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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.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

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Released 3-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 81:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sam Raimi
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bruce Campbell
Sarah Berry
Dan Hicks
Kassie DePaiva
Ted Raimi
Denise Bixler
Richard Domeier
John Peaks
Lou Hancock
Snowy Winters
Sid Abrams
Josh Becker
Scott Spiegel
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Joseph LoDuca


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch 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 idea of a "cult film", or a film that has a "cult following", has been around since films progressed from mere technology demonstrations into works of art. The relevant definition of the word "cult" from Dictionary.com is: "An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest." That may be the official definition, but if ever there was a case of an example completely defining a word, it is to say that the Evil Dead series of films have a "cult following". While there are plenty of other film series that have far more outrageous supporters (Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings spring to mind, with people queuing for tickets for weeks, and regularly dressing up in their favourite characters costumes), none really match up to the devotion shown by many a horror geek the world over to Sam Raimi's horror-cum-comedy-cum-fantasy trilogy.

    Evil Dead II, available now for the first time in Australia on DVD, is probably the most popular choice for the best film in the series. Unlike the first film, which was relatively serious horror, or the third, Army Of Darkness (my personal favourite), which eschewed its horror heritage to be an out-and-out comedic fantasy piece, this second film has a large comedic element, while still retaining the horror base. The story is simple (almost to the point of transparency): a young man named Ash (Bruce Campbell) takes his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) to a cabin where he finds an ancient book and a tape recorder containing a translation of said book. When he plays the tape, an evil awakes in the forest, turns his girlfriend into a white-faced zombie, and puts Ash into a battle for his life.

    Those who know the series will know that this plot synopsis is pretty much identical to that of the first film. In fact, watching this for the second time without any prior knowledge would be downright confusing, as Ash heads off to the same cabin, with a new girlfriend of the same name, in the same car, plays the same tape (how downright stupid is he!) and fights the same Evil Dead. Of course, the reason for all this repetition is that Evil Dead II, rather than being a true sequel, is more a remake of the first film, just with a bigger budget. Director Sam Raimi decided to essentially make the same film again, but fixing everything he didn't like about the first excursion - and there are plenty of marked differences. For starters, the story is actually slightly different, as the opening ten minutes are really just a re-cap of the first film (which, obviously, explains the previously mentioned sameness), followed by "the next day". There is a different group of "other characters" (as opposed to our hero Ash) to gradually be consumed by the Evil Dead, and most obviously, there is a hefty chunk of humour running through the movie.

    The humour in this film is mostly of the physical nature, and while it starts slowly, by the time Ash is fighting with his own, evil-possessed hand, there can be no doubt that Raimi is going full-on for laughs rather than scares. The ultimate climax of the comedic comes where the entire living-room in the cabin is laughing along with Ash in an hysterically funny scene that is more Bugs Bunny than depraved horror. The second half of the film - from the point where the outsiders impose upon Ash's solo battle with the Evil Dead - tones the comedy down, and starts to ratchet up the horror, and this is what makes the film so good. Mere minutes after the audience is rolling on the floor with laughter, they are suddenly holding their collective breath for fear of Ash's life (and no - they don't really care about the "other characters"), and more importantly for fear that he may at last fall victim to The Evil Dead.

    A true horror classic, and a film respected by almost all who have seen it, Evil Dead II's appeal is still as strong today as it was on release back in 1987. The brilliant play of horror-on-comedy, combined with the incredible visual style of Sam Raimi, have served only to grow the film's following over the years, and the stature of Ash's alter-ego Bruce Campbell to stratospheric levels. The huge, and loyal, following these films have built up over the years is so impressive that film executives are actually seriously taking about introducing Ash into the world of Freddy and Jason, with Freddy vs Jason vs Ash already having been mooted as a possibility. Whether that happens, and if it does, whether it is any good is something only time will tell, but in the meantime, anyone serious about horror needs to have this film in their collection, as does anyone who considers themselves a film fan. They didn't give Sam Raimi the job of calling the shots on Spider-man and its myriad sequels for no reason - watch this film and find out why.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Within the constraints imposed by both the age, and the relatively low budget of this film, the transfer is extremely good, and is easily the best this film has ever looked.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is generally good, and the transfer shows a surprisingly large amount of fine detail. There is a relatively high level of background grain, but that is really to be expected given the source, and it is generally kept well under control. The exception to this rule however, is the final sequence of the movie from 76:08 to 77:58 which seems to be trying to crawl off the screen. There is also some heavy grain on shots of the sun from 7:52 until 8:19, but nothing approaching the level displayed in the final sequence. Despite the grain, the clarity of the image is extremely good. Shadow detail is sufficient, although certainly nothing spectacular, but enough detail shows through during the darker sequences (which, surprise surprise, make up the majority of the film) to give a clear representation of the actions being carried out. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are a little muted, but that is more the age of the film playing its part than any fault of this transfer. Aside from that, they are well represented, so fear not that the rivers of blood will flow with any lessened virility.

    Compression artefacts are limited to some pixelization during the sequences of very heavy grain, and given the level of some of that grain, this transfer has been handled extremely well indeed to avoid far worse. Film artefacts also mar the image on a relatively frequent basis, although far less frequently than might have been expected. There are only a very few occasions where they are heavy enough to become noticeable, such as on the "book of the dead" sequence from 1:05 to 1:23. On the upside, there is no aliasing present in the transfer.

    The only subtitles on this disc are in Dutch.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 56:38 between Chapters 15 and 16. It is not particularly well placed, and is somewhat noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As with the video, the audio transfer is excellent, taken within the context of the age and budget of the film. It may not be up to the same level as a soundtrack to a recent action blockbuster, but the remastered 5.1 soundtrack presented here is still very good.

    There is a single audio track present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at almost all times, with only one or two short sequences (such as around 54:03) suffering from muffled dialogue, or reduced fidelity. Another bonus is the audio sync, which is spot on throughout the transfer and never causes any issues.

    The score is the work of long-time Raimi collaborator Joseph Lo Duca, and it is well suited to the action. It does suffer from sounding a little too much like an 80's horror film at times (although that is a little more forgivable, as this is an 80's horror film), but not enough to reduce enjoyment.

    Surround activity is predictably limited to those situations in which it is most effective. When the "evil" sounds are whirling around Ash, the sound is likewise whirling around the speakers. At other times, the surrounds remain dormant. While not perfect, this is still very good for a remixed soundtrack, unlike so many others.

    The subwoofer use is very effective, adding menace and impact to the sounds of the Evil Dead moving through the forest, and backing up the various thumps and bumps that go on around the cabin.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not a one. None at all. Nothing.

Menu

    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    As is the case with the other films in the Evil Dead trilogy, there is a staggering array of different versions of this title available. More specifically, there are no fewer than eleven other version of this disc available. As listing eleven different region comparisons would become rather confusing, I have listed all the features we don't get, and the region (and edition if necessary, as the US and the UK have three separate editions of this film each) in which that feature can be found.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    Unfortunately, from this, it is obvious that the Region 4 is a poor loser. The Region 2 French collectors edition is probably the pick of the bunch, however die-hard fans or investment seekers may want to trawl the online auction sites for the out of print (and now rather expensive) collectors edition tin release from Region 1. The only positive to all this is the audio - the Region 4 version of this disc contains an audio quality that is far superior to that of its Region 1 counterpart - especially for dialogue clarity and fidelity - and it is possible that this is true in comparison to other regions as well. Certainly, those looking for the cheaper alternative, and who do not mind missing out on extras, will be very happy with the local version's transfer, while audio purists who already own the Region 1 version may want to at least rent the local version to decide if the improvements are sufficient to warrant another purchase of the same film.

Summary

    Evil Dead II is a classic film in every right, and has a larger following today than it did upon its original video release. Combining comedy and horror years before Scream made it cool, this film relentlessly pours on the hideous gore and outrageous laughs, making for one of the most entertaining movie experiences ever committed to film.

    The video quality is not exactly stellar, but given the constraints of the film's low budget and late teen-aged status, it is very good indeed. This is the best this film has ever looked, and both fans and the casual viewer will not be disappointed.

    The audio has received a surround sound make-over, and is quite effective, using the surround channels well where called for. It provides clear dialogue, and is of high quality throughout.

    The only disappointment with this release is the extras. Compared to the many feature-rich international editions of this film, the local bare-bones release looks rather lazy on behalf of Universal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Friday, May 07, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, 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
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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