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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sam Raimi
Cast:
Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie DePaiva, Ted Raimi, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier, John Peaks, Lou Hancock
Writing Credits:
Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel

Tagline:
Kiss Your Nerves Good-Bye!

Synopsis:
Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of The Evil Dead, continues his struggle with the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by demons and his body parts runnning amok, Ash is forced to single-handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal - and groovy - hero in horror movie history! Welcome to Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, director Sam Raimi's infamous sequel to The Evil Dead and outrageous prequel to Army of Darkness!

Box Office:
Budget
$3.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$807.260 thousand on 310 screens.
Domestic Gross
$5.923 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 9/27/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell, Co-Writer Scott Spiegel and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero
• “The Gore The Merrier” Featurette
• “Behind-the-Screams” Featurette
• Still and Poster Gallery
• Talent Bios
• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn - Book of The Dead Limited Edition (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 13, 2005)

Expectations can be a bear. When I got a copy of 1993's Army Of Darkness, I had some idea what kind of film it would be but I wasn't prepared for how much I'd enjoy it. The movie offered a wild and witty romp that entertained me thoroughly at all times.

As such, I greatly looked forward to getting Army's predecessor, 1987's Evil Dead II. Although I knew it had a different setting, I figured this movie would follow along similar lines and would provide more insane thrills with reluctant and cowardly hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) as he fought mysterious undead forces. Unfortunately, Dead II couldn't live up to my expectations. As a result, I found a movie that seemed moderately compelling but ultimately disappointing.

One problem I encountered is mine alone: confusion about where the original 1982 Evil Dead stopped and the sequel started. The beginning of Army provided a neat and tidy recap of the prior film, and I rarely felt like I was "missing" anything because I hadn't already seen the first two pictures.

The same was not true for Dead II. Actually, it also included a summary of the first story, but unlike the well-defined update at the start of Darkness, it wasn’t at all clear that we're seeing a recap; the way the material is presented makes it seem like it's all part of the sequel. As such, I spent much of Dead II confused about events; I knew Ash was involved in the first movie and I couldn't figure out why he'd return to the same place where all of those horrible events occurred. (It doesn't help that the old DVD's case incorrectly states that Ash "returns" to the cabin; in fact, he never left, as Dead II picks up right after the conclusion to the first movie and continues the terror.)

Perhaps because Dead II seems to assume that you've already seen the first movie - weak recap aside - I found the characters to be weak and ill-defined. I already had a good notion of who Ash was from Army, but the Ash of Dead II appears much more vague and not nearly as interesting. In Army, we saw the neat dichotomy of his personality, as he was a wimp and a coward in all aspects of life other than when he had to battle the "Deadites"; then he became a vicious fighting force. This seems less clear in Dead II; yeah, he takes down some zombies nicely, but the character still was tentative and half-drawn. While the Ash of Army is a cartoon, he's a fun cartoon, whereas Dead II's Ash is just bland and flat.

Whereas Army was largely an outrageous comic book, Dead II functions more as an over-the-top horror film. I don't think this tone affected my enjoyment of it, since I knew in advance it would differ from Army in that regard, but I think it felt less-than-successful to me anyway. It all goes back to the weak characters; Ash and the others just aren't very interesting, and I had a hard time getting involved in the story because of that.

Add to this a less-coherent story than the one found in Army and you have another reason for my disenchantment with it. Most of the time Dead II just feels like various acts of monster violence with little purpose. Granted, life works that way sometime; if you're being attacked by undead forces, you may not actually have any kind of general theme to surround those events. Nonetheless, it made the results less stimulating to me, as the movie seemed to go nowhere at times; it's just a lot of running around and killing without much purpose or direction.

Dead II has some solid moments of wackiness and silliness, but I didn't think they approached the greatness of Army. Half of my enjoyment of that film came from its nutty skeletons at the end, but Dead II has no characters to rival those boney goofs.

I didn't dislike Evil Dead II, as director Sam Raimi created a generally entertaining and wild atmosphere which stretched the boundaries of horror movies. However, I can't hide my disappointment at it, since I don't think it remotely compares with the pleasures of its follow-up, Army Of Darkness. Feel free to disagree with me - a scan of other opinions shows very different reactions to the two films - but I find Army to offer a much more entertaining experience, so if you want to watch Dead II, do so before you see the third part of the story.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio D+/ Bonus B

Evil Dead II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This transfer fell into the “silk purse/sow’s ear” category, as it seemed to represent the flawed source material about as well as I could expect.

Sharpness usually looked reasonably crisp and accurate, though some light softness occurred at times. For the most part, I thought the movie was adequately focused and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges posed no concerns, and edge enhancement appeared absent.

Print flaws were surprisingly absent. The image turned a bit grainy at times, a factor that became almost inevitable given its origins. However, these weren’t a big distraction, and I noticed no other form of defects.

Colors were subdued and somewhat pale but they seemed largely accurate, and I noticed no problems related to them such as bleeding or noise. Black levels looked a bit mushy to me and they lacked boldness or depth; there's a mildly tentative quality to the dark scenes. Shadow detail often appeared a little heavy. I didn't have a terrible time making out the action in low-light shots, but since these kinds of scenes dominated the film, I had more trouble than I should have.

Evil Dead II will never be a particularly attractive film, but this new transfer moderately topped the prior one. The biggest improvement came from the absence of source flaws. The old transfer suffered from heavy grain at times, but the new one tamed that to a substantial degree. Otherwise, I thought the two images were pretty similar. The new one didn’t blow away the original, but it deserved a jump from that transfer’s “C” to this one’s “B-“.

Unfortunately, the new disc included the same Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as the prior release of Evil Dead II. Actually, some parts of it seemed positive, such as the breadth of the soundfield. The action spread nicely to the side channels, with a great deal of effects and music emanating from the front right and left speakers. This usage added a nice component of involvement to the mix, especially when we consider the extra kick boasted by the rears; the surround speakers presented solid ambiance and occasionally tossed out some good split-surround effects as well. The track lacked the smooth integration of true 5.1 mixes, but it worked nicely from a soundfield point of view.

Unfortunately, the quality of the audio was simply terrible. Dialogue came across as thin and lifeless at best, and it became very harsh and edgy at times. I understood most of the speech, but some lines were unintelligible due to the shrill and sibilant nature of the audio. Effects seemed flat and dull and displayed some distortion as well. The music appeared thin and excessively-bright, but it was largely free of the harshness that harmed the other aspects of the mix.

The track included some boomy bass that tended to overwhelm the action in an artificial manner. I got the impression the sound designers cranked up the low-end to distract us from the flatness of the other elements. Despite the fairly ambitious soundfield, I simply couldn't give this mix a higher rating than a "D+" due to the very weak quality of the audio. Even a film with a fairly low budget shouldn't sound this bad. I'd be disappointed with the sound if it accompanied a movie from 1947, so for a 1987 effort to appear this poor was problematic.

This “Book of the Dead” edition of Evil Dead II incorporates a mix of supplemental features, most of which come from the prior DVD. First up is an audio commentary which comes from a 1998 laserdisc release of Dead II. It features Campbell, Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero, all of whom were recorded together for a running, screen-specific chat. In the piece for Army, it was just Campbell and Raimi, though brother/co-writer Ivan Raimi entered about halfway through the track. In a reverse of usual patterns, the actor dominated the proceedings. However, that's not the case here, where it seems as though all four men provide roughly equal amounts of information; Raimi is much less subdued than he was during Army.

Although the Dead II commentary is more fun than that of Army, it's probably less informative, which is often the case with multiple-participant tracks. Frequently these become very loose and disorganized as the parties involved become more interested in laughing with each other than in providing compelling information about the movie. The Dead II commentary straddles those lines, and it generally seems fun and useful, although at times it goes a little astray. Still, I enjoyed the commentary as a whole and found it pretty entertaining.

After this we get a new component: a documentary called Evil Dead 2: Behind the Screams. This 17-minute and five-second show offers a running set of behind-the-scenes stills and other elements like concept art along with commentary from crewmember Tom Sullivan. We see many fun shots from the set and elsewhere, and Sullivan helps let us know what we’re examining. It’s a pretty nice set.

Next up is The Making of Evil Dead II, or The Gore the Merrier, a 31-minute and 50-second featurette about Dead II. It mainly discusses the technical details, and it does so in a terrifically compelling manner. The program features contemporary interviews with make-up effects artists Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero; they essentially act as the piece's narrators. While we find some "talking head" shots of those gentlemen, the vast majority of the visual action comes from a slew of wonderful video footage taken from the set. We get a lot of great information from these images, and they single-handedly make this a fantastic documentary.

50 images pop up in the Poster and Still Gallery. This mixes photos from the set with movie shots and some ads. Some of these appeared in the old disc’s “Still Galleries”, but since that release included 87 frames of material, obviously we lose some here.

Finally, we get the original theatrical trailer for Dead II plus Talent Bios for Campbell and Raimi. These are actually pretty solid little entries that provide more depth than usual for these listings. Also on DVD presents ads for The Evil Dead, Man With the Screaming Brain, Dead and Breakfast and a video game. Note that these promos show up at the start of the disc as well.

In addition to all of these DVD-based materials, the “Book of the Dead” edition of Evil Dead 2 includes some packaging components. Most noticeable is the case itself. “BotD” comes in a special rubber package that’s supposed to look like the book found in the flick. Created by Tom Sullivan, this offers some cool artwork, the chapter selections and a listing of “special thanks” from Sullivan. If you press the eye on the front of the package, you’ll hear a scream. This whole packaging concept remains fairly pointless, though I’d probably like it better if the rubber didn’t smell so bad.

Evil Dead II offers an over-the-top horror flick that didn't truly light my fire but made for a generally fun piece. It’s not the best of the series but it has its moments. The DVD features pretty decent picture with harsh sound and a few good extras.

I believe this “Book of the Dead” edition of Evil Dead 2 offers the best visual presentation of the film found on DVD. It suffers from the same problematic audio as the prior release, though, and it doesn’t include substantial new supplements. If you must have a moderately better looking version of Dead II, go for this one, but with a list price of almost $40, it’s awfully expensive. You might be better off waiting for the probably inevitable cheaper issue of this one; it’s not worth the money to pay for the gimmicky packaging.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.125 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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