Sam Raimi’s low budget horror debut The Evil Dead is getting re-released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK.
Shot on 16mm in the backwoods of Tennessee for just $350,000, it established the young director and led to a slew of imitators down the years (e.g Cabin Fever) which never matched the original’s energy and style.
The story involves five students on a break from college – Ash (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), and their classmates Scott (Hal Delrich), Shelly (Sarah York) and Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) – who spend the night at a remote mountain cabin.
After discovering a strange looking book and a reel-to-reel tape recorder, the group starts getting possessed by evil spirits, which leads to a frantic and blood-filled evening.
Despite the low budget production values, the energy and pace of the film are striking reminders of Raimi’s early talent as a director, with the wild camera work and clever sound design adding to the atmosphere.
The unsettling mix of genuine scares and black humour is also something many lesser horror directors have since failed to emulate.
After considerable word of mouth (and an endorsement from horror author Stephen King), the film became a major cult hit on home video, especially after it was banned in Britain during the hysteria of the “Video Nasties” campaign.
Compared to the jokier sequels, it remains one for the genuine horror purist, and apart from one notorious scene involving trees, is relatively restrained by today’s standards.
If you are already a fan, you will be wondering if it is worth the upgrade to Blu-ray from DVD.
The answer to that is yes, mainly because of the improved picture and sound, along with some new extras (alongside several others included on previous DVD releases of the film).
The additional features break down like this:
- 1080P 1.85:1 Widescreen: The original film was shot on 16mm, which means that the picture quality has some limitations despite being remastered for Blu-ray. Despite that the image still holds pretty well throughout.
- All New Commentary with Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell: This commentary was recorded in 2009 and is a highly imformative discussion of the production as they discuss a wide range of things from casting, make-up, effects and how the film was distributed. It is one of those commentaries that tends not to directly discuss what we are seeing on screen, but for anyone new to the film, it is a great introduction.
- Picture-in-Picture: Join us! The Undying Legacy of The Evil Dead: This is the visual equivalent of an audio commentary and allows you to watch the film as different directors (including David Slade, Alexandre Aja and Brian Yuzna) comment on the film and specific scenes.
- One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of the Evil Dead (54 mins): An excellent making of documentary from the previous DVD version, featuring interviews with key cast and crew about how the film got made and its influence.
- Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor (59 mins): A lengthy deleted scenes reel that includes a lot of alternate takes and shots.
- At the Drive-In (12 mins): A Q & A featuring Tilly, Sandweiss, Baker, DeManincor, Campbell, Ted Raimi and Tom Sullivan from August 2005 at a drive-in presentation in Chicago.
- Discovering Evil Dead (13 mins): A short featurette which Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell talking about how they discovered The Evil Dead and were instrumental in distributing it in the UK, where they released it simultaneously in cinemas and on video. Bill Warren, author of The Evil Dead Companion, also talks about the background to the release.
- Make-Up Test (1 min): Short make up test featuring the fake blood and make up of a face melting.
The film still holds up well today and along with being a key horror of the 1980s, also ranks as one the most influential low-budget productions in the history of cinema.
The Evil Dead is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Monday 11th October