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The Evil Dead (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Thirty seven years ago, one of the most nitty gritty, down home and independently independent films of all time came and scared the hell out of audiences. It introduced us to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, both of whom would carve out some terrific legacies in mainstream and geek filmdom. The film itself has paved the way for home video infamy as well. Like the Halloween franchise, which I laid out the epic history of last month, all three Evil Dead films have had an ungodly amount of home video releases. Now, the first film (And in December, the sequel) has made its way to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Its release gives hope that more classic horror titles will be coming (And hopefully soon). The Evil Dead actually comes with a really friendly price tag so order yourself a copy from the link below. 

Film 

Originally posted on Mendelson’s Memos in 2013

Ashley “Ash” Williams, his girlfriend and three pals hike into the woods to a cabin for a fun night away. There they find an old book, the Necronomicon, whose text reawakens the dead when it’s read aloud. The friends inadvertently release a flood of evil and must fight for their lives or become one of the evil dead. Ash watches his friends become possessed, and must make a difficult decision before daybreak to save his own life

Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is one of the kings of cult classics and one of the best horror films to grace the screen.  A super low-budget feature with the drive and ambition of one many times its budget, The Evil Dead holds its own and is able to keep hold, not fall apart and stand the test of time.  The film flies by with genuine scares, gore effects and camera techniques truly feeling like a master learning his craft.

Sam Raimi was able to muster up $90,000 of his desired $150,000.  A native of Michigan, Raimi and crew headed south to Tennessee to shoot the film.  It was a grudging and sometimes brutal shoot for the cast and crew being out in the middle of nowhere.  Injuries went untreated, people crammed up in rooms in the cabin you see in the film to sleep and actors has to stuff massive contacts into their eyes to get the demon eye effect to work right.  

Little did they know, all their work would turn into a franchise that has spawned sequels, a remake, an INSANE amount of home video releases, multiple video games, figures and comic books.  I don’t think the film hit its massive following or big time cult popularity until the 90’s.  For some reason, it feels that as soon as the internet became more public, people started discovering that there were more people than just them that liked The Evil Dead.  Personally, I was the kid that was showing it to my classmates and such in school growing up, but only knew like 2 other people who’d heard of and liked it.  I just feel that with the internet came the mass influx of Evil Dead love and tie-ins.  Like it was a big shock that one was not alone in their love of this franchise.

While the film has its share of continuity errors (who doesn’t notice Hal Delrich’s haircut changing back and forth) and some blurred shots, there’s some really impressive and effective work being done that makes you not care at all about it.  The Evil Dead is one of those movies that make you yell ouch and feel pain that isn’t happening to you.  The scene in which Linda gets stabbed with a pencil STILL makes my ankle hurt to this day.  This movie is still pretty gory by today’s standards too.  There’s a LOT of blood in it. A lot of blood. But unlike some other gore-fests, it all works for laughs and terror.  It feels a part of the story at hand and not an exploitation (which I’m sure was the intent anyway).

Compared to the following to films of the series, Ash is a bit of a different character in the original.  He’s a complete ‘fraidy cat pacifist who is stunned by all the deadites and such.  He cowers at the thought of being heroic.  It isn’t until he’s pushed to the very limit and completely endangered that he steps up to the plate.  And even then he’s not the hard-assed B-movie hero we quote so often.  As a matter of fact, there’s nothing here to quote from him.  I still enjoy this Ash.  But it’s the following 2 films that give us the iconic Ash that graces t-shirts, video games and dialogue in our pop culture.

The females in this film get all the fun parts.  Well, I’m not sure if it was fun to go through them.  There was a rigorous and brutal makeup process involving massive contact lenses going into their eyes to give the effect.  They could only be worn for 10 minutes at a time and the eyes couldn’t breathe while they were in.  However, in the finished products, all of them get to shine and nasty demon baddies.  They’re all portraying evil insanity in many different was.  Each is a memorable deadite and brings the creeps, some dark humor/laughs and plenty of menace.  They are honestly more of a highlight than Ash is in the film.  They quite frankly steal the show.  While we root for Ash to survive the night, one can’t help but enjoy being terrorized by these demon women.

Of the films in the series, this is the only one truly dedicated to being a straight faced horror film.  This one truly holds a special place for me as it truly scared the bejesus out of me when I first saw this as a kid (and many viewings after).  I had to tape it off of late night television and I watched it on a weekend night, after my parents had gone to sleep, in a darkened living room sitting super close to the TV.  This movie terrified me.  It was dark, had great jumps, scary ass demons and had those sheer moments of insanity (that at a young age were scary, uncomfortable, unnerving and not enjoyable in a humors/devious sort of way that it is now).  Growing up in Indiana, maybe it was the fact that it genuinely looked Midwest, that I knew places nearby that looked and felt exactly like this setting added to its terror.  Also, the fact that the film ends with the evil announcing that its still ever present leaves you with that “oh shit, its still out there!” hook akin to a John Carpenter film.  My next thought would be, oh crap, now I have to travel across this dark room to turn the lights back on and then go to bed and sleep in the dark.  This is just the thrill I loved putting myself through, growing up a horror film junkie.  If the film did this to me, it was a success.  And The Evil Dead was a pretty big success at that.

I mentioned taping it off TV.  Aside from Army of Darkness, the first two films in this series were challenges to find growing up in the Midwest.  Video stores didn’t have them, Suncoast (where most of us movie collectors got our fix back in the 90’s) wouldn’t be able to order them because it was out of print, or the video rental store would charge you an astronomical price to order it.  There was no eBay or anything like it to find a used copy.  Because of that, I didn’t get to see the 2nd film until the Anchor Bay VHS release in 1998.  Now, I may have had the opportunity before that, but after exhaustive searches and letdowns, young Brandon may have given up.  Nowadays these films are EVERYWHERE and have a multitude of releases.  Feel grateful, young ones.

The Evil Dead is one of my favorite horror films and films in general of all time.  Watching it can always give me that nostalgic feeling of the film that terrified me many moons ago.  It’s still a very enjoyable, fun and scary watch today.  I can only hope that somewhere out there a young boy/girl up late at night is popping this in for the first time, unaware of what’s to come and has the same experience I did when I watched it for the first time.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Having been shot on 16mm film back in the late 70s/early 80s, many wonder how transferring The Evil Dead to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray would look. And the answer is terrific. While the previous Blu-ray looked great, they’ve actually incrementally improved it in noticeable ways, with details showing more information and the blacks and motion just getting that much better. I think it has a hair more noticeable jump than Halloween, but like that one this is a bit of a case of house maintenance probably to most, but to me it looked like a nice, worthy next step for the film on home video.

Depth:  Spacing has improved here and the characters move about much more freely and smoothly than before. The pushback on backdrops is better and camera movements just have more confidence than ever.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and just richly consuming by design. Its gorgeous how the shadows, darkness and rolling fog take over the frame in this  new transfer. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are natural and a tad dingy as they’ve always and intended to have been. The HDR usage on this is relegated to fires, lamps and lit windows that seem to glow a little when seen from outside in the darkness. Greens, reds (Especially blood) and blues stick out just a little more than others.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones take on just a slight redder tone than it was before, but its nothing bad nor distracting. It stays consistent from start to finish. Facial features and monster make-up look fantastic and are full of great detail in every frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The Evil Dead’s 4K debut features the same 5.1 mix present on the standard Blu-ray releases. Its a pretty damn good and fun mix. The film has no fear of reaching back and fully utilizing the room. The effects a crisp and well layered in their output. Also impressing is how gorgeous and loose the synth score can come across. Going Atmos could be seen as excessive, but this film honestly could’ve been neat with it. Aside from the poo-poo’ing, as a 5.1 track this one is terrific and SHOULD be judged on how it is for what it is and not what wasn’t included to begin with.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: I don’t know if its by design or not, but some thing could hit harder than you would be anticipating while other moments will nail down just right. it almost comes off as playful in the grand scheme of things, but some of it could be a little deeper.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are some good scatterings of sounds in the rear speakers and all five work really well to bring to life sound travel and motion. Its not slouch and things can creep up from behind, a car can drive at the screen and finish behind you and the left to right motion is on point.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Good attention to diction and other mouth sounds that are surprisingly present in this older mix.

Extras 

The Evil Dead 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard 1-disc Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Sam Raimi, Producer Robert Tapert and Actor Bruce Campbell

Summary 

The Evil Dead will always remain one of my all-time favorite horror films. To this day, I am still just damn impressed with what Raimi and company were able to pull off with virtually jack squat. Lionsgate has pulled of a really nice upgrade of the film in its first 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray presentation. The commentary track is phenomenal, BUT, could they please bring back the original bonus features someday? Those would be nice to have back and haven’t been seen since the limited Blu-ray almost 10 years ago. However, this carries a price tag that makes you buy it instantly, and its very worth it!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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