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Even though it was made nearly twenty years ago on a miniscule budget, THE EVIL DEAD ($25) remains one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Director Sam Raimi's unrelenting style may have put the gore right in the viewers face, but it is his hyperactive camera work and macabre sense of humor that makes THE EVIL DEAD truly unforgettable. The plot of THE EVIL DEAD concerns five college friends that take a weekend trip to an isolated cabin. After a long drive through the backwoods, they arrive at their run down destination. While the cabin and the woods are a bit creepy on their own, things get progressively worse after they venture into the cabin’s cellar. In the cellar, they uncover a strange looking book and tape recorder.

From the tape recording, our quintet learn that the previous resident of the cabin was a scholar, who was using the isolated location to work on a translation of an ancient text known as The Book Of The Dead. Unfortunately, the tape also contains recitations from The Book Of The Dead, which unleash demonic forces in the woods. One by one, the demons take possession of each of the cabin's occupants. What follows can only be described as wonderfully excessive horror, with a strange cartoon-like bent. Be warned, if you hate latex dismemberment and gallons of stage blood, then THE EVIL DEAD isn’t for you. THE EVIL DEAD stars Bruce Campbell Ashley J. Williams, better known to fans of the series as Ash. Ash isn't quite the idiot that he is in the two follow-up films; but then again, the sequels were far more tongue-in-cheek that THE EVIL DEAD. The cast of THE EVIL DEAD also includes Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker and Sarah York.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a pretty good job of bringing THE EVIL DEAD to DVD. Utilizing the same transfer that Elite Entertainment issued on Laserdisc (and presumably on their special edition DVD), THE EVIL DEAD has never looked better on home video. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell supervised the transfer made from the film’s 16mm elements. Anyone familiar with the awful VHS cassette versions of THE EVIL DEAD will find this presentation to be a revelation. Sure it doesn't look like 35mm, but there is far more detail in those old 16mm elements, than anyone could hope to find. THE EVIL DEAD is presented full frame (1.33:1), since the film wasn't shot in a wide screen format. As one might expect from a 16mm movie, there is some noticeable film grain here and there, but it isn't too bad. Color reproduction is very good; the well-saturated hues don't exhibit any significant chroma noise. The black level is pretty good, considering that this is an ultra-low budget horror movie shot on 16mm film stock. There are some shots that look a bit soft, and there isn't a whole lot of shadow detail to be found anywhere in the movie, but THE EVIL DEAD still manages to look pretty darn impressive. Digital compression artifacts remained in check throughout the presentation.

The film's soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0, which occasionally will decode some interesting effects in standard Dolby Surround. Dialogue is clean sounding and the film’s music has a strong sense of presence. There was a full 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack on the Elite Laserdisc, but it is absent from Anchor Bay’s DVD. I imagine the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack would be available on Elite's special edition DVD.

The interactive menus contain a bit of full motion video and sound, but are fairly limited. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection feature, plus a theatrical trailer.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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