Evil Dead Blu-ray Review
PictureSony’s US release of Evil Dead is encoded for regions A, B and C.
Unlike the original Dead films, Alvarez’ s reboot opts for a 2.39:1 aspect ratio that does make it stand out from the 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 appearances that many Candarian demon-lovers are used to. Personally, I don’t have a problem with this at all. The film is shot digitally and by virtue of the squalid and grimy location work and the earthy, low-lit cabin set, it never looks polished and gleaming. Grain appears in some shots, but this is a smooth image in the main, and one that suffers no unsightly errors in the way of DNR, artificial sharpening or aliasing.
Remarkably for such a full-on and visceral carve-up, the image is quite desaturated and muted when it comes to colour. Alvarez wants to play it earthy, and the squalid, bruised aesthetic certainly adheres to this. Browns and yellows are given favour and the overall hue is dark and somewhat sweaty. Greenery appears quite lush in early sequences but then becomes darker as the setting grows ever more grim. This is not at all the comic-book vogue that the original movies relished. Where it really counts, of course, is in the bloodletting, and the gore is satisfyingly copious and thick and presented with a darker, more realistic hue than the now-vintage claret of Raimi.
Detail is extremely good, as you would expect for a modern movie, shot with all the technical pizzazz and state-of-the-art equipment at the crew’s disposal, and the imagery is lent an almost clinical sharpness. Near, middle-ground, or far away …it doesn’t matter. The picture maintains clarity, crisp edges and substantial depth of field. Even when things turn darker and more shadowy, there is an impressive level of detail and texture on show. Tongue-slicings, facial gougings, limb-severings and chainsaw shenanigans are all present and correct, and the image ensures that nothing is left to the imagination with some tightly delineated mutilations onscreen. Be it simple droplets, arterial sprays or torrential downpours, the blood-show never becomes blurred, and definition is acute.
However, the most wince-worthy moment of hi-def squirmage will probably come when the needle from a hypodermic syringe is slowly removed from just beneath a character’s eye, and this is presented with alarmingly bravura realism. Edges and finite detail are superbly resolved no matter what the surrounding bedlam may consist of. The possessed Mia’s eyes are splendidly horrid to behold, and yet the image pays them so much loving attention that there is a danger of becoming mesmerised by them. Her rancid, decomposing flesh-colour is also a treat of horribly well-rendered zeal. The mottling effect of her face, as well as that of her cheek-hacking accomplice, is the colour of the worse bruise ever, but the shading and texture is adroitly captured by the transfer. The tufty sparse stubble on David’s face is also very finely captured. Small, close-up details fare well in an image that could so easily have swamped everything else on the screen either with lashing of gore or the murky, damp visual art-design. Look at the leaves strewn upon the ground – detailed, defined and so real you could almost sift through them.
I also like the texture of the Book of the Dead, whose starched pages come across very well. The grisly illustrations and scribblings are wonderfully bold, as well. Highly impressive.
Contrast fares very well considering the moody, muddy veneer that engulfs the palette. Bone-white faces, essentially that of the anaemic-looking Mia, cope well amid the shadows and the murk, and even if the swamp and the grimy looking trees don’t exactly stand proud from the frame, the shading doesn’t lose integrity because of the scummy coffee-dipped palette. Subtleties in shading can be readily observed even in the most dismally lit scenes. Blacks are very strong and deep, although they have digital veneer that, to my eyes, robs them of truest Stygian depths.
Considering the intentionally grubby visual ethic - the film is dark and squalid and very moist - the image is pretty much free from digital molestation, barring some very minor banding, and looks fresh and vivid at all times. I may not be a fan of the film, but this transfer is certainly extremely rewarding.
A well-earned 9 out 10 for Sony’s transfer.
SoundAlthough I have no complaints about how the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track handles the action, I have to say that I am somewhat surprised that the final mix does not really wow in any sense. There may be a few surround gizmos aiding the mayhem, and the aural environment is wide and deep and definitely involving and immersive, but there is a lack of surprise and invention to the sound design that inevitably leads to a track that never quite raises its game above the likes of Mama or Sinister. Considering the wonderful and downright crazy sound-mixes that adorned Raimi’s films – yes, there are some critics who bemoan the “infernal” sound of the original’s over-the-top mix, but it is outrageously enjoyable – this is actually quite tame in terms of sonic invention. Then again, with the advances made in creating sound FX and multi-channel wraparound experiences we are probably much more in-tune with the more “realistic” approach that is adopted here, and perhaps less inclined to be amazed by crisscrossing channel movement and smooth panning … which this track is certainly capable of delivering.
Banos’ score is the most consistently enjoyable and dynamic thing about the film, so it is reassuring to hear that it is awarded quite some prominence in the mix. To be honest, I was paying very close attention to his music for the film during its theatrical presentation, and the mix, here, actually sounds better in this regard. That crazy siren motif singes the air, whilst the intense chanting and paralysing stingers reveal a depth and a lurching emphasis that succeeds in raising the heart-rate where the performances and the onscreen action singularly fail to do so.
Make no mistake, the track is crystal clear and pin-sharp, with even the slightest nuance and subtlety perfectly well rendered. The buzzing of the fly, the swirl of the wind, the composition of the downpours – be they derived from rain or supernatural blood – and the sonic embellishment of the wounds being inflicted and the various bouts of barbarity are obviously well-integrated and designed with absolute attention to demented detail. The sound of the carving-up of a face, the cheek being vigorously yet meticulously hacked-through, is certainly more vivid and disturbing than the actual visual depiction of the act, and the track really keeps this sort of stuff clear and organic.
The dialogue is awful. Execrable exposition, annoyingly angsty spiel and lamentable spells of heated obscenity it may be, but it all comes across without a hitch. This said, though, some of Mia’s vilest oaths and depredations – all very Exorcist, if you ask me – are spewed forth in a tumbling torrent that you may not pick up on straight away. But the anxious whispered pleas about wanting to leave have lots of natural inflection and hushed realism.
Bass levels are solid and strong, but there really isn’t anything that happens that I could report on as having especially rocked the house. It is consistent, and the sub definitely plays a part in the action, but compared to other modern horrors out there, this is quite unremarkable. Whilst I feel that surround effects could have been more entertainingly conjured, the environment is still well utilised. The depth of the forest is keenly felt during the rainstorm, with impressive positioning of the deluge all around the soundscape. Impacts are definitely vigorous – some bodies are forcefully slammed around – and the harsh and intimidating sound of the various tools – the electric carving-knife, the nail-gun and the chainsaw – are nice and grungily realistic. There is appreciable detail and an alarming “punch” to the nail-gun, with its hammer-click metallic rhythm. A ceramic bludgeon makes a “squelchy” impression upon a gnarled noggin, and a couple of shotgun blasts resonate with chunky ballistic fury.
An excellent track, overall, and my concerns are purely to do with the lack of creative imagination in the original sound design. The audio transfer makes no errors at all.
Another 9 out of 10.
ExtrasOh how Jane Levy suffered for her art when making this film ... as these frank, yet bland and repetitive featurettes are keen ram down your throat. Alvarez took great pains to inform his cast, and especially Levy that this production was going to push them to their limits both physically and emotionally. Yeah, we get it. Covered in blood. Battered and bruised. Driven to the extremes of their (limited) talents and forced to explore the darker, more twisted sides of their psyche. Yeah. Like most young actors working on a gruelling bodycount, survival horror flick, then. And there’s nothing all that special about Levy’s performance either. Nothing you haven’t seen at least a dozen times before.
They all thought that they were coming up with something fresh, shocking and memorable. Sadly, they weren’t … and a lot of loyal fans were duped and insulted by such teenybopper angst trying to act mature and macho.
For the record, we have: Directing the Dead, focussing upon Alvarez, Making Life Difficult and Being Mia, which obviously concentrate upon Levy’s trials and tribulations (yawn), and Unleashing the Evil Force, which looks at the genesis and power of the Book of the Dead. There is also a guarded and rather too obvious look at the hows and whys that saw this project taking shape in Evil Dead the Reboot, in which we hear from the original creators Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell and the new brood of Alvarez, Sayagues, Levy and J.R. Young. Campbell asserts that Ash wasn’t needed because it frees up the story, and he’s certainly right about that. You don’t necessarily need Ash for a reimagining. Just one character we could empathise with would have been a step in the right direction, though.
They are all quite candid, with Levy and Alvarez trying to gain the sympathy vote. All of these featurettes come in under ten minutes.
There is a group commentary that counts Alvarez, writer Rodo Sayagues and his stars Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas as participants but, at the risk of sounding really bad-hearted, I simply couldn’t listen to them discussing what they believed was a worthwhile, groundbreaking and exciting project for more than ten minutes. They are a young cast and crew that made this film, and none of them were even alive when the original movie was released … its cultural and genre impact to them could, therefore, never be the equal of those of us that were there at the start and lived through its reign of infamy. So to be harsh on them for extolling the virtues of their little reboot is probably very unfair. But their film stinks, and this is down to the pathetic script, the lacklustre scares and the poor performances and the lousy vision of their director. Thus, unfair or not, they are to blame for this travesty.
Asides from some Previews, including the cliché-riddled but still awesome Olympus Has Fallen, we also have a UV copy of the film.
A perfunctory set of extras that struggle to elicit even the slightest bit more affection for this misguided production.
Verdict“Promise you’ll stay with me until the end.”
Erm … sorry, luv. I’m going to nip off and watch a proper scary film instead.
I bought this one out of my own good money even after having slated it on its theatrical run. Why did I do that? Well, maybe it’s because I believe in giving something a second chance. Maybe I was initially too quick to damn it because it didn’t live up to my admittedly high expectations. So would the more intimate surroundings of my own home, and my own AV system allow me to glean something in Alvarez’s vision that I hadn’t noticed before, something tangible and effective that I could latch onto? Would I see what it was that other people and critics found so compelling that they felt inspired to declare the film a “masterpiece” and “the most terrifying movie ever made”?
To be brutally honest, I still find the film to be tediously tame and utterly generic, and I struggle to understand where all the salivating praise that I have heard and read about – and was so prepared to dole-out, myself – is coming from. Even when then the film kicks-in with its allegedly no-holds-barred second act, it refuses to relinquish its furious lack of momentum, and proceeds with an unabated dearth of imagination or energy. Sacrificed to the Old Gods is the bloody death-grip of the original, and only when we hear a creepy, ghost-like rendition of Professor Knowby’s tape recording over the unfurling end-credits, does a true sense of former glories penetrate the dull fugue of Alvarez’s miserable misconception.
Don’t even begin to wonder whether or not it can come close to touching the gore-drenched coat-tails of Raimi’s original lightning-in-a-bottle because that would be as stupid as going down into an occult-rife basement, opening-up a flesh-bound tome of spells that has been sealed with barbed-wire and reading aloud a demonic incantation.
Nevertheless, Sony’s transfer is defiantly excellent. The image is superlative even given the murky, decomposed aesthetic, and the audio is top-notch. The extras, though, are by-the-numbers and seem hell-bent on playing up the sympathy vote for Jane Levy. Like the film, they are one-note and hollow.
Was Raimi right to have trusted Fede Alvarez on the basis of a simple short? Well, I am not about to suggest that there’s no promise on show here. The first-time feature helmer knows how to put a cast through hell (and Lord knows ... they deserve to be), and how to pummel the senses with barf-inducing carnage and knee-jerk stingers. But this is an Evil Dead picture for a different audience. This feels as though it has been made for the brigade who thrived on Insidious, The Last Exorcism and Cabin In The Woods. It is fright-lite and sickly slick. Try as he might to keep things gritty, serious and squalid, Alvarez cannot quite mask the hip, self-aware attitude that blights most modern genre fare. And, most damningly of all, he crafts a film that is neither as scary nor as nasty as its antique ancestor, and is totally lacking in anything approaching flair and imagination.
And don’t bother hanging around for the post-credits cameo. Like the film, itself, it really isn’t worth it.
Trust me, there is a fantastic horror film out there called The Evil Dead. But this isn’t it.
Leave it well alone.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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