Evil Dead(released Oct/81)aka Book of the Dead....wow,what legs this film has grown.Made on a very modest budget of well under 1/2 a million dollars,and now said to have grossed somewhere around 30 million(!),this film has taken its gory place amongst its' followers high on their respective film lists.Of course as we all know this was the film Robert Tapert,Sam Raimi(later of Xena & Hercules,and Bruce Campbell all cut their filmic "teeth" on and the rest is history.The film itself deserves no more than about 3 1/2 stars,being a just above-average flick.I am no fan of Anchor bay but they have put together a three -disc set here,worthy of say a Criterion company release;but more on that later.
The plot as we all know by now involves a couple of guys with girlfriends and a sister tagging along,who all decide to head out into the remote woods to a cabin.There they find a tape recorder and a strange notebook(that we all come to know is the Necronomicon).They play the tape recorder and find it has the voice of a professor on it,and as he chants some ancient words it arouses spirits in the woods that slowly but surely attack the cabin and everyone in it.One by one the girls and eventually one of the guys all become Deadites and attack Ash,who remains the only one still standing and possession free throughout the movie.But Ash has his work cut out for him(literally and figuratively)as he has to kill each one of his friends.The spirits make it clear they want EVERYONE("join us") and at the end,as Ash stands alone outside the cabin,the strange entity comes at him in a head long rush as he screams into the lens...fade to black.
I recall the movie originally and it was quite the gorefest when it first debuted.It certainly looks tame now,as have alot of its contemporaries.They had lightened the rating system I recall in the early 70s so things got a little bit more intense,if that's the word,on screen.Filmmakers really started to push the envelope.What was rated "R" back in the 60s is now about PG today;it's amazing(the times they have a-changed!),but I digress.The special effects,as primitive as they were for the late 70s,still stand up pretty good today.Raimi and company made the most of what they had and used every trick in the book to convey that sense of isolation,dread and horror that became the trademark of the Evil Dead series.Bruce Campbell of course as Ash really makes the movie,as he goes from a very wimpish type character and converts into a much stronger one,due to the forces that he is pitted against.It's do or die and Ash doesn't want to die as his friends did.The rest of the cast do an admirable job and while it is no Citizen Kane,Campbell and company manage to pull it all off pretty well.
Technically speaking the film,though shot in 16mm,looks and sounds very good in these prints.It was originally shot full frame so Anchor Bay has gone and included BOTH the full frame AND widescreen prints here for your edification!Each disc has extras and the third is dedicated to nothing but extras.They include:Commentary on the widescreen print by the directors,commentary on the full frame version by Campbell,poster and memorabilia gallery,trailer and TV spots,make up tests,featurettes about the women of the Evil Dead,Campbell and Ted Raimi WITH the women of E/D,discovering E/D,a premiere in 2006 at a Drive In w/ the full cast,the cast at a convention,a reunion panel AND a replica of one of the original theater posters thrown in for good measure.Phew! As I said this is a release worthy of the Criterion company and as such that is why the high marks;as they just put the whole package right over the top.
All in all a highly recommended release for fans of the first of the three of this gorefest series.Though not the best it's still pretty darn good and it still has some scare the pants off of you moments throughout.This edition has both the original full frame print and the specially made widescreen print.And with all the extras,there is NO other version to get the Deadite of your choosing.Join us!