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Customer Review

116 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lionsgate Blu-ray a revelation, November 15, 2011
This review is from: Evil Dead 2 (25th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
If you've never owned "Evil Dead II" before, or if you've owned it a million times already across VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc, VCD, DVD, and Blu-ray, the new 25th Anniversary Edition by Lionsgate is THE version to have.

Lionsgate apparently returned to the original camera negative for this new transfer, and it shows. Detail is far above and beyond every previous home video release, including the dreaded waxed-over Blu-ray from Anchor Bay. A strong grain structure is present, although some mild DVNR tampering is visible--the grain generally moves as grain ought to, although sometimes it becomes more static, but never at a standstill. Color grading is a lot more dynamic and pleasing with realistic flesh tones and beautiful lighting I swear I've never quite seen before, while the contrast is more stable with night scenes looking appropriately dark, while daytime and near-dusk scenes look more appropriate and fitting than ever before. Black levels are solid, although there have been concerns of black crush being involved--that is, when shadow detail is lost, the shading variances gone and blacks being "crushed" instead. This doesn't appear to be any defect of the mastering, however; the film has always been dark, and it's my belief that the stark, detail-free blacks are due to underexposure during filming. The '98 VHS tape, THX- and DiviMax-mastered DVDs, and original Blu-ray (all from Anchor Bay) that I own all feature the same "problem" (*); I believe it was an artistic decision and one that I find to be visually striking. To top it all off, the original age restriction warning before the Rosebud logo returns, which had been excised from Anchor Bay's Blu-ray.

*(This is not to say that old home video releases are correct and that they should be used as a guideline for how the film should look; old video masters should never be the standard of quality in any respect since they are often very inaccurate to the original film source. I'm simply saying that I doubt very much that ALL of these previous video masters would be so goofed up as to feature the exact same levels of black crush as featured on the Lionsgate Blu-ray, so it is almost definitely part of the original photography. The DiviMax/Book of the Dead DVD and Anchor Bay Blu-ray, by the way, are transferred from the same master.)

Full-res screenshots of the title can be viewed at caps-a-holic, which also compares this release to the Anchor Bay one.

Some may be upset to hear that the wires used to hold up the flying eyeball have been digitally removed. This doesn't bother me since they were never meant to be seen in the first place, but there is a quaintness that is now missing with their removal; far as I can tell, the rest of the wires remain intact, which is odd that they'd only fix the one. If only they'd gone all-out and fixed all the wires, the huge tear in Ted Raimi/Possessed Henrietta's rear, and fixed the shots where unfinished sets are seen. Hey, if you're going to fix one thing, why not fix it all à la "Blade Runner: The Final Cut"? It should be all or nothing; fix it all or leave it well enough alone.

The only audio provided is a DTS-HD 5.1 track with English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles optional. An uncompressed original mono track would have been appreciated (coded as 2.0 dual mono); I've never been too wild over surround re-mixes, especially since only the original mix represents the intentions of the filmmakers. But, the 5.1 mix does the job well enough.

Extras include an all-new 100-minute documentary titled "Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II", split up into several chapters and featuring endearing new stop-motion effects recreating scenes from the film (a whole full-length recreation of the film in this fashion would be a load of fun to see). The doc is fun and informative with a lot of new trivia that I'd never heard before, such as the existence of co-writer Scott Spiegel's short film "Attack of the Helping Hand" and its influence on the "Evil Dead II" script. A 30-minute behind-the-scenes production video is also provided, showing off among other things scenes which were deleted during the editing process which all have plenty of fascinating effects, and it's unfortunate that these scenes were not found and restored for this Blu-ray release as separate deleted scenes. A 7-minute return to the shooting locations is also new, and the standard definition "The Gore the Merrier" and Tom Sullivan photo commentary featurettes from the Anchor Bay DVDs are provided as well. The movie commentary is the same entertaining one which has been around since I believe one of the LaserDisc releases. The US trailer is thankfully presented in HD, and there are HD photo galleries as well.

"Evil Dead II", the fantastic sequel to the low-budget, DIY "The Evil Dead" (it's NOT a remake; the first seven minutes merely recap the first movie since rights to the footage could not be acquired), has never looked this pretty and detailed on home video, and is DEFINITELY worth the upgrade. (The THX-mastered DVD from 2000 can finally be retired.) Strangely, the restoration and transfer is not of the same caliber as Bob Murawski and Anchor Bay's work on the first film, so it's unfortunate that Lionsgate did not throw at the project quite the same amount of money and talent as the first film's HD restoration received, but it's an impressive transfer nonetheless, and the film has certainly never looked this good beyond its original theatrical exhibition. HIGHLY recommended for fans of this insane splatter comedy masterpiece and for newcomers as well. Sadly, the disc is Region A-locked. Sorry, overseas fans; hopefully you'll see this transfer released in your area before long.

Now if only "Army of Darkness" (both theatrical and director's cuts) would receive a Blu-ray release that doesn't look like sun-baked vomit. At least the NTSC Region 3 DVD put out by MGM exists.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2011 10:39:00 PM PST
Marblehead says:
Awesome review, you answered all my questions. I really appreciate you focusing on the new blu-ray release as we've all seen the movie reviewed a million times. Your informative review is much appreciated!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2011 10:39:48 PM PST
Thanks. :) I figured most people wanting to check out this Blu-ray have seen the film a dozen times already. Glad I could help!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2011 10:43:52 PM PST
Marblehead says:
Yep, and like you mention early in your review, I own about five different versions of it. It's tough being a fan of this series, but well worth it!

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 1:49:33 PM PST
C. F. Magee says:
Like M. Fulkerson said, thank you SO MUCH for addressing what's new in this (great sounding) blu-ray release, and addressing it so well.

Posted on Nov 25, 2011 7:36:43 PM PST
God, I've owned almost every format of this movie.

On a side note, I wouldn't say this isn't a remake. If you listen to the commentary and watch the new doc the cast and crew are vague on whether it's a straight sequel or a remake. They do mention that the opening was re-filmed because they couldn't get the footage from the original film.....BUT then why did they only put Linda back into the movie? Where's the rest of the friends? Why does the story now just revolve around Linda and Ash?

So, while not really a straight up's not really a straight up sequel. And from what is spoken of in the new doc they didn't really worry about it as the original wasn't a huge mainstream hit and was not widely seen as far as they knew.

Dunno. Did you watch the new doc on this disc?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2011 8:18:44 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2011 8:38:14 PM PST
Yeah, the documentary is great. But I don't recall Campbell being confused about whether it's a sequel; if other actors were, that doesn't amount to much. If I remember right, both Raimi and Campbell always said it was a straight-up sequel, but the reason it's only Ash and Linda at the beginning was due to budget constraints. They toyed with getting the original cast but just didn't have the time or money to track 'em down, then they were gonna reshoot with other actors playing the roles--Raimi was actually to play Scotty and I believe they did makeup and some "evil" props and animatronics for him, but this too was taking too much time and money for a simple recap. So the truth of the matter is, it's only Ash and Linda in the beginning because of budget and time constraints, and that's a fact stated by the filmmakers.

Originally, they were never going to reshoot the events of the first movie at all--they were going to reuse footage from "The Evil Dead". But at the time, the first film was owned by somebody else and they couldn't get the rights to the footage, so that's why they refilmed it. It's definitely a full-on sequel; when Ash is attacked head-on by the evil, it picks up right where the first film left off. And I believe either Campbell or Raimi has stated that with a little editing, you could streamline "The Evil Dead", "Evil Dead II", and "Army of Darkness" into one really long movie. You'd just have to leave out the recap and ending from "Evil Dead II".

Posted on Nov 29, 2011 5:55:49 AM PST
mjhiskey says:
Thank you for reviewing the actual package of the blu-ray instead of the movie.

Yes. I hope they come out with a good blu-ray for Army of Darkness. Most of the versions are awful. If I pay good money for blu-ray, I was good quality and multiple cuts.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2011 6:51:07 AM PST
The R3 MGM DVD is worth tracking out if you don't have it. It can be imported rather inexpensively. I recently picked it up and couldn't understand why I hadn't gotten it sooner: it blows away the Anchor Bay releases. It's of the director's cut (and it's slightly longer than the one released in the States), and the whole movie, including the DC scenes, is archival print quality. It looks beautiful.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 5:10:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 5:13:21 AM PST
J. herrin says:
Wow, this is by far the best technical review I have read of this edition. I was debating whether or not to spend the extra $ (currently the older blu-ray is half price of this one), but now I know that I'd be doing a disservice by skimping on the cheaper one. I have owned so many versions of these movies in the past, & most of them seem to fall short in terms of the transfer. Nice to know that they finally got it right with this version. I agree with you on Army Of Darkness, & I also own the R3 MGM version since it seems to be the only decent looking transfer out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2013 4:44:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2013 4:46:34 AM PDT
It should be noted that "Army of Darkness" has a couple of great-looking Blu-rays out now in Germany and France--for the international and director's cuts at least. It was a joint effort between the two studios and MGM, who provided the HD master. It's clearly taken from the same 35mm film elements that were used for MGM's Hong Kong (R3) DVD for the director's cut, though whether or not it's a new telecine or the same decade-old scan is anyone's guess. Regardless, it looks very good and is a vast improvement over the MGM DVD.

The US theatrical cut included on both releases is still dreadful, actually more so than previous editions, which is most unfortunate. Same master as what was used on the US and UK Blu-rays, but looking even more disastrous. But if you're a fan of the director's cut or the international cut, the new Blu-rays are worth looking into.

The French release is region-free whereas the German one is locked to Region B. Far as I know there's no appreciable difference in quality between the two, despite the French release having all three encodes on one disc (no seamless branching, despite the international and director's cuts looking so similar). There is a special boxed edition of the German release, however, which contains a slew of discs, including a DVD which contains a US TV edit of the film containing scenes not in any other version. Most of the scenes have already been shown as deleted scenes on past releases, but it's interesting to note.

There's a comparison of the TV edit and US theatrical cut here:

Also, the German Blu-ray contains the commentary track, whereas the French one unfortunately does not, probably due to fitting three different movie encodes on one dual-layered disc. That said, I have the commentary on a couple DVDs already, and the French disc suffices for me for its cheaper price and the convenience of being region-free (though DVDFab could have rectified that issue had I gotten the German disc).

You can view screenshots of the German Blu-ray (director's cut) here:

Bear in mind it looks much better in motion, as the colors, contrasting, and moving grain structure give it a very filmic look. It basically looks like you're watching a 35mm print of the film--and I've seen two such prints of the theatrical cut. :)
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