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DVD Review -- The Evil Dead

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by Mike Corrigan


Director Sam Raimi resurrected more than ancient demons in this 1982 low-budget cult fave -- he breathed new life into the horror genre as well. And though much of what would follow in the wake of the film's success would be derivative, brainless and forgettable, Raimi's original blend of gore, comedy and inventive camera trickery endures as a true classic in the company of such landmark films as Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Re-Animator.


The plot is a familiar one. A group of goofy teenagers plans to spend the weekend in a dilapidated backwoods cabin. Almost as soon as they arrive, however, the weirdness sets in. In the cabin's cellar, they discover a creepy, fleshy book and a tape recorder, both left behind by a researcher. Naturally, they play the tape, which contains demon-resurrecting incantations in an ancient tongue. "Turn it off!" screams one of the girls. But, of course, it's too late. The malevolent unseen spirits in the woods come alive to possess the hapless group one by one, leaving the understandably distraught antihero Ash (Bruce Campbell) to fend off his drooling former friends as best he can.


What makes the film unique is Raimi's highly idiosyncratic visual style (characterized by intriguing angles, perspectives and fluid camera movements), his whiplash pacing and his liberal use of humor (some of it unintentional) to break the tension and dread. Though The Evil Dead is no slasher flick or typical gorefest, it is unrelentingly grisly and in some instances shockingly brutal, even by today's standards. You've been warned.


Anchor Bay went the extra mile and then some in putting together this limited edition. The disc itself is tucked inside a wonderfully hideous latex replica of the film's Book of the Dead as designed by special effects wizard Tom Sullivan. In addition to the crystal clear wide-screen presentation of the film, the disc contains enough extra goodies to satisfy even the most insatiable Deadite, including outtakes, trailers, commentaries by Raimi, Campbell and producer Robert Tapert, a featurette tracing the film's history and a humorous documentary about cult film fanatics. Quite simply, it's a package no Dead fan can resist. "Join us!"

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