Wednesday, September 8, 2010

THE EVIL DEAD (Blu-ray)

"You bastards, why are you torturing me like this? Why?"

Odds are, that if you're visiting this website, you've probably seen director Sam Raimi and cult actor Bruce Campbell's debut feature, THE EVIL DEAD (1981) at least once. I'd be further willing to bet that you own one of the many DVD editions of the film released over the last decade or so. I, myself, own three: the original DVD from Elite Entertainment, the cool "Book of the Dead" edition from Anchor Bay, and the "Ultimate Edition" that AB released a couple years back.

Now, inevitably, comes the first HD edition, and you probably want to know if it's worth shelling out another twenty bucks or more to upgrade to Blu-Ray, right? Read on....

Synopsis: Five college students travel to an isolated cabin in the woods for a vacation, where they unwittingly release a horde of evil spirits, which possess them, one by one, until only one young man named Ash (Campbell) remains. Carnage ensues.

Shot on 16mm film with limited resources, THE EVIL DEAD has always looked pretty decent, due to the talent and hard work of the young filmmakers, and, specifically, thanks to Raimi's unique and creative visual style. But, as the 16mm negative was blown up to 35mm for the theatrical prints, the grain associated with 16mm, was increased. This - along with the movie's 1.33:1 aspect ratio - has made transferring the film to digital troublesome. Personally, I dig the grain. I like film to look like film, and for a gritty, grungy little nightmare like THE EVIL DEAD, that organic quality even contributes to the experience.

That said, the movie has had a lot of good transfers over the years, and, under the direct supervision of Raimi, this new Blu-Ray HD 1080p edition looks especially sharp, with rock-solid blacks, good detail, rebalanced colors, and a nice 21st century sheen.

Anchor Bay presents the film in both the original 1.33:1 "full frame" aspect ratio, and in the matted, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen version. Disc one contains both versions of the film and includes the only brand new supplemental feature: a new commentary track by Raimi and Campbell, covering the history and making of THE EVIL DEAD. Unfortunately the familiar separate commentary tracks from earlier releases (the solo Campbell commentary and the Raimi/Rob Tapert commentary) are not included. The new commentary is quite good, though, with Campbell basically asking Raimi questions, that cover virtually every aspect of the film's creation.

Disc two, which is a standard DVD, contains a wide array of bonus features, most - if not all - ported over from the 2008 "Ultimate Edition." You can check that link for details, but these include a "making of" documentary, deleted scenes, a handful of TV Spots, make-up test footage, the original theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, a poster & memorabilia gallery, and interviews with various cast and crew.

So - to upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question. And the answer is simple. How much do you love THE EVIL DEAD? If you absolutely, positively have to have the finest possible transfer (for now) and the new Raimi/Campbell commentary, then buy the Blu-Ray. You won't be disappointed. But don't bitch when Anchor Bay releases future editions. Me, while I'm glad to have it, I sometimes think that that old, first-generation DVD from Elite Entertainment that I bought way back in 1999 is still my favorite version of the movie, 16mm grain and full-frame transfer.

All that said - if you don't own a copy at all, and have a Blu-Ray player, picking up this disc is highly recommended.

BUY: The Evil Dead [Blu-ray]