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EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN is also a movie that I never tire of watching- or reviewing, for that matter, since this is my third crack at this particular film. Like its predecessor, EVIL DEAD II is a horror genre classic. However, unlike the film that spawned it, EVIL DEAD II has a genuinely twisted comic bent to it. In fact, EVIL DEAD II may be the most hilarious gore-fest ever committed to celluloid. This movie leaves you wondering if you should be laughing out loud at its Three Stooges inspired antics, or if you should be blowing chunks at the screen. For this film, director Sam Raimi paints his cinematic canvas with hundreds of gallons of blood, bile and other assorted shades of gore, yet he keeps his audience laughing so hard that they come back for more.

EVIL DEAD II stars Bruce Campbell as Ash, the filmís none too bright hero, who drives out to an isolated cabin in the woods to spend some time alone with his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler). Unbeknownst to Ash and Linda, the cabinís previous occupant was Professor Knowby (John Peaks), a scholar who had been using the cabin as a refuge from the outside world while he was studying an ancient book know as the "Necronomicon Ex Mortis" or "Book Of The Dead." According to legend, this unspeakably evil book was bound in human flesh, while its text of spells and incantations were inked in blood. The sole purpose of the Necronomicon is to summon up ancient demonic forces that have lain dormant for eons. After phonetically reciting certain passages from the book, Professor Knowby and his wife are killed by whatever demonic force the book unleashes into the woods. Of course, Ash finds the book, as well as Professor Knowbyís tape recorder, which he plays- repeating the incantation that summoned up the demonic force that killed the old man and his wife. Within seconds, the unseen demons snatch LindaÖ then they come back for Ash. Somehow, Ash is able to fend off the demonic assaults, however when Professor Knowbyís daughter shows up looking for her father- all hell breaks loose. The cast of EVIL DEAD II also includes Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie DePaiva, Ted Raimi, Richard Domeier and Lou Hancock.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has really done well by EVIL DEAD II, issuing the film on DVD as a THX certified edition with a brand new 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation (a full screen version is also included for those who care). EVIL DEAD II is framed at roughly 1.85:1 and the film appears more cinematic in these proportions. The new transfer is an improvement over the older Letterboxed transfer used on the Elite Laserdisc and Anchor Bayís first DVD release of the film. This presentation provides EVIL DEAD II with a richer looking image, which is a bit darker, but a bit more detailed than the original discs. Additionally there appear to be fewer flaws in the source materials, while almost all evidence of film grain has been excised from this presentation. Flesh tones appear fairly natural throughout the film, while the rest of the colors vary between slightly pale and fully saturated. Oddly shaded blood reds are very vibrant and are reproduced without any signs of distortion or smearing. Blacks are a solid inky black and the picture has a reasonable level of depth and decent shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts really donít make their presence known on this cleanly authored DVD. All in all, Anchor Bay has done a terrific job, creating an edition of EVIL DEAD II that looks as crisp and clean as the film can under the limitations of NTSC.

EVIL DEAD II also features a nicely remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Fidelity is somewhat better than what one would expect from an ultra-low budget film, although it does have its limitations. Sound effects are effectively spread across the entire soundstage to create a cohesive sonic environment for the on-screen action. The surround channels are pretty active, which really enhances the home theater presentation. Dialogue maintains full intelligibility througout, even though the original recordings arenít always perfect. Bass never approaches Earth shattering levels, but the tack has a solid bottom end that sounds pretty formidable during the filmís climatic moments. A Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD.

Full motion video, animation and sound have been integrated into the DVDís cool interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplements. Anchor Bay has ported the running audio commentary from the Elite Laserdisc onto their DVD release. The audio commentary featuring star Bruce Campbell, director Sam Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel and special effect artist Greg Nicotero is absolutely hilarious and rates as a "must listen" for fans. The DVD also includes a new featurette entitled The Gore The Merrier, which is comprised of video footage from the original shoot, plus new material and interviews produced for the DVD. Many of you will recognize the video footage from the Elite Laserdisc, although it is assemble in a more cohesive manner for the featurette. Other supplements include a theatrical trailer, still galleries and a short preview for an upcoming EVIL DEAD video game. Biographies/filmographies for Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi fill out the DVDís supplements.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has created the ultimate EVIL DEAD II DVD, with a great looking picture, effective 5.1 channel sound and enjoyable supplements. If you are a fan, youíll want to own this DVD. Absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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