What better way to enjoy the wet creepy fall season than a trip to the scariest cabin in the woods? Sam Raimi's cult horror favorite The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn chainsaws their way back onto 4K UHD Blu-ray in a new two-film, four-disc set from Lionsgate in a slick new SteelBook package exclusive to Best Buy. Nothing new to this set, these are the same discs as before - this does not include the new audio mix and score for The Evil Dead: Reimagined that has been touring around the country for a couple of years now. If you're a SteelBook collector or need to add these to your 4K collection, this is a hell of a deal, especially at this price point. Highly Recommended
NOTE: Similar to the situation with Best Buy's SteelBook of Halloween (1978) 4K UHD - this isn't listed on their website at the moment, but I found several copies at my local store hiding in the dedicated SteelBook section.
Read our original review for The Evil Dead 4K UHD Blu-ray
Read our original review for Evil Dead II Dead By Dawn 4K UHD Blu-ray
"The best way to describe The Evil Dead and the entire series which followed (The Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness) is as a hysterical and ferocious funhouse of the macabre and the gorily grotesque. Equal parts slapstick comedy with genuinely scary moments, Sam Raimi's directorial debut is a testimony to what can be accomplished with a limited budget, a great deal of imagination, and an intense passion for making movies. It serves as proof that atmosphere and mood can yield a truly fun and frightening experience, not just blood and guts alone. Granted, the film obviously doesn't shy away from the gore and graphic violence. But with ambiance and tone established early on, The Evil Dead makes for a great and exciting horror feature.
With less money than it would cost to draw robot scrotums for Michael Bay's next blockbuster, Raimi gathered a group of friends and acquaintances to the backwoods of Tennessee and made movie history. At least, it's history to genre fans. In many respects, the film is an experimentation on unbridled style and technique, full of fanatical, manic camera movements and extreme angles that work on disorienting and terrifying audiences. This is made more surprising by the fact that the director was only 21-years-old at the time of filming. Whatever amateur mistake or approach can be pointed out in the movie — of which there are plenty — is easily overlooked for the sheer enthusiasm and exuberance on display. The filmmakers clearly love what they are doing, and they're sharing this zeal and mania with their audience."
"Essentially, the first few minutes of exposition are simply a slightly different take on part one and provides the basic groundwork from which the sequel logically works. Evil Dead II actually picks up moments after Linda is buried and Ash is violently hurled through the air by the evil force, crashing into a tree and being momentarily possessed. The next day sees him trying to survive a second night at the cabin, all the while introducing audiences to a new cast of characters caught in this alternate storyline.
This time, the Book of the Dead was discovered by an archeology professor, who recites passages from it onto a large tape recorder. When Ash listens to the incantation, he unwittingly unleashes a horde of malevolent spirits. Annie (Sarah Berry), the professor's daughter, and her boyfriend (Richard Domeier) show up with a hillbilly couple (Kassie Wesley and Danny Hicks) serving as another element of comic relief. In fact, changing the storyline's continuity also provides Raimi the freedom to really play up the slapstick aspect of his madcap creation, transforming the series into more of a comedy horror."
Growing up in the era I did I was hip-deep in slasher horror; Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St. and the parade of imitators that they inspired were my bread and butter. While I came to find it in my early teens after years of searching all local rental shops, I do feel like I missed out on fully appreciating The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II. By the time I found them, Army of Darkness and Darkman were better known to me. I loved Army of Darkness as a kid even though I had no idea the original two films existed or the events of Ash's early years. I was eventually told by those in the know that the first two were great but they were impossible to find in my hometown. None of the major rental shops had it, and the one mom and pop shop that did have it refused to rent it to me - even though I regularly rented all sorts of terrible amazing gore-fueled flicks. It wasn't until I was about 13 or 14 years old that I was lucky enough to locate bootlegs of Sam Raimi's original films at a comic convention.
Ever since sliding that bootleg tape into the VHS in our basement, I've been an Evil Dead fan devouring the films over and over again. When the films finally resurfaced back on home video I quickly snapped up the Anchor Bay clamshell VHS tapes, the first DVDs - that massive limited-edition collector's tin set for Evil Dead II - the gnarly Book of the Dead editions, and then finally Blu-ray and now 4K. Now with word that Scream Factory will be bringing Army of Darkness to 4K in 2021, I'll replace that set as well. These films are like Jaws where I feel obligated to upgrade with every new format and then multiple times at that. These first two films are perfect horror/comedies. The Evil Dead may have been played more to straight horror than its sequel/remake, but it is darkly hilarious in its own ways. Even with a more comedic bent, Evil Dead II still holds some terrific horror moments offering plenty of jumps and frights along its journey through the Necronomicon's pages - the hag Henrietta creature is still a highlight!
Like so many fans, The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II are two films I will keep coming back to again and again. Even if I already own great copies, if there's newer or better artwork available - it's time for a trade-in. Now that Ash vs Evil Dead has run its course, there's talk of a new Raimi produced Evil Dead film with a whole new cast - and no connection to the 2013 film. The continuity of this series hasn't exactly been very linear so another Bruce-free adventure without connection to previous outings is to be expected. But then hey - if Harrison Ford can bring back Indiana Jones in his 70s, I'll risk braving the apocalypse and hit the theater to see Bruce pull out the chainsaw and boomstick in his 80s.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UHD Blu-ray SteelBook
Lionsgate with some help from Best Buy has unleashed a 4-disc 4K UHD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital SteelBook release of The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II. Similar to some of their other recent releases, this SteelBook has a plastic slipcover with the title and disc specs on the back so no need to keep track of a flimsy slip of paper pasted to your SteelBook. A welcome sight for this set, the discs each get their own tray without being stacked one on top of the other or use those offset bays where you have to take one disc out to get to the bonus features. All of the discs included in this set are exactly the same as the ones previously released for The Evil Dead. There are no differences here. Hopefully, someday we can get The Evil Dead: Reimagined on disc, but for now the release as it has existed is what we get to play with.
"The biggest and arguably most marked improvement are the brightness levels, which were already terrific on the Blu-ray but somehow look more polished and luxurious here. The 1.33:1 image is bathed in deep rich blacks and stygian midnight shadows that provide this cult horror classic with a gorgeous cinematic appeal. Best of all, visibility within the darkest, murkiest corner remains excellent for a low-budget production of this caliber. On top of that, the 4K video also enjoys better contrast, giving the gory scares a welcomed pop while whites look crisper and more radiant without blooming. Sadly, specular highlights don't receive much of a boost, which honestly is not surprising, but metallic surfaces do come with a brighter, more realistic shine, such as the blade of the Kandarian Dagger.
And better still, the Dolby Vision HDR presentation allows for the macabre, funhouse theatrics to gush a heaping display of richly-saturated primaries. While blues and greens are noticeably striking and livelier than its HD SDR counterpart, a variety of reds are ultimately the real winners, lavishing the most gruesome scenes with deep crimson bloods, splattering Bruce Campbell's face with thick lipstick cherry goo or making the deadite makeup seem more clownish with a mix of scarlet ruby and odd blushing pinks. Secondary hues also show a bit more variation, particularly in the yellow leaves of trees and the fiery orange flames of the fireplace. A genuine highlight is towards the end when the corpses melt, and in the stop-motion animation, we see a spectacle of colors mixing and blending into one another while facial complexions appear healthier with a welcomed rosiness in the entire cast."
"Presumably coming from the same 4K remaster done by StudioCanal earlier this year for their European release, the 2160p transfer is remarkably sharper with far better detailing in the clothing, the surrounding foliage and throughout the cabin. In fact, viewers can now better make out minor scratches, defects and small imperfections in the aged wooden floors, the battered walls, the furniture and the random objects decorating the background. Lifelike facial complexions are highly-revealing and individual hairs are distinct, but best of all is seeing that the makeup and special effects have held up extraordinarily well. On the other hand, the movie comes with a fair amount of blurry, soft segments, which are related to the condition of the source and the original photography. There are also minor instances of negligible aliasing along the sharpest edges and very mild moiré patterns. Nevertheless, the picture quality is stunning and highly-detailed for a majority of the runtime.
The 4K video also brings the laughs and gores with notably improved contrast and brightness, making the silly, blood-soaked revelry really pop and feel as though watching it for the first time on the big screen. The ridiculously goofy carnage displays intensely brilliant whites, giving light fixtures a splendid but tight glow while the climactic finish flashes with enthusiastically bright bursts that'll have some squinting at the screen. Specular highlights may not be as drastic or striking, but nevertheless, metallic objects come with a realistic shine and glimmer. Also, there is better visible detailing within the hottest spots while wet, blood-stained surfaces, such as the various weapons used, and the makeup come with a dazzling twinkle. Black levels are significantly richer with a silkier inkiness in various articles of clothing and hair. Since most of the movie takes place at night, the 1.85:1 image is continuously showered in velvety, raven shadows, providing a lovely, three-dimensional cinematic quality during some of the presentation's best moments."
"The deadites ruin a perfectly good time with the same 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack enjoyed on the previous Blu-ray release, which is not a bad thing because the spooks and scares are in full blast on this lossless mix. Imaging is marvelously wide and immersive, showing terrific fidelity and resounding separation in the many off-screen atmospherics. The low-end and rear activity are fairly limited, which is understandable given the source material and budget production, but the front soundstage is highly engaging with an endless array of ambient effects filling the screen and delivering precise, crystal-clear dialogue. Surprisingly, the design lends itself rather nicely to the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, effortlessly spreading a few of those atmospherics into the front heights."
"Ash fights the deadites packing the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack enjoyed on the Blu-ray, which is a good thing even though a new object-based track might have been interesting. In either case, this lossless mix remains a strong audio presentation with a sharp and expansive mid-range, delivering excellent clarity in the upper frequencies and during the loudest segments. This produces an awesomely broad and highly-engaging soundstage with distinct, well-prioritized dialogue reproduction and a potent, terrifically responsive low-end. When applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, the rears are employed to brilliant effectiveness, not so much in that atmospherics travel to the overheads because they really don't. Instead, the mix enjoys better, impressive directionality, as effects fluidly pan throughout the room to create a more satisfying, enveloping soundfield. The best moment demonstrating this starts at around the 47-minute mark when random noises bounce all around the cabin."
Audio Commentary featuring Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert
Audio Commentary featuring Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Greg Nicotero, Scott Spiegel
Bloody and Groovy, Baby! (HD, 53 min)
Swallowed Souls (HD, 98 min)
Cabin Fever (SD, 30 min)
Road to Wadesboro (HD, 8 min)
Behind the Screams (SD, 17 min)
The Gore, the Merrier (SD, 32 min)
Did the world need another release of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II on 4K - especially one that only offers the same exact discs simply repackaged? No - probably not, but this SteelBook is 100% worth it, 110% if you didn't already have these movies in your 4K collection. While it's highly unlikely this will be the last release of these movies on this format and in this style of packaging, while it's available it's worth getting! It's a slick-looking set that has both the Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray discs for both films with the same A/V presentations and bonus features. The included Digital slip redeems both films in 4K on VUDU Best Buy's website is saying this set is no longer available, when I picked this up with Halloween (1978) SteelBook there were a few copies tucked into the dedicated SteelBook section so check there if you haven't already picked this set up.