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Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn(1987)
Ash, the sole survivor of The Evil Dead, returns to the same cabin in the woods and again unleashes 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!
For more about Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn and the Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray release, see Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Theodore Raimi
Director: Sam Raimi
» See full cast & crew
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 14, 2011
When is a sequel not a sequel? Well, take the case of Evil Dead II, also known as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. This second Evil pairing of writer-director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell doesn't pick up from where the first Evil Dead left off, it instead reinvents some of the same characters from the first film, notably Campbell's daffy hero Ash and putative girlfriend Linda (played by Denise Bixler in this film), and plops them back in the same basic plot setup as the first film, in a kind of horror-comedy Groundhog Day scenario. Once again Ash visits an isolated cabin in the woods, turns on a tape recorder that has a professor spouting verbiage from the Necronomicon, and the next thing you know, all hell has broken loose, quite literally. Raimi is a director who may not win points for finesse, but he works in a manic, breathless style that is perfectly suited for the outré black comedy of the Evil Dead franchise, and that devil may care, throw caution to the wind spirit is what has made the Evil Dead trilogy (Army of Darkness was the third film, though there's evidently a Raimi-Campbell remake of the original Evil Dead in the offing) such a cult sensation and what continues to draw audiences to the films to this day. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is an extremely gruesome affair, but it's also laugh out loud hilarious a lot of the time, with Campbell's intentionally arch delivery and wide-eyed crazed, cartoonish performance style making the most of Raimi and co-scenarist Scott Speigel's reinvention of the Evil Dead premise. While there are certainly a few shocks along the way, courtesy of typical horror film clichés like jump cuts and sudden LFE on the soundtrack, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is really a sly, if sometimes sinister, comedy, one blacker than, well, death, but which delivers some consistent guffaws mixed in with the more typical "avert your eyes" blood and guts which Raimi obviously loves and loves to exploit.
The relationship between Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell may not rise to the iconic level of, say, John Ford and John Wayne, but there is an undeniable symbiosis between the two that finds its near-perfect expression in the Evil Dead franchise. Campbell is frequently reminiscent of a live action version of something you'd see in a Chuck Jones cartoon, and Raimi and Spiegel's screenplay allows the actor to literally go a little (maybe more than a little) crazy throughout the film. Campbell's glaring, manic performance is the anchor of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, as flippant as that anchor is. But the entire film is filled with absolutely goofy humor. Not to give too much away, but after Campbell's character Ash has to, um, deal with his right hand, which has become possessed by an evil spirit, he places the dismembered limb in under an overturned bucket, on top of which he piles a stack of books just to keep the bucket in place (for a second, anyway). The book on top of the stack? Why, A Farewell to Arms, of course. It's that kind of silly, but very smart, humor that makes Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn so much fun so much of the time.
The film is a veritable riot of practical effects, including puppets, outrageous make-up, and even some Ray Harryhausen- esque stop motion animation. It all gives Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn its palpable Looney Tunes ambience, even as some of the special effects are so over the top with regard to blood and gore that they virtually drown the film in rivers of blood. Some of the supplements included on this Blu-ray give us a peek behind the scenes at how many of these sequences were created, but even without that knowledge, the film is rather impressive within its lo-fi confines, with a wealth of effective, if not exactly current day state of the art, effects sequences.
The best thing about Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is that it knows exactly what it wants to be. This isn't an exercise in gratuitous gore—well, it isn't just an exercise in gratuitous gore, it's a film which takes a whole series of horror film clichés and then bends them to Raimi and Spiegel's brilliantly funny revisionism. Raimi doesn't miss a beat in this film, wasting little to no time in setting up his premise and then delivering one horrific-hilarious sequence after another. The audience may well be dead by dawn after watching this film, but only because they've been laughing so hard.
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray, Video Quality
Bruce Campbell is on record stating that this 25th Anniversary Edition of Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn sports a new AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1, supposedly much improved from the problematic original Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray release, but generally speaking, Evil Dead 2 has never really looked very good in any of its home video iterations. This was a film shot on the fly for a very modest budget, and it looks it. The stock here is quite grainy almost all of the time, only magnified by some of the optical effects utilized in several sequences. But a lot of this Blu-ray pops rather nicely, especially in the better lit sequences which feature close-ups, when the gash-filled make-up on Campbell's face offers some gruesome detail, and we can see everything from the pores in his skin to his flyaway hair. Some of the special effects sequences haven't aged particularly well from a technical standpoint, so some of the green screen and composite effects literally show their seams in this high resolution format. There's also persistent crush throughout this presentation which may be particularly troublesome for some videophiles as so much of the film takes place in darkened environments.
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is presented with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that offers some fair immersion with a couple of really spectacularly effective surround effects. In a general sense, this track offers abundant LFE throughout the film, and while some might have wanted more consistent surround activity, when we get the evil spirits marauding through the forest or the cabin, and then, much later in the film, when the survivors hear a bunch of roars and crashes surrounding them, the surround channels are fully alive and nicely immersive. Dialogue (and screams—lots of them) are clear and well prioritized, and the wealth of sound effects also are presented with clarity and precision. There's not much dynamic range in this film, as it pretty much starts at "11" and then stays there for the vast bulk of the film.
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's no doubt that Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn won't be everybody's cup of tea, even those who like horror movies in general. But if you're a fan of out there, completely daffy humor, chances are you'll end up loving this film for its brisk marriage of over the top gore and blood with equally over the top hilarity. Campbell is spot on with a living cartoon portrayal, and the film perfectly sets up Army of Darkness, the third outing in the Evil Dead franchise (thus far, anyway), and the film that still remains many fans' favorite in the series. The video quality here is as spotty as it's always been, but with several new supplements and several older ones ported over, and a bristling lossless sound mix, this release comes Highly recommended.
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