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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead (1981)

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Released 17-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Booklet-The Evil Dead Journal
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Notes-About The Remix
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Discovering Evil Dead
Gallery-Posters & Stills
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Quotes & Trivia
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 81:50 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sam Raimi
Renaissance Pictures
Big Sky Video
Starring Bruce Campbell
Ellen Sandweiss
Betsy Baker
Sarah York
Hal Delrich
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Joseph Lo Duca

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Evil Dead is a remarkable film on more levels than one. For starters, it was the debut of director Sam (Spider Man) Raimi, star (and latter-day cult hero) Bruce Campbell, and Mr Lucy Lawless himself Robert Tapert. It was, and still is, one of the bloodiest films ever made, making the average Arnie movie look like a pleasant picnic. It has moments (those few that are not drowned in blood) that create a spine-tingling fear. All this, and it was made for virtually nothing (only Blair Witch beats The Evil Dead as a piece of guerrilla filmmaking, and the artistic merits of the former are doubtful).

    For those that have never encountered The Evil Dead, it is a movie that any horror fan owes it to themselves to check out. It is the story of a group of college students who go to an isolated cabin for a weekend away. They are Ash (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), and their friends Scott (Rich Demanicor, credited as Hal Delrich so as not to ruin his good name by appearing in such a bad movie) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly, as with Rich Demanicor worked under a pseudonym and is credited as Sarah York). In the cellar below the cabin they find an old tape recorder, a strange knife, and an even stranger book. After playing the beginning of the tape, it seems that the book is none other than the "Nantiran di Manto", a.k.a "The Book of the Dead" (the book only came to be known by its most famous title, the "Necronomicon ex Mortis" in the third Evil Dead film, Army of Darkness). The tape also tells the friends that reading the incantations from the book will bring the spirits of the dead to life. Following in the grand tradition of horror movie victims, the rest of the tape is played, and the necessary incantations are read to raise the spirits. One by one, Ash's friends are possessed, and it turns out that the only way to kill a victim of possession is through full bodily dismemberment!

    This is certainly not a film for the light-hearted or squeamish. There are many sequences that push close to the line of good taste, and some (such as the "forest rape") that even go over. Unlike most other schlock horror films however, it is because of this use of ultra violence and extreme gore, and not despite it, that The Evil Dead succeeds. The dark humour (Bruce Campbell's line, "We can't bury Shelly, she's a friend of ours!" is typical), astounding camera work, way over-the-top effects and gore, and the strange and eerie use of sound effects all combine to produce one of the most brutal yet original horror films ever made. Shots such as the "reverse sit-up" that loop over the top of Ash's head from the back to the front, and the push in at the 70 minute mark are some of the most lasting visual images of cinema ever created. The material that is presented here is so good that even the relatively bad acting can't let it down.

    It was this movie that launched the careers of three of the most popular cult-movie heroes of modern times, and went on to spawn a slapstick-horror sequel/remake, and a comedy-fantasy third instalment - to this day, debate still rages as to which film of the three was the true masterpiece. It is this movie, though, that is the true horror. The closing credit card calls it "the ultimate experience in gruelling terror" - well it may not inspire true terror, but it is certainly gruesome enough to be called gruelling.

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Transfer Quality


    It is very hard to judge a transfer like this one. On the one hand, it is not a particularly good transfer, but on the other it is almost breathtakingly good when the source material is taken into account. Filmed for next to nothing on 16mm film in rural conditions, the image quality is so much better than it may have been that it really begs the question as to why so many movies out there get poor transfers. In the end, the grainy and flecked nature The Evil Dead adds to the effect of the film - it just wouldn't seem right if it were pristine and clear.

    Presented at 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. Good thing, right? Well, maybe not. Ever since its release (excluding its limited theatrical run), The Evil Dead has only been available in a full frame version. The version was actually full frame, not pan and scan, as the movie was filmed at 1.37:1 (which makes for little difference to 1.33:1 and was used for video). Apparently Sam Raimi had intended to matte the film down to 1.85:1 for release, but it simply never got done to the prints. Simple then - this is the right version? Well, again, maybe not. People have become so used to seeing their favourite film at 1.37:1 that there are many who argue that the full frame version of the movie offers a better viewing experience. Certainly there are many scenes, such as when Scott reaches for the keys at 5:13, that the depth of field available to the full frame transfer makes for a far more impressive shot, and heads chopped off at the hair line are a not-infrequent occurrence. Overall, the effect of the movie is not changed by the 1.85:1 formatting, however any true fan of the film owes it to themselves to find and view both versions, so they can then make their minds up for themselves.

    Despite the fact that this transfer is fabulous given the source material and filming conditions, it is still far from a brilliant transfer. The transfer is not at all sharp, especially during the first few scenes in the car. There are occasions when the transfer clears up, such as for the signature shot of the movie at 70:15 as the camera sweeps in on Ash after he has slammed the door, but for the most part it is very soft. There is also an abundance of grain. There are virtually no shots that are grain free, and there are many, many shots that literally crawl with grain. This becomes especially pronounced as the sun sets, and hits extremes during the forest chase sequence at 25:35-36 and again at 25:43. All of this, however, can be attributed to the 16mm film stock used, and was certainly not helped by the extremely low budget, so it can be said that the problems were generally not compounded by the transfer to DVD. Shadow detail is one area of the transfer that is surprisingly good. While it is not spectacular, it is still very good, as most dark areas still contain enough information to make out subtle detail and are not swallowed by murk. This is obviously very important for a movie such as The Evil Dead which takes place mostly at night. There was no detectable low level noise, but the high levels of grain may well have been hiding some - it is impossible to say.

    Colours are somewhat washed out, although darker colours are less affected than light. The result of this is that daytime scenes at the start of the movie look somewhat bland. On the upside, once the blood starts to flow, it comes up nicely and still gives the proper experience.

    There are only a very few instances of pixelization in this transfer, and all are related to times when the grain level climbs off the scale. There are no other compression artefacts - this may have something to do with an 81 minute film being split across two layers. The only film to video artefacts detected were a few instances of telecine wobble visible when credit cards were present, although the extreme softness of the image is the most likely reason for the complete lack of aliasing. While the transfer is covered from start to finish in film artefacts, none are really distracting, especially as their frequency causes them to become less noticeable.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 67:16 during Chapter 13. It is placed quite poorly as it occurs just after the start of a scene - not before - and there are many better places to hide the change during the film. It is, however, a small price to pay for finally having The Evil Dead in a format that can be played many times a year and not degrade in quality.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer presented for The Evil Dead is quite remarkable. While it is nothing that will compete with a big budget movie from the last few years, it is extremely good, and presents the movie like it has never been heard before.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, and in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 224 Kbps.

    Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although there are a few occasions when the processing put on the demon voices makes the words somewhat hard to distinguish - however, this is how it is meant to be. The mixing of effects and music with the dialogue is also far from perfect, as the effects often overwhelm the music, but again this is mostly attributable to the extreme low budget of the movie. Audio sync is generally very good, although the post processing on the demon voices often causes the sync to slip out.

    The music is provided by long-time Sam Raimi collaborator Joseph LoDuca (credited here as Joe LoDuca), and is quite a good horror score. It certainly is not the best aspect of the film, nor LoDuca's best work (much of that coming on the TV series Hercules and Xena), but it gets its job done, and does help to build the tension where necessary.

    The surround channels are quite aggressively used to carry the score and for ambient noise. There are very few directional sound effects, but the expansiveness of the surround channels is an amazing difference even to the stereo track, let alone the mono audio that has sufficed on this movie for years. The wind now blows from behind, the forest truly surrounds you, and The Evil Dead truly come to life.

    The subwoofer is used to good effect to back up the creeping evil noises, and some of the other effects noises in the film. It will not do any damage to the foundations of your house, but it still gives a good rumble.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a good selection of extras present on this disc, and they are good quality extras to boot. Unfortunately, however, some of the extras available on the Region 1 versions of this movie are so good that their lack is a severe disappointment, but more on that in the comparison below.


    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio accompaniment.

Theatrical Trailer (1:46)

    Presented at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer is in rather bad shape, and gives away entirely too much of the movie.

Discovering Evil Dead (13:04)

    Presented at 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is the story of how The Evil Dead first gained attention in Europe. It features interviews with the English distributors of the film, and is of very high quality. The information it presents is fascinating, although its very narrow focus on the English market is a little disappointing - it would have been nice to hear how it came to notoriety elsewhere as well.

Scene Outtakes (18:08)

    Presented in 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this is simply a collection of alternate takes and deleted scenes run back-to-back. The presentation is very rough, but that this material survived at all is a wonder. It is quite interesting to watch, especially as it gives an insight into the conditions under which The Evil Dead was filmed.

Posters and Still Galleries (44)

    Pretty much as the title says, this presents 44 images, being movie posters of the Evil Dead trilogy from around the world, and behind-the-scenes stills from The Evil Dead itself. Altogether only of vague interest.


    This presents very extensive filmographies for the three main men; Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert, and Sam Raimi - as well as Evil Dead Journal (see below) author Josh Becker.

Evil Dead Quotes and Triva

    Six pages of, well, quotes and trivia about The Evil Dead.

Evil Dead Credits

    The credits for The Evil Dead presented over three static pages of text. This would have to rank as one of the most pointless extras to be included on a DVD.

Booklet - The Evil Dead Journal

    This is 31 pages of diary entries compiled by Josh Becker, the "second unit" sound and lighting man. While they are certainly an interesting read, their value is undermined somewhat by the fact that the entire journal is available online from fan sites such as

Insert and Liner Notes

    Taken directly from the Region 1 Elite special edition, these liner notes are in the typical Bruce Campbell style, and are worth the read (all four paragraphs of them).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is where it becomes very interesting. I'm not entirely sure, but The Evil Dead would have to be a very good contender for the movie with the most number of releases (and re-releases) in Region 1. There are four (!) different versions of this film available in R1 (not to mention two in the UK). One was an early Anchor Bay bare-bones release and is now out of print. There are, however, three different versions still available. The following comparison includes all three, plus the new Region 4 version.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 Anchor Bay "Book of the Dead" limited edition version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 Anchor Bay Special Edition version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 Elite Special Edition version of this disc misses out on;     The biggest loss here is that the R4 misses out on the brilliant commentary tracks (two of the best commentary tracks ever recorded - especially Bruce Campbell's effort) present on all three R1 versions. On their own, those are enough to give the result to R1 (pick any).

    In the near future, matters will become considerably less complex, as both the Elite Special Edition and the Anchor Bay "Book of the Dead" are already or will go out of print in the coming months, so in a few years time the only version available internationally will be the Anchor Bay Special Edition. Until then, any real fan owes it to themselves to get the "Book Of The Dead" edition. This contains the commentary tracks and Bruce Campbell's Fanalysis documentary, which is a fascinating look into the world of a real life cult hero. Also, true fans of the film may want to grab Elite's special edition while it is still available, as it is the only way to still get the original full frame version of the film.


    The Evil Dead is a classic film in every sense of the word. It is a brilliant horror film, and a film of which the makers are still immensely proud, even twenty-plus years later. If you are a fan of horror, then you owe it to yourself to at least see The Evil Dead. Just be warned - it has an R rating for a reason - this is not a pleasant film.

    The video quality, in strict terms, is quite bad. Given the conditions in which the film was made, however, it is beautiful.

    For a film of the age and origins of The Evil Dead, the audio transfer is astounding.

    The extras are very good and very interesting. For those that are not interested in audio commentaries, then this disc will satisfy all their desires. Unfortunately, anyone who ever listens to audio commentaries owes it to themselves to get (any) one of the R1 versions of this film and experience two of the best commentaries ever recorded.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Friday, June 21, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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