Evil Dead - Book Of The Dead Edition

Evil Dead - Book Of The Dead Edition

So, five dumb teens take a vacation to a log cabin in the countryside and fall foul of evil spirits.

Yeah, yeah. If you need more of a synopsis than this, I suggest you log off immediately and run to the nearest video store because you NEED to own this film!

I suspect most (probably all) of the people who visit this site have seen THE EVIL DEAD. Umpteen times, I'll bet. And most will already own it - whether it be the excellent R1 Elite disc, or the slightly controversial R2 Anchor Bay release (aspect ratio, anyone?). So, is it worth buying yet again ...?

Well, what you're getting here is ultimately an amalgamation of both discs, with a little bit extra on the side. Oh, and pretty radical packaging too. In fact, it's a shame this film has already enjoyed so many DVD releases (especially in the States) as were this it's digital debut it would be considered pretty much definitive.

Reviewing the film itself seems pretty redundant (it's outlandishly gory, superbly shot and edited, you already know this). Suffice it to say it's been given the Royal make-over here: DTS remix, THX remastered - you even have that THX Optimiser screen -anamorphic widescreen. So, what else is on offer?

There's the two audio commentaries - previously available on both the US Elite and UK Anchor Bay discs, and both of which Alan has already commented upon in his review for the former disc. As Alan stated, the Bruce Campbell is the track to go for - witty, informative, and knowingly insincere. Interestingly, he points out that EVIL DEAD was made in 1979 - which is ironic when it seems to make almost everyone's list of best 80s horror films ...

More old news on the disc includes the theatrical trailer (still very nice to see) and four 30 second TV Spots. Oh, and the 18 minutes of out-takes were previously featured on the Elite disc - to be honest, these are for absolute completists only.

Talent bios of star Bruce Campbell, director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert seem quite thorough, while the stills gallery holds over 130 photos that range from on-set shenanigans to storyboards and international poster artwork. Certainly not to be sniffed at!

But I suspect it's the 'all-new' features that will sell this release to most fans. 'Fanalysis' then, is a 26 min documentary by Bruce Campbell that focuses on the stranger-than-fiction lives of hardcore fans (they put the 'anal' into 'Fanalysis'). But this short doesn't just concentrate on fans of EVIL DEAD - there's terminal Trekkies here, and even a sadly deluded woman who seems quite happy to be interviewed on camera while wearing full Xena garb. Sometimes self-congratulory but mainly well-humoured, and certainly never dull - it's a worthwhile watch.

'Discovering Evil Dead' is an excellent (but too brief) account of the movie's fate at the hands of UK video company Palace. The issues of Censorship by the BBFC are explored, as well as marketing of the movie and it's initial impact on festival audiences. Priceless.

Two Easter Eggs I uncovered (look in the extras menus!) reveal an FX test which is brief (1 min) but great to see, and footage from a theatrical screening of the film on Halloween 2001 - or rather the Q&A session with Tapert, actress Betsy Baker (Linda) and Theresa Tilly aka Sarah York (Shelly) after the show. At 7 minutes in length, this latter feature is well worth seeking out. The cast members speak of the film with a genuine fondness..

Then there's the packaging. Beautifully presented in a latex (is this latex? I'm not sure) 'book of the dead' simulation, this is quite unlike any other DVD out there. Inside the packaging you'll find a few notes by artist Tom Sullivan and several pages worth of occultish sketches. There's a 24 page booklet which in all honesty is one of the best extras (despite not being listed as one) as it's a good read and has plenty of photos of various video release covers. The last page of the 'book' is home to the disc itself.

I can't say whether this is worth buying. For me, I guess it is. I rate this film highly and found the all-new extras very exciting. As a stand-alone release this is exceptional. As I've mentioned though, the movie has been released several times previously and therefore it's hard to justify yet another re-release (especially when there's still no sign of "Within The Woods" ..)

Most irritating however, is Anchor Bay's decision not to present the film in it's original 1.33:1 ratio. Okay, so Raimi apparently prefers the matted 1.85:1 version as he intended it to be viewed in theatres ... but surely it would have been possible to give us the option to watch both formats? Or are Anchor Bay saving that 'Special Feature' for the super-duper 30th Anniversary edition?!

Conclusion: Plenty of extras and a great film that never looked or sounded better (despite the ratio grumblings). An original and innovative packaging ploy. And, what do you know, it's a 'Limited Edition' too.

Still not the definitive release perhaps, but by far the best we've seen yet ...

Review by Stuart Willis

Directed by Sam Raimi
Released by Anchor Bay
Extras :
2 Audio Commentaries; Fanalysis 26 min featurette; Discovering Evil Dead 13 min featuretee; 18 mins of out-takes; trailer; 4 x TV spots; Tom Sullivan-designed Book Of The Dead etchings; 24 page booklet; stills gallery; talent bios; Easter Eggs