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Evil Dead: The Ultimate Edition, The (DVD)

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Evil Dead Ultimate Edition (click for larger image)Reviewed by Kryten Syxx

Starring Bruce Campbell, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Theresa Tilly, Richard DeManincor and Ted Raimi’s legs

Directed by Sam Raimi

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment


There’s no need for us to dive into what makes Evil Dead a fun and classic horror film. So many reviews have been written here and all around that have done the movie itself justice. Instead, our focus will be on what makes this latest DVD release of Sam Raimi’s breakout feature worth the attention of our wallets.

Over the past few years there have been many editions of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness released on the DVD format. Some added features, others added different cases such as the Book of the Dead versions. After all that, what else can there be to warrant another release? Anchor Bay found something, and it isn’t cheap or gimmicky either. This time around we get a three-disc Ultimate Edition that really blows previous entries away due to the sheer number of special features.

Some may yell “Rehash!” but that really isn’t the case here. The commentaries with Bruce, Sam, and Robert are the same from years ago; but that is pretty much where the recycling ends. Can you blame anyone for that though? How many commentaries can you record saying the same old thing when the first one did the job right the first time? Moving on.

Evil Dead UE DVD (click for larger image)Instead of fancy cases or included items like key chains and such, we get 14 special features including the commentary tracks. The remaining 12 are mostly all video featurettes we haven’t seen before with the exception of one that looks to have had additional footage added to it. So let’s head on down the line and take a look at what each one is.

Disc One features the Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert commentary we’ve heard before and includes the widescreen version of The Evil Dead. Also nestled on this disc is the 54-minute featurette called One By One We Will Get You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead. This is the only feature I take issue with. Not because of its quality, but due to the reason I cannot make out if I’ve seen this before. Some of the interviews within appear older while ones with Eli Roth and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright and the women of the film have a crisper quality to the video. Either way, this isn’t a bad way to spend almost an hour. We get to look back on the hilarious and hellacious time the crew had making the film and the impact it had on those up and coming in the horror movie biz.

Sadly, that’s all for the first DVD, so on to Disc Two. Here we’ve got the full frame cut of the film with the familiar and funny comments made by star Bruce Campbell. Like before there’s only one other special feature, and that’s the 58-minute long reel of behind-the-scenes and blooper footage called The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor. While I don’t remember seeing this, that doesn’t mean it’s all new. Watching the cast fall over, get hurt and undertake the stress of shooting such a wild movie like The Evil Dead in such horrible conditions has a perversely fun effect. But … all of that really pales in comparison to what’s lurking on the final disc of this Ultimate Edition.

The final disc of this set is all special features. Instead of just jumbling all of them into a paragraph or two, we’ll hit most of them on a one-by-one basis so you can get a better idea as to what it’s all about.

Life After Dead: The Ladies of The Evil Dead

Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Theresa Tilly come together after 20+ years of shying away from the parts they played in The Evil Dead to wax about fans, the film’s effect on them and how all it took was a sense of humor to overcome being raped by a tree. Surprisingly, these ladies didn’t really know the film had such big following and had achieved cult status until recently. It was this revelation that got the trio to form the Ladies of The Evil Dead idea and tour conventions. They also helped in getting the cast reunion off the ground.

Evil Dead UE DVD (click for larger image)Footage in this featurette includes the ladies meeting fans, posing with Alice Cooper and reenacting the film at the Pickwick Theatre in Chicago in 2002. Bruce and Richard DeManincor were there, too! Not a bad way to kick off a disc full of features.

The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell

Betsy, Ellen and Theresa sit down with Bruce for a half hour to reminisce about their time together in the late Seventies filming Evil Dead. Much like the previous special feature, the cast sit and chat things up about how some had worked together on previous Raimi projects and the sheer horror involved in making Sam’s classic film. A few of these packets of production info were shown on Disc One’s featuerette, but here the cast isn’t getting cut off to make room for others to talk. Bruce, as you’d expect, is the scene stealer here. Even when telling the most basic story that shouldn’t draw laughs, he manages to somehow do it. The dude is golden.

Unconventional

Betsy, Ellen, Theresa, Bruce, Richard and Ted Raimi take time out during a convention to talk about what it is like making the rounds at the horror shows and have a laugh at the time they spent together back in 1979. The cast’s stories about fans and signing things are very entertaining. Ted and Bruce really sell this one. Don’t pass it up if you enjoy comedy.

At the Drive-In

The Evil Dead cast and crew, including Ted, make an appearance at the Chicago Land Drive-In Theatre to hand out DVDs of the movie. That’s really it. Honest. That is all they do. Kind of hard to comment on this one given the meat of it.

Evil Dead UE DVD (click for larger image)Reunion Panel

The ED crew team up at the Flashback Weekend horror convention (2005) in Chicago for a panel. Bruce is his usual self, making the audience laugh at the expense of the fans asking questions. There’s talk of thigh signing, insults and a little bit of an awkward feeling throughout the affair. It is entertaining, no doubt, but much of the questions asked were answered on all the other special features in this collection.

Discovering The Evil Dead

Make-up tests, TV spots, trailers and image galleries are all well and good, but odds are you’ve seen this stuff before.

What really bites here is that the original film used to raise money for Evil Dead’s production, Within the Woods, is still not included in this set. On top of that Sam Raimi is almost nowhere to be seen aside from behind-the-scenes video. You’d think that he would take some time out of Spider-Man to appear with the people who helped further his career.

Those tiny gripes aside, this is an incredible release that packs in as much as possible. Sure there’s stuff we’ve seen before, but for those that held off for just the right time — this is it. Join us!

Special Features

  • Commentary with director Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert
  • Commentary with Bruce Campbell
  • One By One We Will Get You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead featurette
  • The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor featurette
  • Life After Dead: The Ladies of The Evil Dead featurette
  • The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell featurette
  • Unconventional featurette
  • At the Drive-In featurette
  • Reunion Panel featurette
  • Discovering The Evil Dead featurette
  • Make-up tests
  • TV spots
  • Trailers
  • Poster, memorabilia and stills galleries

    MOVIE

    5 out of 5

    EXTRAS

    5 out of 5

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    THE STRANGERS Blu-ray Review – Let This Stellar Release From Scream Factory Sneak Into Your Home

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    Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Man in the Mask, Dollface, Pin-up

    Directed by Bryan Bertino

    Distributed by Scream Factory


    It’s a bit odd – though somewhat fitting, given the number of waited-too-long sequels being produced these days – The Strangers (2008) finally got a follow-up after a lengthy ten-year gap. The original is a fine example of a home invasion picture done right, or at least well enough, but, as anyone who has seen the film knows, the leads probably won’t be returning and the killers have the personalities of dime store Halloween masks. The Strangers is a disturbing film in the sense the events seem like they “could happen to you” – it is, after all, “based on a true story” (not really). Plus, the situations our leads find themselves in are exactly the sort people still freak themselves out, like whenever someone enters a room with large windows at night – let’s all be honest here. The only thing scarier than things that go bump in the night is the thought those things are just out of eyesight, waiting to scare you. With the exception of a few “wait, why are you doing that?” moments The Strangers manages to activate certain primal responses to being stalked and frightened. It’s creepy.

    Not-newly-engaged couple James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) have returned to James’ childhood summer home after a day spent at a wedding, where James’ proposal to Kristen was sadly declined. They go through some awkward motions back at home, trying to figure out where their relationship stands, when there’s a sudden KNOCK at the door. James answers and finds a young girl asking for a person who has never lived there. She leaves, cryptically mumbling she’ll “see them later”. She does, along with two other “friends” – the Man in the Mask and another girl in a pin-up mask – who proceed to stalk, taunt, tease, and terrorize both Kristen and James until the morning light breaks.

    There aren’t many huge surprises in this film but the less you know about how the night plays out, the better. This isn’t to suggest the main characters make smart decisions viewers aren’t expecting, though. James is initially dismissive of a series of terrorizing occurrences Kirsten experiences when he goes out to get her a pack of smokes, brushing all of it off like she has an overactive imagination; this after the weird situation with the girl moments before. And expectedly, once James is finally on board with believing something sinister is afoot it’s already too late to do much about it. Past that point he and Kristen do act like rational people (mostly) and their plight gains a little more sympathy because of their noble efforts.

    I hate the scene where James’ friend, Mike (Glenn Howerton), shows up, though. Spoiler alert: any viewer can see his accidental death coming from a mile away. Since it’s established early on James has called Mike to pick him up, what would have worked better would be if all the footage of Mike’s arrival and inspection of the house was cut. That way, his reveal at James and Kristen’s makeshift stronghold in the back bedroom would have been a major surprise. Instead, it plays out so obviously the intended impact is completely muted.

    While the film falters in a few areas, it manages to make up for those gaffes by stepping outside the norm. One thing is does incredibly right is refusing to give the trio of terrorizers any personality or backstory or motivation. Viewers are left just as cold once the credits roll as they were upon being introduced to these faceless miscreants. This feels especially refreshing when watching the movie today because lately it seems so many horror films have been yanking the mystique out of things; between prequels and reboots and lengthy exposition it’s rare when a film chooses to eschew all of that. The film is also dire and dour, leaving little room for hope aside from a tiny tidbit that occurs at the very end. There are no white knights; the cavalry isn’t coming – and when you are staying at a house with weak security, near the woods, with no neighbors close by, don’t expect a deus ex machina to save the day.

    Universal previously issued The Strangers on Blu-ray, though it featured both cuts on a single BD-25 and used an outdated codec. This new release from Scream Factory spreads the goods out onto two discs, giving each cut a full BD-50 to maximize bit rate. As a result, the 2.35:1 1080p image looks much more refined, smoothing out past compression issues and tightening up both contrast and definition. The lion’s share of this film was shot at night and black levels maintain a rich consistency throughout, while still allowing for details to remain apparent. Nothing is lost to the shadows, which frequently bathe the actors and environments. Scream Factory touts a new 2K scan of the intermediate and the results are nearly flawless.

    As viewers might expect, sound design plays a crucial role in this film and the audio options ensure they’ll be immersed in subtle and not-so-subtle sounds from every direction. Both cuts feature an English DTS-HD Master Audio track in both 2.0 and 5.1 options. As expected, the multi-channel track offers a more discreet experience, spreading out the spooky sound design to fully envelope listeners. Thuds, knocks, voices, and footsteps creep from unexpected corners of the room, placing viewers right in the action and heightening the tension. The soundtrack goes a bit overboard on the jump scares stingers but since the whole point of this film is a couple being jolt scared over and over they seem fitting. Subtitles are included in English SDH.

    Just as buyers should rightfully expect, Scream Factory has included all of the previous extra features found on Universal’s release and then some.

    DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

    “The Element of Terror” – This is a routine EPK, filled with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast & crew.

    “Strangers at the Door” – This piece covers the film’s initial concept and shows off some of the cast & crew working on set, with a few being interviewed, too.

    A reel of deleted scenes, three TV spots, and a theatrical trailer, which is quite effective, can also be found on this disc.

    DISC TWO: Unrated Cut

    “Defining Moments – Interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino” – This is a newly recorded chat with the director, who discusses not only the making of the film but its legacy now that so much time has passed since release.

    “All the Right Movies – Interview with actor Kip Weeks (Man in the Mask) – Here, the actor discusses how he got the role and what kind of direction was given to him for the character.

    “Brains and Brawn – Interview with actress Laura Margolis (Pin-up Girl) – Just as with Kip Weeks, Margolis talks about playing such a quiet character as well as discussing some changes to the trio that were made during production.

    “Deep Cuts – Interview with editor Kevin Greutert” – Learn about how the film took shape, the reasoning behind cuts and sequencing, and what changes were made right up until the theatrical release date.

    A still gallery is also included.

    The cover art is reversible and there is a slipcover included on first pressings featuring newly commissioned artwork.

    Special Features:

    • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Theatrical Version of the film
    • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Unrated Version of the film
    • NEW Defining Moments – An Interview With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino
    • NEW All The Right Moves – An Interview With Actor Kip Weeks (Man In The Mask)
    • NEW Brains And Brawn – An Interview With Actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl)
    • NEW Deep Cuts – An Interview With Editor Kevin Greutert
    • The Element of Terror – Interviews With The Cast And Crew
    • Strangers At The Door – Interviews With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino And The Cast
    • Deleted Scenes
    • TV Spots
    • The Strangers
    • Special Features
    3.8

    Summary

    Still effective only with only a modicum of true stupidity, “The Strangers” might not be the classic it’s been called in more than a few recent retrospective pieces but it does occupy a cushy spot near the top of the contemporary home invasion film list. Scream Factory’s release offers up excellent A/V quality and all the bonus features anyone could want (barring an audio commentary).

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    7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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    Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

    Directed by Kimble Rendall


    If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

    Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

    We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

    All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

    • Film
    2.5

    Summary

    A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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    Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

    What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

    If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

    The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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