"Join us ..."

Ash (Bruce Campbell) travels to a remote country cabin with four friends, only to discover audiotapes in the cellar and inadvertently awaken evil spirits in the outside woods when a spell on the cassettes is played aloud.

Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) is the first to succumb to demonic possession, following a rather harrowing stroll through the woods at night. The others may not initially believe her story that the trees are alive, but they can't deny that something is amiss when she levitates several feet from the ground with what looks like plasticine caked all over her face.

One by one, Ash's friends fall victim to the ghastly demons - including his beloved girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) - until he discovers through the cassettes that the only way to stop them is through the act of bodily dismemberment...

Sam Raimi's energetic, inventive camerawork; the superbly ominous score from Joseph LoDuca; Campbell spending the final third of the film being endlessly assaulted and thrown about here, there and everywhere; enough fake blood to fill a hundred bathtubs...

Arguably the most famous video nasty of them all (and possibly the best), THE EVIL DEAD needs no introduction for SGM readers.

But, do you need yet another version of Raimi's madcap 1981 gore epic - "the ultimate experience in gruelling horror"?

Well, Sony are hoping to persuade you that the answer to that question is affirmative with this UK blu-ray debut.

The film looks very good in this 1080p presentation. The picture is formatted to 1.85:1 (Raimi's preferred theatrical aspect ratio) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Grain is evident from the start and exists as a fine layer throughout. Whatever noise reduction that has been applied, is done so intelligently and the end result is a satisfying one.

I also own the recently released Anchor Bay blu-ray and, having judged the presentation alongside that, suspect that the same transfer has been used: they look on a par with one another. Colours are accurate, compression is never a problem and a remarkably authentic feel of film is there to be enjoyed throughout.

The Anchor Bay disc also includes the film in a 4:3 format, as it was originally shot. This is not an option here I'm afraid, so purists will need to either buy American or keep hold of their old video/DVD releases. But the 16x9 presentation is very good here; it doesn't compromise the film's framing and at the very least fills the screen of a widescreen TV ...

Audio is provided in English, Italian and Spanish mixes. Each one is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and comes across extremely well. Subtitles are proffered in English, Spanish, Italian and English for the Hard of Hearing.

The animated main menu page leads into pop-up menus that include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 16 chapters.

Extras begin with a new commentary track from Raimi, Campbell and producer Rob Tabert. It's a good track, offering plenty of interesting insight and a few laughs along the way. Handily, this also comes equipped with optional subtitles in English, Spanish and Italian.

The big bonus here - not included on the US counterpart - is a Picture-in-Picture feature which allows the viewer to enjoy bites from the likes of David Slade, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Alexander Aja and so on, in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen as the film plays. They pop up at fairly regular intervals to comment on key moments of the film. It's an excellent addition - although the only way I could disable the thing once it was running was to stop the disc.

"One By One We Will Take You" is the excellent 53-minute Anchor Bay documentary from 2006, taking a look both at the making of the film and its enduring influence. Edgar Wright and Eli Roth are among the people paying homage, while Tabert offers more good titbits of information relating to the shoot. Sadly, there's no Raimi or Campbell.

"Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor" are just that - 59 minutes of outtakes, played out in almost chronological order according to the film.

"At The Drive-In" is 12 minutes of footage from a Chicago film convention, which sees the cast of THE EVIL DEAD dishing out freebies to the lucky audience.

"Discovering Evil Dead" is another excellent extra that you may have seen before. It's a 13-minute featurette where Stephen Woolley and Nick Powell of Palace Pictures describe how they brought the film to UK audiences. The US release is also covered in brief.

1 minute of windowboxed make-up test footage rounds things off.

The disc is region free.

So, despite the previous availability of most of the extra features, and the controversial choice of aspect ratio on the main feature ... does this disc come recommended?

I'd have to say yes. Although for me, the Anchor Bay release (with the limited DVD of extras, mind) offers more bonus features and the film in both aspect ratios - and is therefore the better of the two. It is, however, region A encoded.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Region All
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review