The film that introduced us to Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and a Cabin in the Woods
Note: All screenshots in this review are from the Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD. Included for illustrative purposes only.
Heading into the woods for a weekend of relaxation, a group of young friends makes a discovery. Their remote cabin is host to The Necronomicon — the book of the dead — and their presence unleashes a demon force that won’t allow them to survive the night.
The Evil Dead is well known and probably doesn’t need much introduction. We actually covered it just this week on our Two Cents film club, which unanimously hailed it as as a horror classic. Some great thoughts were shared and you can read it here:
One of the most brutal and influential horror films of all time, The Evil Dead spawned two sequels, a 2013 remake, and even a television series which just ended after a three season run. The film launched the careers of star Bruce Campbell and writer-director Sam Raimi (as well as his brother Ted as a stuntman), pioneered POV camera techniques and gruesome gore, and pretty much single-handedly launched the “cabin in the woods” sub-genre of horror. The sequels are loved for their slapstick and comedic elements, but the original film is a grueling feat of violence and nastiness that culminates in a fantastical sequence in which the Deadites — zombie-like, demon-infected ghouls — ultimately meet their fate.
In time for Halloween, The Evil Dead has been released on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Lionsgate. Typical of their releases, it’s a 2-disc combo pack which includes the 4K disc, standard Blu-ray, and a digital copy. The package features a black Blu-ray case and a glossy metallic slipcover with the original poster art. It’s a sharp looking package.
The good news is that Lionsgate is still moving strong on championing 4K, bringing their catalogue titles to the format and bolstering their library, giving beloved films what is usually their most beautiful looking and sounding home video representations. Despite its low-budget 16mm origins, The Evil Dead benefits from the 4K upgrade, looking better than ever. This is most notable in the creature makeup, bloody close-ups, and effects-filled finale, but the film — which is largely nocturnal and features many scenes of darkness — exhibits strong visuals throughout.
I’ve seen The Evil Dead many times, but this is the first time I’ve realized how important the sound design is. The film is packed full of nightmarish voices and noises, and even the camera movements are accompanied by disconcerting whooshing sounds that add to the sense of unease. While the new disc’s audio shouldn’t be credited with this revelation, it’s nonetheless worth noting how rich it sounds.
Unfortunately, Lionsgate’s push to bring titles to 4K also leads to rush jobs, which, great PQ and AQ aside, this release is — a disappointing, minimal effort release in many respects. This isn’t a surprise to fans of the series, which is notorious for its numerous home video iterations on every format in order to entice multiple re-purchases of each film, but it would’ve been nice for Lionsgate, who I’ve often praised for their dedication to putting special features on their 4K discs, to break the curse.
In this respect, The Evil Dead historically fares even worse than its two sequels, which have at least followed up their paltry Blu-ray debuts with feature-packed special editions. The Evil Dead has remained a lackluster affair on the format, save for an early Limited Edition which included bonus features — on a standard DVD.
And whereas the Blu-rays carried the film in dual aspect ratios (1.33 OAR, and a more cinematic 1.85), the new 4K disc includes only the 1.33 presentation. This is especially disappointing since the widescreen version, by virtue of being cropped to a wider image, stood to gain the most benefit from a 4K presentation. And while it’s not perhaps the purer version, it’s my preference for watching the movie casually.
Note: While it’s not on the 4K disc or in 4K resolution, the included Blu-ray disc does have the 1.85 view (in 1080p).
Special Features and Extras
with writer-director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell
Promotional Trailers (on Blu-ray disc)
Trailers for Pandorum (2:19), The Crazies (2:32), Frozen (1:51), and After.Life (2:01)
Like Halloween, the 4K version of The Evil Dead has some issues but sports a low MSRP that helped with its appeal. It’s great to have these films in 4K, and at relatively low prices, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see better versions surface at some point.
Get it at Amazon:
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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.