Part of the enduring appeal of Sam Raimi’s 1987 splatter classic is that it feels like your discovery, or even something you could have made yourself.
Essentially a more expansive recap of 1981’s The Evil Dead embellished with gags from co-writer Scott Spiegel’s 1979 short Attack Of The Helping Hand, this sort-of sequel sees Ash (Bruce Campbell) menaced once again by demons from another dimension in the original cabin in the woods.
Cobbled together by Raimi and co for just $3.6m, it’s an X-rated cartoon of canted angles, delirious, try-anything SFX, and gale-force POV shots.
Upon rewatching, it’s clear nobody could replicate its fizzy youthful fearlessness. But the combination of hokey, home-made touches – Raimi’s Oldsmobile, the dry ice, the game-but-lame stop-motion – and Campbell’s winking performance, offers hope that you could.
However, the cultish goodwill might fade a little with this ‘special edition’ Blu. Unavoidably grainy, it does so little to distinguish itself from previous releases that hardcore fans – are there are any other kind? – may feel as hacked off as a hastily severed hand.
The only substantial new extra, a feature-length Making Of called Swallowed Souls, contains anecdotes familiar from the Raimi/Campbell/Spiegel/ SFX guru Greg Nicotero DVD commentary (included here) alongside awesome backstage footage of Campbell throwing himself around like a rag doll.
“The stunt double was not used very much,” he notes, wearily, of his punishingly physical performance. “He was a ham!” smiles co-star Sarah Berry, picked, according to Campbell, because, “She had a great scream and she seemed game.”
Tellingly, there’s no Sam Raimi at all on the new-to- Blu material, but if you squint your eyes when brother Ted’s talking, it almost works.
Equally telling is how eager the crew are to relive the experience. New featurette Cabin Fever comprises 30 minutes of makeup tests, actor torturing and throwaway ‘moments’ that never made the final cut (such as ‘Ash Eats A Squirrel’).
Meanwhile, the ‘archival’ featurettes include 17 minutes of stills introduced by actor Tom Sullivan and The Gore The Merrier, half an hour of Nicotero and his team talking about plastic chainsaws and buckets of bile.
The final newbie, Road To Wadesboro, is an eight-minute trip back to the North Carolina shooting location with ‘special props’ man Tony Elwood, who’s also credited as ‘Luggage Monkey’ on the film’s IMDb page.
It’s not very good, but it does underline something reassuring: this is a film everyone feels like they own.