Two young men and three young women drive to an isolated
run-down cabin on the edge of woods, where they intend to
spend a break of careless fun. However, almost immediately
a series of strange occurrences begins, one of which points
the way to a trap door in the floor leading to a dark cellar.
Here they discover a book bound in human skin, with an approximation
of a face on the front. Inside, there are weird drawings and
characters written in blood. They bring it upstairs along
with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, from which they learn,
via the voice of a previous researcher, that the cabin is
on the site of an ancient Summerian graveyard. The book is
the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead, and the moment a recorded
passage from the book is played on the tape machine the true
horror begins. One by one, Cheryl, Linda, Shelley and Scott
are possessed by the evil dead spirits, until only one is
left to stand against the torment and violence...
is a reissue of The Evil Dead - Limited Edition Book of
the Dead set released a few years back. I've noticed that
it's caught out at least a couple of magazine reviewers by
mentioning on the packaging a couple of "All-new ..." featurettes.
These were new at the time of original sale, which was 2002,
but the set is identical in every way but one: the addition
of a Bruce Campbell film short called Running Time,
which is slipped inside a card sleeve and thrown in like a
DVD sampler. As this is a mobster crime story I doubt it will
appeal to the same audience as The Evil Dead (unless
you're a Bruce Campbell fanatic) - its only point of interest
being that it's filmed in one continuous shot.
let's forget the nonsensical addition; this set is impressive
as it is/was. There's much to appreciate here. Starting with
the film itself, for anyone who hasn't seen this cult classic
it was unfairly grouped-in with the video nasties of the eighties,
but is a cut (!) above the majority of horror films which
emerged at the time.
plenty of visceral imagery (blood, prosthetics and vivid fantasy
violence) but this is a film which succeeds on simultaneous
levels of shock, violence and particularly dark humour. The
camera work in particular is exemplary in its experimentation,
enhancing the required slightly off-kilter effect. It's amusing
now to think of the wholesome Hollywood director of the
Spider-Man movies, Hercules and Xena, Sam
Raimi, debuting with what could easily be described as a tasteless
film, but as I've intimated this wasn't just gore for gore's
years later the effects still hold up well (well done Tom
Sullivan; remember, there was no CGI available at the time),
although the stop-motion degradation of the creatures at the
end goes on for so long that I almost expected to see Morph
from Tony Hart's Vision On running around amidst the
rest of the plasticine and rubber.
For any fan of The Evil Dead films this special release
contains a good handful of extras all on one disc. As well
as the widescreen presentation, there's two commentaries (one
by Sam Raimi & producer Robert Tapert, the other by Bruce
behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes is great fun. The actress
playing the creature beneath the trap door cackles and screams
in one continuous shot for so long that she has to stop and
comment, "I can't do that all day!" In another sequence it's
quite humorous to have an evil dead creature stop and say,
quite reasonably, "What am I doing wrong?" Sam Raimi is heard
to reply, "Stop thrashing your head around so much."
Discovering Evil Dead is a featurette tracing the media
and public reaction to the film upon first release to its
status today (the film even had to be defended in court).
As well as trailers, TV spots, and a poster and still gallery,
there's Talent Bios which, for reasons I explained
above, only reach early 2002. Raimi's first Spider-Man
is listed as a coming attraction, as is Campbell's excellent
Ho-Tep (couldn't these have been updated?).
Fanalysis is a short documentary by Bruce Campbell
investigating the phenomenon of fandom.
more thing to mention but, believe me, it's important. When
you unwrap this release from its seal, I suggest you remove
the disc and find another plastic sleeve to seal the book
into. If you leave the book open to the air, not only will
the rubber fade, dry and crack, but it will seriously stink
the room out. It's no exaggeration to say it smells like ammonia
and practically makes your eyes water. The Book of the Dead
wreaking its revenge, perhaps?