but, what can I say? These guys know what they’re doing when it comes to making a great HD product!
Anchor Bay rounds up some of its best previously available extras for this set, including a highly entertaining audio commentary with Raimi, Campbell, Scott Spiegel, and FX artist, Greg Nicotero, as well as two featurettes; “Evil Dead 2: Behind the Screams”, and “The Gore the Merrier”, both of which are, unfortunately, presented in standard definition. Extras are rounded out with the film’s trailer, and the Fast Film Facts feature (a sort of “pop-up trivia” text track).
One of the most innovative horror films ever made gets one of the best HD treatments I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t be happier. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a movie I never grow tired of seeing, and, with this incredible new HD transfer and kick-ass audio track, I’ll be enjoying it in a whole new way for years to come.