Reviewed by Scott Weinberg
If you're a serious horror geek, then you're already well aware of the fact that Anchor Bay likes to re-release and re-re-release their very coolest properties. That's why if you go to any horror DVD website, you're bound to find a message board full of questions like "What's NEW on the Army of Darkness Boomstick Edition??" and "So, um, which version of Halloween do I want?" and "Anyone want my Dawn of the Dead Divimax Edition? I just got the 4-disc mega-zombie edition!" and so on and so on. But hey, nobody says you're any less of an Evil Dead fan if you're content to stick with your single-disc edition from five years ago. Still, it's getting pretty nuts the way Anchor Bay keeps re-polishing their most profitable titles.
Now, nobody's got a gun to your head, forcing you to drop $17 on the brand-new 3-disc Evil Dead Ultimate Edition that AB just unleashed (lord knows I've skipped over lots of interesting "double-dips" in my time), but if you're asking my opinion: This is most assuredly the definitive DVD package for The Evil Dead. (No, the now-legendary "Within the Woods" short is not included ... but some say it can be found on YouTube.) Here we have Sam Raimi's "ultimate experience in grueling terror" (in your choice of full-screen or widescreen formats, both of which look better than ever) brought home (again) with more supplemental material than you'll know what to do with.
Oh yeah, I almost jumped right into the extras without covering the movie. But really, The Evil Dead is like peanut butter and jelly to a true-blue horror fan. Must I really offer the plot synopsis (kids in cabin awaken evil demons) or the gooey praise about Raimi's slickly effective camera work and all that awesome gore, plus the fact that the movie's actually creepy, gross, AND scary, and to think it was made for half a million bucks. I mean blah blah geek-out love-fest for Evil Dead yadda yadda....
Like I said, what horror geek DOESN'T know all about the awesomeness of this movie? (True, many folks think the sequel is superior, but I think I like the darker aspects of the original over the campy-yet-awesome indulgences of the sequel. I also prefer the first Terminator to either sequel, so I must be insane, I guess.) Sure, it's cheaply made and several of the acting performances are "raw" at best, but in addition to delivering a freakishly ferocious good time in the horror department, The Evil Dead also introduced us to the swaggering block of coolness that is Bruce Campbell. Obviously the guy had yet to settle into his role as every B-movie fan's demi-god, but he's still a lot of fun in his first role.
Undoubtedly one of the very best horror movies to emerge from the 1980s, The Evil Dead is just a quick-paced and enjoyably nasty ball of fun. And if you don't already own the flick on DVD, then this Ultimate Edition is an absolute no-brainer. (Knowing that they've re-issued this thing 75 times, the Anchor Bayers wisely (and coolly) decided to set the price at an under-20 figure. For a three-disc release, that ain't bad at all.) So on disc 1 we get the widescreen version of the movie, along with an audio commentary from director Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert, as well as a NEW (and really great) documentary called One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead (53:19), which features a bunch of anecdotes and insights from several of the filmmakers (Tapert, the leading ladies, tons of crew members) and a few fans like Eli Roth, Greg Nicotero, and Edgar Wright.
Over on disc 2 you'll find the full-frame version of the movie along with a predictably colorful solo commentary track with fan-favorite Bruce Campbell. (Like the commentary on disc 1, this one is ported over from previous DVD releases.) But also included is a NEW hour-long piece called Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor, which consists of deleted scenes, alternate takes, and all sorts of archival goodies. This collection is recommended for the hardcore fans only, but they'll undoubtedly eat it up with a spoon.
And if you're still hungry for more gore after the movie, two commentaries, and two hours of new supplements, well then pop disc 3 into your player and get comfortable. First up is (NEW!) Life After Dead: The Ladies of The Evil Dead (14:55), in which the three gals discuss their introduction to horror-con fame; then we get a (NEW ... I think) 29-minute interview segment with the three ladies and the always-amusing Mr. Campbell; Unconventional is a 20-minute chat between Campbell, the gals (again), Ted Raimi, and Evil Dead actor Hal Delrich; At the Drive-In (12:02) is an amusing on-stage cast appearance from Chicago's Flashback Weekend; a lengthy Reunion Panel (30 minutes!) from the same convention; and all sorts of random viscera: make-up tests, TV spots, trailers, still galleries, poster and memorabilia galleries...
Sheesh! It's almost too much of a good thing! (I said almost.)
So yeah: Anchor Bay has released a lot of different Evil Dead DVDs. That's been established and everyone knows it. Doesn't change the fact that this is the best package yet. (And, to be totally honest, the last version I'll ever buy. And I freaking love this movie.)
Almost forgot: The discs come in a very cool foldout case that's covered in vintage Evil Dead artwork, plus there's a two-sided poster included. Cool!