Evil Dead 2: The Book Of The Dead 2

Evil Dead 2: The Book Of The Dead 2 (1987)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Denise Bixler
Extras: Audio Commentary, Behind-the Scenes Documentary, Featurette, Trailers, Talent Bios, Poster and Still Gallery

For nostalgic horror fans, the second installment to Sam Raimi's enormously popular cult classic "The Evil Dead" plays out more like a bigger budgeted re-telling of its predecessor, rather than a new chapter in this horror saga. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that a filmmaker will attempt this sequel/remake scenario (El Mariachi/Desperado anyone?). The usual influx of cash to produce a slicker incarnation of a film is sometimes met with disappointment, but for the most part, I think that "Evil Dead 2" easily stands on its own as a film and as a sequel.

True there are similarities between the two, like the sequel taking place in the painstakingly re-created cabin from the first film, surrounded by mysterious woods, complete with creepy trees and vines that come to life and stalk their prey!

Returning to the desolate location to once again battle the evil force that occupies the area, is none other than the infamous chainsaw fitted, zombie-slaying Ash (Bruce Campbell), who once again has his work cut out for him, no pun intended. This time director Sam Raimi decided to shake up the traditional feel of the average horror theme, by adding some unconventional comedic elements ala slap-stick humor, which actually worked to put a new spin on this demonic tale.

With a budget of $3 million dollars at his disposal, Raimi had a little more freedom to spice up the special effects, which managed to improve upon the gruesome visuals of the original "Evil Dead". Utilizing old-school effects from the era including; stop motion animation, puppets and matte paintings, "Evil Dead 2" can't compete with most of today's CGI driven horror fests, yet for the most part, still manages to stand the test of time, given its B-grade horror feel.

Anchor Bay Entertainment offers up an impressive edition of the "Divimax" branded "Evil Dead 2: The Book of the Dead 2". Sure this franchise has seen its share of the tried and true "double-dip" phenomena on DVD, but this latest release delivers one of the best home video presentations of this film to date. Solid blacks were nicely reproduced to display every ghoulish detail of the transfer, leaning slightly toward the dark gray end of the spectrum during some night scenes. Saturation of color was good, only rising to the occasion during the rather excessive blood-splatter sequences, as this film displays a mostly muted color pallet, while still maintaining naturally appearing flesh tones throughout. There were very few dust particles visible on the source print and only minor grain was evident, which is a possible characteristic of the type of film stock used for the production.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, remixed from the films original mono elements, provided a decent balance throughout. Voices are accurately reproduced to deliver naturally appearing dialogue, with the soundtrack utilizing all available channels, including a surprising amount deep bass that gave the lower frequency channel a good sonic workout. Very few of the special effects appeared dated, like the sometimes tinny sound of smashing glass, but overall I found the soundtrack to be well executed.

A good amount of value added material compliments this DVD, including a full-length audio commentary featuring; writer-director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero. "Evil Dead 2: Behind-the-Screams" is a neat slide-show featurette displaying an extensive amount of still production photos, taken by one of the film's animators, Tom Sullivan, who also serves as narrator. During the 17-minute running time, Tom talks about the tremendous amount of fun that was had by all those involved in making "Evil Dead 2" and how Sam Raimi was insistent upon placing most of the crew in various cameos throughout the film, including Theodore Raimi as the possessed Henrietta.

A behind-the-scenes documentary called "The Gore the Merrier" delves into production details with participation from Sam Raimi and the cast, also including input from the special effects crew, where they discuss the various techniques used to bring the walking skeletons to life. There is even a segment where the crew talks about Raimi's love for slap-stick, especially the Three Stooges, which provided the inspiration for the "flying-eyeball" scene, included in the film. Completing the extra features section is a poster and still gallery, talent biographies, the original theatrical trailer for "Evil Dead 2" as well as an assortment of DVD previews including a trailer for the original "The Evil Dead".

Anchor Bay Entertainment has spared no expense in packaging this definitive edition of "Evil Dead 2: The Book of the Dead 2" by presenting the DVD in a recreated "Book of the Dead" complete with a rubber 3-D feel, book-type binding that includes a creepy face on the front, much like the "Book of the Dead" release for the first "Evil Dead" DVD. This edition contains a slightly bulging eye on the cover that, when pressed, utilizes a sound chip to provide you with a short shrieking scream! Pretty cool stuff!

If I had to complain about something with this release, it would have to be the decision to place the actual DVD disc in a thin plastic slip case at the back of the book that might, through repeated use, cause minor scratches on the disc. In my opinion, a digi-pack-style tray would have been a better solution, but this is a minor gripe at best as "Evil Dead 2: The Book of the Dead 2" is unquestionably one of the coolest packages around.