Evil Dead II (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)1987 (December 11, 2018)
Studio(s)De Laurentiis Entertainment Group/Renaissance Pictures (Lionsgate Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Few films in the horror community have generated as much fandom or inspired as many filmmakers as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II. In a horror comedy class all its own, it reinvented the original The Evil Dead (1981) (reviewed here in 4K at The Bits), making it more palatable for both fans and non-genre fans alike.
Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ash, slightly re-making the story of a guy and his girlfriend traipsing off for a romantic weekend at a secluded cabin in the wilderness. Upon their arrival, Ash discovers a mysterious book and a tape recording that recites the book’s passages, which turn out to be demonic incantations that allow evil entities into our world to possess the living. After having to chop his girlfriend’s head off and bury her when those forces take her over, Ash finds himself holed up in the cabin with no way to escape. He’s on the verge of a mental breakdown as the evil spirits relentlessly taunt and torture him.
Evil Dead II was shot on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 BL and Mitchell BNCR cameras and spherical lenses. For this Ultra HD release, the film was scanned in full native 4K and given a high dynamic range grade (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). It’s presented here in the proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. This is a surprisingly good upgrade of the previous Blu-ray image in terms of detail and texturing. To be fair, the Evil Dead films have always looked rough around the edges, which is part of their charm (despite the controversy involving some of the special effects being removed digitally – alterations that are still present). That said, this is easily the best the film has ever – and likely will ever – look on home video. The image is inherently soft in many scenes due to the number of opticals used, and of course the grain levels are medium to strong, as they should be. Thankfully, there’s been no effort to clean up the grain unnecessarily to make the film appear more modern. The palette definitely benefits from the wider color gamut – blues, reds, and yellows all pop nicely. Blood gushes from the walls of the cabin in bold crimson, while the desaturated closing sequence still looks as dry and colorless as ever. HDR enhances the film’s contrast nicely, lending nighttime scenes in the woods much more depth. The scene of Ash and the demonically-controlled objects in the cabin cackling at the top of their lungs is a prime example of how deep the background appears now, with even the farthest of objects looking crisper and more colorful. Black levels are ideal and the brightest areas of the image have nice intensity.
Audio-wise, there are several options available: English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Latin American Spanish 2.0 DTS-HD MA, and German 2.0 mono DTS-HD MA. Subtitle options include English SDH, Latin American Spanish, French, and German. The English 5.1 track appears to be the same one used on the previous Blu-ray release (reviewed here). It doesn’t have all that much dynamic range to it, but this is a decent surround experience, with plenty of LFE moments, as well as occasional rear speaker activity during the film’s wackier moments. An uncompressed English mono mix would have been a nice alternate option, but the DTS-HD 5.1 mix still mostly retains its mono-sourced, low-tech aesthetic.
The 4K disc contains the following special features:
- Audio Commentary with director Sam Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel, actor Bruce Campbell, and special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero
- Bloody & Groovy, Baby! A Tribute to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 (HD – 52:51)
Also included is the previous Blu-ray Disc (not remastered from the new scan), which offers the film in 1080p along with audio in English 5.1 DTS-HD; subtitles in English, English SDH, and Spanish; and all of the previous extras, including the same audio commentary on the 4K-UHD disc. Those extras include:
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (HD – 9:41)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: The Chosen Ones (HD – 16:41)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Madman Sam (HD – 11:25)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Dead Effects (HD – 24:17)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Re-Animated (HD – 11:25)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Method to Madness (HD – 13:05)
- Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II: Rosebud (HD – 11:57)
- Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II: Henrietta (HD – 6:23)
- Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II: Evil Ed (HD – 5:47)
- Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II: Ash (HD – 6:25)
- Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II: Linda (HD – 4:29)
- Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II: Deleted Scenes (HD – 6:38)
- Road to Wadesboro: Revisiting the Shooting Location with Filmmaker Tony Elwood (HD – 8:09)
- Evil Dead II: Behind-the-Screams (SD – 17:07)
- The Making of Evil Dead 2 or The Gore The Merrier (SD – 31:51)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:29)
- Still Gallery – Advertising & Memorabilia (HD – 26 in all)
- Still Gallery – Behind-the-Scenes (HD – 26 in all)
- Still Gallery – Special Make-Up Effects (HD – 30 in all)
- Still Gallery – Stop Motion Animation (HD – 17 in all)
This disc also opens with Blu-ray and DVD trailers for Scary Movie, Dead Alive, The Last Exorcism, Psychoville, and the Epix HD TV channel. A paper insert with a Digital Copy code is included as well.
The only new extra is the Bloody & Groovy, Baby! A Tribute to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 French documentary, which features interviews with producer Roger Corman and filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro, Fabrice du Welz, Jan Kounen, Edgar Wright, Xavier Gens, Marcus Nispel, Vincenzo Natali, Eric Valette, Christophe Lemaire, and Aurélia Mengin. It’s fairly annoying because of how ugly it looks and sounds, but the actual interview footage is worth the effort.
The cream of the crop is the Red Shirt Pictures documentary Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead II, which offers extensive interviews with Campbell, crew member Josh Becker, co-writer Scott Spiegel, studio manager David Goodman, special effects make-up artists Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero, actors Ted Raimi, Sarah Berry, Richard Domeier, Danny Hicks, and Kassie Wesley, make-up effects supervisor Mark Shostrom, special make-up effects technicians Aaron Sims and Shannon Shea, stop-motion animators Tom Sullivan and Doug Beswick, assistant animator Brian Rae, miniature supervisor Jim Belohovek, art director Philip Duffin, director of photography Peter Deming, and editor Kaye Davis. It’s an excellent, nuts-and-bolts look at the making of the film.
Also of great value is the Cabin Fever featurette – which shows fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes footage, including a chapter devoted to the film’s many lost scenes – and the Road to Wadesboro featurette, which takes a look at the film’s locations today. It’s worth noting that additional interviews with Campbell and Raimi from other overseas releases haven’t been included, nor has the Film Fast Track trivia subtitle track from the previous Anchor Bay Blu-ray release.
More popular than ever, Evil Dead II continues to live on through new home video formats, entertaining whole new generations of fans – not bad for “the sequel to the ultimate experience in grueling terror.” Lionsgate’s 4K UHD package offers a mostly worthwhile experience. It lacks Raimi’s involvement, but this is likely as definitive as things get for now. Groovy.
– Tim Salmons