4K Blu-ray review: “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” (1987)

“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” (1987)


Running time: 84 minutes

Written by: Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Featuring: Bruce Campbell

Annie: [Looking at a picture in the Necronomicon of Ash himself] “In 1300 AD they called this man the uh, ‘hero from the sky’. He was prophesied to have destroyed the evil.”

Ash: “He didn’t do a very good job…”

Released recently for the first time onto 4K is the now classic low budget horror/comedy sequel “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” (1987) which after more than thirty years remains timeless as well as unique within the horror genre.

The movie opens with a brief (and altered/reimagined/truncated) recap of the first movie. Ash Williams and his girlfriend, Linda, take a romantic vacation to a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods. While in the cabin, Ash plays a tape of archaeologist Raymond Knowby, the cabin’s previous inhabitant, reciting passages from the Book of the Dead, Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which he has discovered during an archaeological dig. The recorded incantation unleashes an evil force (also known as the Kandarian Demon) that kills and later possesses Linda, turning her into a “deadite”. Ash is then forced to decapitate his girlfriend with a shovel and bury her near the cabin.

Technical review

Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Evil Dead II to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. The aforementioned Blu-ray appears to be the same 2011 25th Anniversary release with the same set of supplements, but it includes bonus material from the European Special Edition.

Video Review

“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” arrives on Ultra HD with an exceptional HEVC H.265 encode that will be the preferred choice over the already released blu-ray.

Presumably coming from the same 4K remaster done by StudioCanal earlier this year for their European release, the 2160p transfer is remarkably sharper with far better detailing throughout. The movie comes with a fair amount of blurry, soft segments, which are related to the condition of the source and the original photography. There are also minor instances of negligible aliasing along the sharpest edges and very mild moiré patterns. Nevertheless, the picture quality is stunning and highly-detailed for a majority of the runtime. 

The 4K video also has improved contrast and brightness for the first time on the big screen. Since most of the movie takes place at night, the 1.85:1 image is continuously showered in velvety, raven shadows, providing a lovely, three-dimensional cinematic quality during some of the presentation’s best moments. The movie continues to impress with a Dolby Vision HDR presentation that delivers a vibrant, dynamic array of colors throughout.

Audio Review

“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” packs the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack enjoyed on the Blu-ray. This lossless mix remains a strong audio presentation with a sharp and expansive mid-range, delivering excellent clarity in the upper frequencies and during the loudest segments. This produces an awesomely broad and highly-engaging soundstage with distinct, well-prioritized dialogue reproduction and a potent, terrifically responsive low-end.

Special Features

4K Ultra HD Disc

  • Audio Commentary: This hilarious conversation features Bruce Campbell, director Sam Raimi, make-up effects wizard Greg Nicotero and co-writer Scott Spiegel. This is simply one of the best commentaries around because the four men have such an amazing, easy-going camaraderie that we can’t help but feel we’re part of the gang joining the fun. Campbell does most of the talking, which consists of funny remarks and jabs at everyone else, especially Raimi, but at the same time, the group does great at dissecting the movie and offering lots of insightful anecdotes surrounding the production. This is not only for fans. The track is an awesome listen for all!
  • Bloody and Groovy, Baby! (HD, 53 min): Produced by StudioCanal in 2018, the documentary is an entertaining tribute to Sam Raimi and Evil Dead 2. Pieced together from recent interviews with Guillermo del Toro, Roger Corman, Edgar Wright, Marcus Nispel and many other filmmakers and writers, each participant reminiscences on the first time watching the movie, share their thoughts on the production and even analyze the film’s lasting impact.

Blu-ray Disc

  • Swallowed Souls (HD, 98 min): Broken into seven pieces that can be watched separately or sequentially, each looks at various aspects of the production, and they feature cast & crew interviews reminiscing on their participation and share thoughts on its lasting impact.
  • Cabin Fever (SD, 30 min): From special make-up effects creator Greg Nicotero’s personal video library, these five segments are recordings during the creation, prep and shooting of the creature work and other make-up monstrosities, finishing with some deleted footage.
  • Road to Wadesboro (HD, 8 min): Filmmaker Tony Elwood, who also worked on the production, takes viewers on a tour of various shooting locations.
  • Behind the Screams (SD, 17 min): Narrated by Tom Sullivan, who worked in the special effects department, this featurette is essentially an assortment of stills of the creature and make-up work done in the movie. It’s interesting stuff, but not wholly exciting.
  • The Gore, the Merrier (SD, 32 min): A much better short doc about the production from the point of view of the special effects crew: Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero. While offering some praise to Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Mark Shostrom, it’s an enjoyable piece from three men with very fond memories of working on the film.
  • Trailers (HD, SD): Along with the original theatrical preview, the disc concludes with a series of trailers from the Lionsgate catalog.
  • Still Galleries (HD).

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