Evil Dead (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Want to talk about a Herculean task? Look no further than being the man selected to direct the remake of the 1981 classic The Evil Dead. Fede Alvarez is the dude tasked with that challenge, and to everyone's surprise he pulls off what many thought would be impossible with flying colors... and flying body parts and flying blood and flying bile...
The story is simple: Several young adults head into the woods, find a book, and really bad stuff happens. The twist in this retelling is that in the original our heroes headed out to the cabin for fun; in this version our soon-to-be-horrifically-tortured folks are there for their friend (and in one case sister) Mia (Levy), who is finally trying to kick one or more of her unhealthy habits. Of course this intervention ends in chaos as one of the group finds the infamous book of the dead and decides to read aloud from it. Much to our absolute delight.
Alvarez does a great job staying true to the franchise's many rules and rich history. Not only that, he also brings some new tricks and treats to the table. The cool thing about this movie is that it and the original films could very well have taken place in the same (or even a parallel) universe. Fede's Evil Dead really expands the mythos and continues it perfectly for a new generation and audience while pleasing long-time fans. This is no easy task, and Alvarez should be commended for putting together all of the various pieces to pull it off.
Another person worthy of mention is Jane Levy herself, who absolutely owns her role and makes the absence of Bruce Campbell's iconic character of Ash all the more bearable. Besides... he could still be out there somewhere, right? Levy is fearless and earns every bit of the cred she gets for her performance. For a more in-depth review of the film itself, check out Heather Wixson's Evil Dead review here as it pretty much nails it. We're here to talk about the Blu-ray, and from a technical standpoint it's quite an achievement.
For those of you out there who have invested a lot of time and money into your home video experience, think of this as a good reason why you have done so. A reward if you will. The 1080p AVC image is a sweet combination of fine razor-sharp resolution, soft focus, cinematic lighting, and an at times desaturated color palette that really breathes a tremendous amount of life into this truly unnerving, moody, and creepy experience. Black levels are solid throughout, and overall this is a textbook example of the difference and power of Blu-ray. The DVD looks good in its own right, but there's just no comparison here. The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack shines as well with deep bass, wonderfully separated channels of sound, and crystal clear dialogue. Really, I just cannot say enough good things about this flick's stunning presentation.
As for the special features, well... they're not so special.
The main thing everyone, including yours truly, was worried about upon the announcement of the film was that there was no way that the MPAA would let Evil Dead be an Evil Dead movie. They were gonna cut, neuter, and flay the flick for sure. Surprisingly enough, they really didn't do much damage. Evil Dead is a balls-to-the-wall bloodbath, the likes of which is rarely seen theatrically nowadays. Believe me when I say there's enough bloody mayhem and gore in this movie for several other films. This is a righteously violent good time. The general consensus amongst the fan base was that the flick delivered, and if this was the R-rated version, then we simply could wait for the unrated Blu-ray and DVD.
Therein lies the problem.
Said unrated version is NOT present and accounted for, and even more frustrating it's referenced in the Blu-ray exclusive commentary with stars Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, director Fede Alvarez, and writer Rodo Sayagues several times. As a matter of fact, a longer version with different this and extended that is mentioned so many times you cannot help but get annoyed that there's an obvious double-dip purchase in our future. There aren't even deleted scenes included in this package. What we do get are five short and quite standard featurettes that mainly explain what it was like to work with the director, glimpses of the table read, and several interviews with the actors. We do get to hear from Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert in the Blu-ray exclusive featurette Evil Dead the Reboot, which is nice, and all in all there are quite a few on-set stories shared, but you cannot help but feel as if the really good stuff is being held back for a later release. The only really compelling feature presented here is Jane Levy's video diary, entitled "Being Mia," which finally gives us a good behind-the-scenes look at some of the make-up effects work and alternate takes. Even that, though, only lasts a few entirely too short minutes.
At the end of the day Sony has released the best possible looking and sounding theatrical version of Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead possible, but there's just not enough meat on this one's bones... especially considering that the longest bit of supplemental material available here clocks in at just under ten minutes. I can't help but feel that this is more of a placeholder than a complete package so it looks like we're gonna have to wait a bit longer for the whole enchilada. Probably just before the release of the inevitable sequel. Still... this movie deserves its place in your collection, and anything else that is released later will only serve to complement it. The ultimate experience of grueling horror is still out there. Come on, Sony... bring it home!
4 out of 5
3 out of 5