A Demonic Lamberto Bava Double Feature

released April 30th, 2012 by Arrow Video
video: 1080p / 1.66:1 / Color / Mpeg-4 AVC
audio: 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono (English, Italian)
subtitles: English SDH, English
discs: 2 x single layer BD25 / Region B (locked)
supplements: Commentaries with director Lamberto Bava, SPFX artist Sergio Stivaleti and journalist Loris Curci on both films, Commentary with Bava, Stivaleti, star Geretta Geretta and composer Claudio Simonetti (on Demons only), five new featurettes (Dario’s Demonic Days, Defining an Era in Music, Creating Creature Carnage, Luigi Cozzi’s Top Italian Terrors and Bava to Bava), and liner notes by Calum Waddell
The
Demons limited edition 2-disc Blu-ray Steelbook contains both Demons and Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns, and is available through Amazon UK.

It’s nigh impossible to overstate the massive cult potential represented by Demons and Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns, a pair of shameless horror-pop wet dreams that oozed their way onto mid-80s cinema screens courtesy of executive producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava. The first is a deserved fan favorite, an irresistible and endlessly exploitable blend of excessive prosthetic gore and macho action motifs set to a pounding hard rock score featuring the likes of Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Saxon, and Go West. The second never reaches the same dizzying heights of genre excess, but keeps the entertainment level high with its pre-REC premise (an apartment building infested with devilish evil) and boundless schlock appeal. Slick and stylish and remarkably stupid, these are bloody brain-off escapism of the highest possible order. I love them both, and make no excuses for it.

That said, it should be no surprise that I’ve been following news of Arrow Video’s high definition treatments with the utmost anticipation, hoping against all hope that a label best known for top-flight packaging and a lamentable penchant for dropping the ball with regards to quality control would be capable of giving the Demons films the respect I felt they deserved. I received the label’s limited edition Steelbook (which combines both films in one glossy and blessedly flair-impaired package) just yesterday, and have been eagerly devouring its contents ever since. While my overall opinion of the release is quite positive – this is undeniably the best these films have ever looked on video – I was none-the-less frustrated to see Arrow fall so predictably short on the technical front. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

For now, the good stuff! While the vast majority of high definition Italian genre masters have been handled by the problematc LVR in Rome, Arrow Video have gone out of their way to see that the transfers for Demons and Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns were done properly. With no suitable HD materials available new from-the-negative restorations of both films were undertaken by the esteemed Cineteca Bologna in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata, and the results are as good as could ever have been hoped for.

Demons features light black levels, but is otherwise a faultless effort. The 1080p transfer presents the film at its intended theatrical ratio of 1.66:1, and the overall quality of the thing is impossibly crisp and impossibly clean in comparison to what’s come before. Detail is very strong where Gianlorenzo Battaglia’s moody photography allows, and Sergio Stivaletti’s close-up effects takes look exceptional. Colors are vibrant, brightness is at the appropriate levels (whites run dreadfully hot in many of the LVR transfers), and, as can be too rarely said of Italian genre cinema in HD, there’s a fine legitimate film texture underlying the image. Damage is minimal both here and in Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns, though the latter begins with a disclaimer – a handful of takes in the film present with a conspicuous judder that’s baked right into the original negative, and was impossible to satisfactorily resolve digitally. Otherwise Demons 2 is similarly flawless, with the benefit of tighter black levels all around. I only wish that was the end of the story…

Hints of just what’s wrong with Arrow Video’s Blu-rays of Demons and Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns begin with the disc specs themselves (these are both single layer treatments), but even that can’t explain the depth of what’s wrong here. The sad fact of the matter is that no label mangles their properties at the authoring level so regularly, so willfully, as Arrow Video does. They dependably do less with acceptable average bitrates than I’d have thought possible, and unfortunately the average bitrates here are a sight lower than that. Demons fairs the best overall, though its video stream only occupies a distinctly low 12.2 GB on disc. The 89 minute feature is Mpeg-4 AVC encoded at a middling average video bitrate of 18.0 Mbps, and compression artifacts are plentiful. The milky blacks regularly split into swaths of blocking, and the integrity of the film texture is compromised throughout. The 91 minute Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns goes lower still, receiving an Mpeg-4 AVC encode at an average video bitrate of just 15.6 Mbps, and its compression problems are more prevalent for the trouble. While I didn’t feel that either film looked especially bad in motion (even as poorly encoded as they are, these transfers can look very strong), the encode issues were still obvious enough in playback to trip my irate critical triggers – looking at the image up close is as disappointing an experience as I’ve had in a while. At the prices Arrow is currently demanding for these discs (around $40 for this Steelbook edition and ~$27 each for the individual releases through their storefront) this is just unacceptable.

Audio will be a sticking point for some. The English dub track provided for Demons is, interestingly enough, the same that graced the film’s American release, which features different use of some musical cues and sound effects as well as a few altered lines (the majority of the dubbed dialogue is the same as that head in the more common European dub). More important for many is the fact that the track is monophonic only, which substantially limits the audible scope of a film originally released Dolby stereo. The English track is encoded well however, in lossless 16-bit LPCM, and though flatter than I’d have preferred it still sounds pretty good. Otherwise Arrow have included the original Italian audio in 2.0 stereo, and the difference in both fullness and overall fidelity is considerable (flipping between the two with headphones was revelatory). Again presented in lossless 16-bit LPCM, the Italian audio sounds very robust, particularly during the various rock numbers. Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns sounds to be monophonic on both fronts (at least to these ears – I noted no separation in my headphone tests of either track), and the lossless 16-bit LPCM English and Italian tracks are less disparate than on Demons. The English dub sounds less crisp, unnaturally bass-heavy and perhaps even a bit compressed, while the Italian sounds better refined all around. Arrow offers English (for the Italian track) and English SDH (for the English track) subtitles for both films, and will hear no complaints on that front from me.

Supplements are of Arrow’s usual variety, if not quite up to the quantity that have graced some of their other efforts. Demons arrives with two feature commentaries, one with director Lamberto Bava, effects man Sergio Stivaletti, and journalist Loris Curci, and another with Bava, Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti, and star Geretta Geretta. The disc also comes with three new featurettes: Splatter Spaghetti Style – Luigi Cozzi’s Top Italian Terrors (11 minutes, HD), Defining an Era in Music – Claudio Simonetti on Demons (9 minutes, SD), and Dario’s Demon Days – Dario Argento Remembers Demons (10 minutes, HD). Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns receives another commentary, with Bava, Stivaletti, and Curci, as well as two new featurettes: Bava to Bava – A History of Italian Horror with Luigi Cozzi (16 minutes, SD) and Creating Creature Carnage with Stivaletti (20 minutes, SD). The limited edition Steelbook eschews many of the paper extras that are to be included with the individual releases (which are currently delayed due to printing troubles), but does come with a short booklet of notes by Calum Waddell. The individual LE releases will include a fold-out poster, the usual multiple cover options, as well as parts one and two of a newly produced Demons 3 comic.

The Blu-ray debuts of Demons and Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns have a lot of potential, far more than Arrow have typically allowed, but it’s a shame they’ve been bogged down by technical issues that might so easily have been remedied. I didn’t pay anywhere near retail for this limited edition release (hooray gift certificates!), and no more than I’m out of pocket I can live with the limitations, but the high asking price makes for a tough overall recommendation. If you can overlook the persistent compression troubles then there really is a lot to love here, and I think that’s as close to a recommendation as I’m going to get.

Demons intermission card

Judder in Demons 2

Demons

Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns

Screenshots were captured as full resolution .png in Totem Movie Player, then compressed to .jpg at a quality setting of 97% using the ImageMagick command line tool.

Demon’s Souls

dir. Hidetaka Miyazaki
released October 6, 2009 by Atlus Games
developed by
From Software and SCE Japan Studio
written by Aditi Tana, Christopher Fairbank,
and Clare Corbet
original music by Shunsuke Kida
Demon’s Souls is available exclusively for PlayStation 3, and can be purchased in a variety of editions from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, and Amazon JP.

Note: Cover excepted, the images in this review were thieved from RPGFan.com – as such I’ve left their watermark intact.

As is readily evidenced by practically every article I sign my name to, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of popular taste, be it with film, music, or in this case gaming. I’m also not much of a game critic, as should be obvious from the hefty slate of essays I’ve penned on the subject (this is the only other one thus far). Still, so much of my time is spent playing video games that I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t written more on them. But enough of my excuses. With domestic distributor Atlus Games recently announcing that the title’s North American servers were about to go offline for keeps, I decided it was high time to give this demon its due. Though it has certainly earned its reputation as one of the most uncompromising efforts ever to hit this console generation, such a reputation belies the greater qualities of the thing. Demon’s Souls is, to put it simply, one of the best games I’ve ever played, and worth remembering as a piece of its experience creeps towards an inevitable end.

Demon’s Souls’ narrative sounds more convoluted on paper than it actually is in practice. King Allant XII, growing old and increasingly mad, sought to bring power and prosperity to his kingdom Boletaria through the banned practice of the soul arts, but in his greed instead awakened the Old One – an ageless soul-devouring demon lulled to slumber eons earlier by a devoted few. Now a colorless fog has descended upon Boletaria, and with it the soul-hungry minions of King Allant and the Old One. The citizens and soldiers of the kingdom have been turned deathless, soulless slaves who challenge all outsiders with lethal force, and the fog is spreading, breaching the borders of Boletaria and threatening the rest of the world.

The player assumes the role of one among the condemned droves who seek to remedy Boletaria’s troubles, though whether for personal glory our out of genuine heroism is entirely up to the player. Things begin in the usual manner, with the player navigated about a simple level and taught the basics of combat, healing, and what have you – usual, that is, until an obese demon appears to unceremoniously smash the player to a pulp. The tutorial’s brutal conclusion grants players the single most important piece of advice they’ll receive for the game ahead. The creatures of Demon’s Souls can and will kill you, and you will die.

The real game begins after death, when the player finds that their character’s soul is anchored to the ancient Nexus – a massive shrine, in the depths below which lurks the Old One. There the player meets the Maiden in Black, a sightless demon who offers the player soul power ‘so the world might be mended’. From the ancient archstones of the Nexus the player can access the infested lands of Boletaria, from the prominence of Boletarian Palace to the plague-ridden depths of the Valley of Defilement, where the fun really begins…

Much has been said of Demon’s Souls difficulty, and with good reason. The learning curve is steep when it comes to dealing with new enemies, with each area of the kingdom possessing its own unique threats, and while the mechanics of combat are intuitive the game is very unforgiving of mistakes. To complicate matters further, attempting the game in soul form (as must be done in the first level) reduces the player’s health by as much as 50%, leaving even less room for error. The cost of carelessness is considerable. While any collected items are retained, collected souls  - the game’s currency – are lost upon death. The loss is temporary, provided you can reach the area of your demise and touch your own blood stain without dying again. Add to all this the lack of a pause function and the infrequency of checkpoints (they can only be found at the beginning or end of a level, with no save points in between) and you have a game whose potential to frustrate is astronomical.

This potential extends even to the side characters players meet along the way, several of whom are veritably overflowing with hopeless rhetoric (though at least these, unlike the lauded Skyrim‘s, blessedly only speak when spoken to). And who can blame them? Demon’s Souls definitely stacks the odds against, from the more obvious examples above to the comparably modest tedium of armor and weapons that demand constant repair, but the realization that must be made for the game to really be enjoyed is that it doesn’t do so to any cruel purpose (though cruel it can certainly appear at times). Demon’s Souls is ultimately about perseverance against such odds, either to save it all or take it all, and the satisfaction one can find along the way is palpable.

In terms of tone, for once the ‘dark fantasy’ designation is wholly appropriate. The narrative and back story are alive with a particularly Lovecraftian brand of dread, what with ominous demon-filled fog descending upon a corrupt vestige of humanity that didn’t know better than to leave well enough alone. Other moments, as when the player is creeping along, waste-deep in filth and plague babies (I’ll leave you to imagine those for yourself), to reach a saintly young woman who abandoned God and accepted a demon’s soul after He abandoned the afflicted dregs whose troubles she sought to ease, are of a very different sort of dark. Environments throughout are appropriately bleak, but beautifully composed, and no discussion of the game would be complete without honoring composer Shunsuke Kida’s contribution. Kida achieves wonders with a minimal orchestra, alternating regularly between minimal harp-fueled atmospherics and more brash, baroque passages, maintaining a thoroughly unique sound throughout. Perhaps more than any other individual element of the game, the score is excellent stuff, and makes it fully worth the effort to track down one of the releases that has the stand-alone soundtrack included.

Given the rest of what the game has to offer, the online aspect of Demon’s Souls is of relatively minor stuff, but even so its significance should not be underestimated. Aside from an intentionally limited messaging system and the ability to summon other players to assist in your quest (or invade other player’s games to regain your bodily form), those playing online will find the blood stains left by other player’s deaths, which can be touched to show their final moments in ghostly fashion, and see the transparent soul-forms of the other players running the same level. It’s this latter aspect, minor though it is, that I’ve found most significant in the times I’ve played. The world of Demon’s Souls is effectively barren of friend or humanity, and loaded for bare with things that singularly wish to murder you. It can be quite a lonely place in no uncertain terms, particularly when one considers the shear mass of time it may take to complete a play through (my first ran a lean 95 hours). The brief glimpses of other players involved in the same events as you provides a welcome pretense of camaraderie, a sense that you’re not so alone in this thing after all, regardless of the lack of any direct communication.

As of the end of May 31st of this year that will all be in the past, for North American players at least. Demon’s Souls will still be playable of course, and remain one of the very best of its sort ever devised, but there’s no denying that a bit of that spark that made it great will be going the way of the dinosaurs. I’d have recommended Demon’s Souls regardless of its online circumstances, but such as they are I’m recommending that those interested take the plunge at some point over the next month if at all possible, so that you might experience the whole of the thing while you can. With a current going rate of well under $20 for new copies (I snagged mine for half that) what have you got to lose?

The Evil Dead

Year: 1981  Company: Rennaisance Pictures   Runtime: 85′
Director: Sam Raimi   Writers: Sam Raimi   Cinematography: Tim Philo   Music: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly, Bob Dorian, Sam Raimi
Disc company: Starz / Anchor Bay   Video: 1080p 1.85:1 / 1.33:1   Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English,
Dolby Digital 2.0 French   Subtitles: English SDH,  Spanish   Disc: BD50 (Region A) / DVD-9
Release Date: 08/21/2010   Limited Edition 2-disc is OOP, but available through third party sellers.  The current single-disc standard edition is available for purchase through Amazon.com
The Wtf-Film Guide to Essential Blu-ray is the record of one man’s eclectic journey to uncover the very best of the weird and wonderful that Blu-ray has to offer.  And with Halloween nary a month and a half away it seemed appropriate to cover an oddball horror classic in this, the inaugural edition of the column.  Mmmm… manufactured timeliness.  Can you dig it?

It’s difficult to know just what to say about The Evil Dead, a bona fide cult phenomenon that’s spawned two successful sequels, sent its writer and director to the top of the Hollywood food chain, and converted thousands of seemingly well-adjusted individuals into foaming-at-the-mouth genre fanatics over the course of the past three decades.  Perhaps the greatest compliment I can level at it is that even after thirty long years it has lost none of its spectacularly deranged funhouse appeal.  Current generations can have their sleek and soulless remakes and mindless torture porn, but my heart will always belong to The Evil Dead.

Low budget horror of the highest possible order, The Evil Dead begins in more or less familiar territory and ends anywhere but.  An air devilish playfulness is obvious from the start.  The film introduces itself with a roaring Steadicam-style point-of-view motif, thrusting the audience into the perspective of its eponymous malignance before a human cast is ever produced!  Once the cast does arrive it is almost immediately threatened, and narrowly avoids the certain doom of a disastrous head-on collision.  It’s a moment indicative of the a-thrill-a-minute mentality of The Evil Dead‘s production, and the first notice to the audience that they’re in for a bumpy ride.

Somewhere between its genre flourishes – a creepy cabin, a dark cellar, fog-bound woods full of unnatural noises – the film’s meager plot unwinds.  Five young friends are off to the wilds of Tennessee for a touch of low-rent rest and relaxation.  In rummaging about their creaky vacation spot they discover some strange memorabilia – a skeletal knife, an ancient book bound in human flesh, and the tape-recorded ramblings of a mysterious archaeologist – which they immediately set about messing with.  Before long the likable if dim-witted cast has run afoul of obscure demonic forces, and a delirious nightmare of possession begins…

The setup for The Evil Dead is as sparse as it is brief, a fact that works well in the film’s favor.  Contemporary horrors were often burdened by their dependency on cheap titillation at best or drab dramatic fill at worst, but writer and director Sam Raimi foregoes all of that and instead focuses on assaulting both his characters and his audience with a precisely timed assortment of false alarms, sight gags and legitimate frights.  That’s not to say that the story isn’t important.  Quite the contrary.  That the premise is so grounded in familiar genre tropes only enhances the insanity of what follows, providing a stable foundation from which The Evil Dead‘s house of hysterical horrors can emerge.  There’s a sort of sideshow appeal to the terrors on display here that’s hard to quantify, something that keeps us looking no matter how outlandish or cringe-worthy the film becomes.  What’s more is that on some subversive, primal level it’s fun, a factor that keeps the film from feeling cruel or mean-spirited even at its most grueling.


Who’s that guy?

And grueling The Evil Dead can certainly be, though never to such an extent that its playful spirit is entirely obfuscated.  Though clearly inspired by the dreadfully serious horror blockbuster The Exorcist, Raimi and his co-conspirators were just as clearly not concerned with the existential or spiritual concerns of demonic possession.  The focus here is squarely on entertaining the audience through the physical and psychological torments so judiciously ladeled upon the cast, a focus that brings The Evil Dead closer to the realm of slapstick comedy and Looney Tunes than to the nastily viceral horrors of The Exorcist.  While overt comedy wouldn’t enter into the series until Evil Dead II, the over-the-top comedy of gore that serves as both a retread of and a sequel to the first film, the same sensibilities are certainly in evidence.  This is the sort of film that proves just how paper-thin the line between comedy and horror really is, and much of its success lies in the fact that it frequently takes the latter to such extremes that it flirts with becoming the former.

Produced for less than half a million dollars and filmed on grainy 16mm film stock, I never cease to be amazed at just how well made The Evil Dead really is.  Sure, the extensive gore effects are so fiscally constrained as to be silly at times (a silliness that would become more and more intentional as the series wore on), but the film maintains a cinematic vitality that’s simply not seen in most of its kind.  Much of the crew of The Evil Dead had worked together to produce short 8mm subjects in the past, including the legendary Within the Woods (the short horror film concocted to drum up support for this feature production), and that experience definitely paid off here.

The Evil Dead is positively gut-loaded with old-school atmosphere and inventive design (including my favorite visual, a collapsed bridge whose steel supports have been curled so as to look like a menacing hand), with an uncharacteristically professional sound mix to match.  Save for some inherent grittiness of the 16mm photography rarely gives itself away, bolstered by thoughtful key lighting and often bizarre compositions.  Raimi’s camera follows the cast from a variety of strange and often hand-held angles, in one case beginning upside down and behind the subject, then sweeping over to end in an extreme close-up of their face.  Then there is the editing (by Edna Ruth Paul and Joel Coen, who would coordinate again for the Coen brothers’ debut feature Blood Simple), the bane of so many low-budget low-talent productions, and an element that’s in stronger form here than in most films, period.  Taken as a whole The Evil Dead can be a disarming experience, a drive-in shocker that defies expectations, transcending the limitations of genre and budget to become something deliciously unique and totally its own.

There’s plenty more to be said of The Evil Dead, its horrors, and its star (what’s his name again?), but I’ll leave it to others to say it.  This is a film best experienced first hand rather than talked about, and I’ll not spoil further details of it here.  Just rest assured that its reputation is well-earned and that yes, you need to see it.  Enough said.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of saying the same thing in the past, but the more marginal Blu-ray releases I see the more I hate the same tired assumption that such and such subpar product is “perhaps the best this low-budget cult picture is ever going to look“.  I realize that expectations are low for genre efforts, largely because of decades worth of sub-par theatrical presentations and even worse video editions, but when generally trustworthy reviewers begin excusing crap like the recent Blu-ray of The Hills Have Eyes with idiotic assumptions about filmic limitations (“You can’t improve beyond the source” my ass) I get angry.  I count myself lucky that there are at least a few genuinely fantastic genre releases on my side, and couldn’t be happier to add Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray edition of The Evil Dead to the list.

Anchor Bay has had more than its fair share of HD troubles, mostly to do with a spate of overly-processed DNR-heavy affairs (Dawn of the Dead anyone?) from early in the format’s history, but there’s nothing to fault them for here.  The Evil Dead makes its high definition debut in a new director-supervised 1080p transfer minted from the original negative, and I find it genuinely difficult to believe that the film could ever look much better.  Presented in both theatrical 1.85:1 and the originally-intended 1.33:1, this new edition excels beyond past DVD editions to an extent I hardly thought possible.  Detail shows a marked improvement across the board, with the backgrounds of exterior shots finally appearing as more than just amorphous blobs, while color saturation and contrast take a turn for the natural.  Film grain is present throughout, and is predictably more pronounced in the matted 1.85:1 edition, and aside from some questionable moments during the opening title the strong AVC encode (26.3 Mbps average video bitrate for the 1.33:1 version, minutely higher for 1.85:1) never falters.  Framing differs between the two aspect ratios but not always as one might expect.  The 1.85:1 edition almost always appears to have more information at the sides, though the amount is not consistent across the board.  The intended 1.33:1 feels more comfortably framed, but even the 1.85:1 edition isn’t so ridiculously constrained as in past editions (see the 8th comparison set below).  This wipes the floor with what came before, and I’d say it looks damned good.

For the sake of full disclosure, HD screenshots were captured as .png at full resolution in MPlayer and compressed to .jpg using Image Magick.  After comparing to the original .png files the results appeared quite transparent to these eyes, even when zooming in 2-3x.  DVD screenshots were captured in .png format in VLC from the 2002 Anchor Bay edition, upconverted to 1920×1080 in GIMP and compressed to .jpg format at a quality setting of 95%.  DVD screen shots appear first, followed by the 1.85:1 and finally 1.33:1 HD variants.  Frame matches are exact in all cases.

Comparison Set #1

Comparison Set #2

Comparison Set #3

Comparison Set #4

Comparison Set #5

Comparison Set #6

Comparison Set #7

Comparison Set #8

Comparison Set #9

Comparison Set #10

Comparison Set #11

Comparison Set #12

No original monophonic mix is included, but this is no surprise (the 2002 DVD was lacking in that department as well), and the 5.1 surround track gets a decent technical bump in Dolby TrueHD.  The Evil Dead‘s outlandish sound design, with clocks ticking like guillotines and voices sneaking up from beyond, lends itself well to the surround format, and the more bombastic moments come across very nicely.  A lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 French dub track is also included, and the feature is supported by optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.

The sole new supplement in this package is a brand new audio commentary that gathers director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and the star of the show (who has sadly gone on to dwell in obscurity, with no hit television series or successful film productions to his credit at all), and it’s a blast.  Detailed production information goes hand in hand with anecdotes, and The Evil Dead may be one of the most fascinating film production to hear about, ever.  It’s abundantly clear that this was a labor of (mad) love for all involved, and that they genuinely cherish the experience regardless of how awful it was at times.

If you have the standard single-disc Blu-ray version of The Evil Dead then the above commentary is the only extra on board.  The now-OOP and needlessly limited edition two-disc version collects most of the supplements from Anchor Bay’s Ultimate Edition DVD from 2006 and piles them onto a dual layer DVD that accompanies the feature Blu-ray.  This is the only sore spot of this release, in my mind.  The dual layered Blu-ray, even after carrying 2 separate encodes of the film, still has more than enough space to cover the 6.9 GB of standard definition material presented on the DVD.  So why not put it there?  I have no idea, but those who already own the Ultimate Edition can at least rest assured that the additional disc in the LE Blu-ray doesn’t have anything on it that they haven’t already seen.

The disc 2 standard definition supplements are as follows: One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead (54 minutes), The Evil Dead: Treasures From the Cutting Room Floor (60 minutes), The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet B…. C…… (29 minutes), Discovering Evil Dead (13 minutes), Unconventional (19 minutes), At the Drive-In (12 minutes), Reunion Panel (31 minutes), Book of the Dead: The Other Pages (2 minutes), Make-Up Test (1 minute), a theatrical trailer (2 minutes), four television spots (2 minutes), and a brief photo gallery.  It amounts to just under four hours of material, all told, and is well worth the time it takes to view it all.

I could lament again how disappointing it is that Starz / Anchor Bay needlessly released a limited edition and have now saddled potential buyers with a Blu-ray with very little supplemental heft, but I won’t.  With The Evil Dead looking as it does here I’d have settled for nothing and less in the way of supplements.  Yes, I think it looks that good.  There’s no question here as to whether to recommend or not recommend.  Just buy it.  It’s good for you.

in conclusion
Film: Excellent  Video: Excellent  Audio: Very Good   Supplements: Excellent -
Harrumphs: Missing some past supplements, and needlessly a limited edition.
Packaging: Standard 2-disc Blu-ray case.

Bayi Ajaib

a.k.a. MIRACULOUS CHILD / INDONESIAN ‘THE OMEN’
P.T. Empat Gajah Film [1982] 94′
country: Indonesia
director: TINDRA RENGAT
cast: RIZWI IBRAHIM, RINA HASSIM,
cast: MUNI CADER, W. D. MOCHTAR

The Indonesian film industry has led an interesting, if troubled, life. Begun in 1926 by Dutch settlers and utilized throughout World War II as a propaganda machine for the occupying Japanese, the industry was turned towards nationalist and anti-Western propaganda by the post-war Sukarno government. Sukarno’s regime was overthrown in 1966, and the incoming New Order opened the medium to wider development while simultaneously restricting it with wide-ranging censorship laws. In spite of any number of political obstacles, the Indonesian film industry had come into its own by the end of the 1960′s and reached a veritable boiling point by the 1980′s.

Under the rule of Suharto’s New Order, film imports were all but unheard of [undoubtedly deemed dangerous to Suharto's authoritarian ambitions and his proposed social order] – but that didn’t stop producers from seeing the potential box office draw of productions based wholly or in part on popular international efforts. As had been the case in many other countries, Indonesia’s exploitation market, in particular, took notice of the trends around it, developing a unique and identifiable brand of horror that combined a whole world of genre traditions – from European gore to supernatural Hong Kong action.

Continue reading