For years Evil Dead fans have been the subject of mass double dipping. It seems like every year there is a new release of one of these classic films promising to be the “definitive edition” to end all collecting. The holy grail of Evil Dead video releases would be one that contained all four films into one life size replica of the Necronomicon. So safe to say that many Dead fans rejoiced back in September when this was announced:
SWEET MOTHER OF KANDARIAN DEMONS THAT IS AWESOME! It was a nut shot to all of the die-hard fans of the series. All four films in a true sized Book of the Dead edition, a replica dagger, and it was said that it would also contain the ever elusive Within The Woods, the short film precursor made to pre-sell the original film. A major blow was sent to many as the set was also announced as only being available in Australia/New Zealand retailing at about $186. Luckily I got my hands on a copy, but just as our hero Ash’s journey, I too found myself on a roller-coaster of emotion and sanity going through the set. Let’s break down the set. First of all, this is what the actual set looks like:
Right off the bat, they look like the props from the films. The dagger looks nothing like the original dagger in the promo photo and the book is a different cheaper design. It is the right size though, being almost twice the size of the Anchor Bay Book of the Dead DVDs released in the early 2000’s But it also feels, cheap. The rubber looks and feels fragile like it is hanging on by the pure grace of god, and I just took it out of the box. The dagger is based more on the one in Evil Dead 2 and newly designed by Tom Sullivan. Though it isn’t to scale, it is still pretty detailed and has a little weight to it making it a fun addition. Alright, lets open it up and summon some evil forces already:
There is no denying that Tom Sullivan’s artwork is still some of the most hauntingly awesome and amazing parts to come out of the franchise. Each page he made gives the fear drive in the films and helped establish the films’ ominous presence. The artwork looks and feels great, and this is made solid by the fact that this is the first Book of The Dead set to be bigger than the average DVD case. Opening the few few pages and holding the dagger feels like I could summon some nasty evil presence in the woods. Sadly, this is one of the last positive thing I have to say about the set.
Yes the cover feels/looks cheap but the pages are wicked dope, it comes with a dagger, has all four films on Blu-ray plus three discs of bonuses! Surely it must be worth the steep nearly $200 price tag right? Warms my cold black heart knowing you still have faith in not getting ripped off on Evil Dead home releases.
Yes, the films look great. High definition really brings out a lot of the strengths and budgetary weakness in the films. But these are already available at a cheaper price elsewhere. The discs are reprints of older editions with the same standard def Anchor Bay special features. My biggest gripes with the Blus are two things: Evil Dead 2 is the only Region 2 Blu Ray disc in the whole set. This is a major blow because while most of the other discs are region free, this set includes two that are in fact Region 2 (the second being one of the bonus DVDs). Also, the set only includes the Director’s Cut of Army of Darkness. An Evil Dead Anthology set without Ash saying “Hail to the king, baby?” Feels worse than Deadites swallowing your soul.
The first bonus disc is “Invaluable”, a new documentary about Tom Sullivan. The film bounces back and forth from interviews, to Tom himself reflecting on his career, and revisiting sites from the production of the first two films. I am really glad we finally have some more stories from the man who created the book/deadites, I just wish it was from a better film. The documentary starts off with bloopers of the filmmaker trying/failing to introduce Sullivan. This along with the opening title card saying “Produced, directed, shot, and edited by” one person sets the tone for the rest of the film. Honestly, it could have been at least 45 minutes shorter. There are some stories that didn’t need to be included in the film. Who cares who hooked up with who in college? There are a few of those types of stories in the documentary that should have been left on the cutting floor. The film also has some pacing issues, some weird timeline chooses with the stories, a fake out ending about an hour into it, gets repetitive for a good portion, and suffers a bit in lack of focus. That being said, there are some great stories from the sets that are great to hear.
Tom Sullivan comes off as a great hardworking guy who loves to tells stories. He has some great insight to the behind the scenes on the films. He also expands upon other non-Evil Dead factions of his life including trips to Japan and working on The Fly II. The documentary also follows Tom to various locations related to the shoot including the original basement, the house the cast and crew lived in during production, and where they shoot both the grave digging scene along with most of Within The Woods. Tom’s enthusiasm for the films really show and come through in the film as he is excited to show all the stories and places revolving Evil Dead. Overall there are some great stories to come out of this documentary, but its poor pace, lack of focus, and long runtime make it a bit tiring. Maybe if it was cut into a few smaller segments then it might have been easier to digest.
The next two discs are pretty lackluster because they are a bunch of old Anchor Bay special features. In fact, thats all they are. The only thing that was added to them is the 2nd special feature disc is coded as Region 2. Honestly, some new special features, along with the short film Within The Woods, could have saved this set.
There is no doubt this set looks and sounds epic on paper, but the execution is poor. Between switching formats and region coding on the discs, the lack of new special features, poor choices on the cover design, and of course, lack of Within The Woods, the set feels like a cheap cash in on the Evil Dead name. Do I condemn this set? Not entirely. Collector’s will buy this set because thats what collectors do. Hell, I bought the set and I already own at least three copies of each film. And they should. The set is cool enough to have with any Evil Dead collection, as long as you can part with $186 easily.
Hopefully the new Starz show will finally bring us what we want from an anthology set. Maybe a director’s approved set like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks the Complete Mystery set? One can dream.
Side Note, if you still want to see the Invaluable documentary you can purchase it through Tom Sullivan’s site. They are also offering signed copies and posters using some of Tom’s original Evil Dead poster design from when it was Book of the Dead. Purchase Invaluable here!