A group of friends travel to a ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere. What happens to them in this secluded locale will forever change their lives. With limited resources, writer-director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert Tapert made the horror classic The Evil Dead, which started them on a career in the movies that lasts to this day. Now this immortal work of horror finds itself reissued on home video once again, this time with a 4K UHD Blu-ray edition from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. It’s an upgrade that brings forth all of the low-fi glory of the independent horror film that spawned a franchise that spanned over 30 years and launched the careers of some modern legends.
A quintet of friends travel to a ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere. There’s Ash Williams (Campbell) along with his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) and his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) joined by the couple of Scott (Richard DeManincor) and his girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilly). In the basement of the cabin they discover Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, also known as the Book of the Dead, and a tape recorder left behind. The five friends gather around and listen to the tape recorder as an unseen professor reads from the book. The passages awake an ancient evil that possesses the spirits of the living. It’s just another example of why no group of people should ever vacation in secluded cabins.
Having made a number of film shorts on Super 8 film, Sam Raimi had honed his skills as a filmmaker before securing the financing to make his big breakthrough. What Raimi does with little resources is a real testament to his immense talents as a visual storyteller. The Evil Dead is such a lean, efficient work of horror that wastes little time in getting to the goods. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers was working on the film as an assistant editor. The Evil Dead and its success has inspired countless imitators over the years of eager would-be filmmakers hoping to break through on a shoestring budget. But it’s incredibly rare that anyone making a film in this fashion has the sense to make it so tight, limited expository dialogue and setups in favor of ample bloodletting.
The Evil Dead wrapped its principal photography and took more than a year for Raimi and company to complete it. They went back to the woods for reshoots but many of the film’s cast couldn’t return. So Raimi employed what he calls “Fake Shemps,” a term that originated from the stand-ins of Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges after the Stooge had died from a heart attack. The use of the Fake Shemps in The Evil Dead leaves for plenty of unintentional humor, something that Raimi and Campbell would lean in to on the sequels for the series, blending the blood-soaked horror the first film with the humor of The Three Stooges.
The fact that there were such limited resources makes the gore effects of The Evil Dead all the more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, there are some obviously cheap and laughable effects in the film. But for the most part, the gore effects and moments of stop motion animation really hold up more than 35 years later. There are some truly terrifying moments that haven’t lost an ounce of their horrific oomph and still provide chills down the spine.
The new 4K edition of The Evil Dead doesn’t boast any new special features. You have the choice to watch the film in the original aspect ratio of 1.33 or the revamped 1.85. (This Evil Deadhead prefers the 1.33.) Other than that there’s only an old audio commentary track with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert. Even though it’s not new, it’s still a great commentary track. The trio of old friends and collaborators tell funny anecdotes about the making of the film and even take plenty of time to make fun of the movie.
Just in time for Halloween does The Evil Dead land on 4K UHD Blu-ray. It’s a horror classic that’s always worth an annual spin around the spookiest of holidays. Sam Raimi went on to make two more Evil Dead films as well as a television series continuing the misadventures Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams. But it all started in that ramshackle cabin with a little horror movie that endures over 35 years later. That’s pretty groovy.
The Evil Dead
A horror classic that kickstarted the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and launched a legendary horror franchise, The Evil Dead arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray just in time for Halloween with all of its kills, chills, and blood spills.