EVIL ED (1995) Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Anders Jacobsson
Arrow Video USA

Nineties DTV gorefest EVIL ED seemed like an unlikely candidate for a three-disc special edition, but here it is on both sides of the pond from Arrow Video.

After his last editor suffers a nervous breakdown and eats a grenade, producer Sam Campbell (Olof Rhodin) of European Distributors' "Splatter and Guts Department" hires mild-mannered editor Edward Tor Swenson (Johan Rudebeck) to make the required cuts to the eight-part "Loose Limbs" splatter franchise for a multi-million dollar international distribution deal that includes some more censorious territories. Isolated in Campbell's country cottage and away from his wife Barbara (Cecilia Ljung) and daughter Emmy (Natalie Kay), Ed starts to unravel while cutting through the carnage. Hallucinations and nightmares become increasingly more vivid but Campbell threatens his job when Ed tells him that he is not up to the job. Horrifying apparitions goad him into making it his task to clean up the sick minds behind the series and those who enjoy them, making Ed a danger to anyone who happens upon the cottage, be it the ruthless producer, production flunkies (Per Löfberg, LFO), or punkish burglars (not to mention Ed's own wife and child when they become concerned about his absence).

Perhaps the most successful of the small subgenre of films so slavishly inspired by THE EVIL DEAD (perhaps more so the sequel, a poster of which appears in two locations in the film) that also included the Belgian RABID GRANNIES and the Italian EVIL CLUTCH in their combination of latex gore, horror and comedy, and surrealistic touches (along with the influence of Italian horror in the blue gel lighting) while also anticipating the recursive horrors of WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE and even the more recent and artier BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO in which a British sound engineer starts to lose touch with reality while creating the foley effects for an Italian horror film. Poking fun not only at state-sponsored Swedish productions (Ed is working on a Bergmanesque black and white film when he is first introduced) and the petty damage wrought by censors with nonsensical cuts, the film is really too absurd to be problematic for wanting to have it both ways with Ed going nuts from too much exposure to cinematic violence. Ed's mental deterioration seems more influenced by TAXI DRIVER, but the film is less interested in actually charting it than by stringing together a series of set-pieces glutted with gore, Raimi-esque camera movements, and de rigueur one-liners. The first two-thirds of the film are set mostly in the cottage, seeming to run out of steam and move to a mental hospital for a self-contained third act that substitutes one barely introduced and sketchily characterized final girl for another. The final gore set-piece is worth the wait but the film's overall value may be that of curiosity for those viewers who recall seeing the head-splitting video art on the rental shelves but never picked it up (or did and are interested to see how well it cleans up in HD). The gore effects were masterminded by Göran Lundström who picked up experience in the midst of this three year shoot with stints on the Full Moon pics THE LURKING FEAR and SHRUNKEN HEADS before moving on to a more mainstream career with credits like the ARN films in Sweden and titles X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and CLOUD ATLAS stateside. Director/cinematographer Anders Jacabsson only directed one other feature, the 2010 film INSANE, and has found more work as a DP on Swedish episodic television.

Released direct to VHS by A-Pix Entertainment in rated and unrated versions along with a laserdisc by Image Entertainment, the cut version (87 minutes) has persisted on subsequent DVD editions from Image and Ardustry along with streaming versions while the original cut has been available overseas on DVD in several territories. Arrow's new edition was preceded by a German Blu-ray of the original cut last year that included an English stereo track, but Arrow's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray represents the "Special ED-ition" announced by the filmmakers back in 2010 with a longer cut (98:39) as the feature attraction and the same master used for the original cut (93:09) on the bonus Blu-ray disc of this three-disc set (the second disc being a DVD copy of the entire contents of disc one). While we cannot speak for the European master, the American home video transfers were as noisy as the original film was grainy with its dark settings, blue gels, and saturated reds. The new transfer still looks like a nineties low-budget film – shot on a TV news surplus Arri BL 16mm camera (workprint footage in the extras show hand-drawn matte lines and the Universal Studios toy clapboard used until the clapper snapped off at the start of a take) – but the colors in the art direction pop, the moody lighting and color gels are free of distortion, and the make-up effects actually hold up well (a soft, flickering shot turns out to be the fault of the original slow motion photography and is revealed elsewhere to have been left out originally because of how it looked). The only audio options are an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0 stereo option (the Swedish version would have been dubbed as well since some of the workprint footage in the extras reveal that the production was shot in English and then post-dubbed). The synth score has a bit more spread but has nowhere near the presence as the dubbing (which includes a vocal cameo by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2's Bill Moseley) and foley track. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

The new cut can be watched preceded by an optional introduction by editor Doc and director Jacobsson (4:13) who spend the first minute or so cracking up before mentioning that the special edition was originally announced in 2010, and the extras show that the pair have not been lolling about for the last six years. "You Keep 'Em Heads Rollin" (45:29) looks at the film from conception to reception with comments from Jacobsson, Doc, Lundström, Rudebeck, Ljung, Löfberg, and make-up effects assistant Kaj Steveman (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN). They discuss how the failure of their comparatively big-budget "Hollywood-style" HIGHLIGHT lead them to approach their next project with more a guerilla style. Starting production without a finished script, they planned to shoot only for four weeks and finished without shooting two major scenes: Ed's hallucination with "Bondage Face" and the White Demon (Lundström also reveals that he was dissatisfied with the original "Fridge Monster" and sculpted a new one while working in the states for the reshoot). After finding the first cut boring, they decided to cut it down and shoot a new climax set in a hospital (making Löfberg's character injured rather than killed in an earlier scene, casting singer-songwriter Camela Leierth as his damsel-in-distress and Gert Fylking as the third act's SWAT captain), and recruiting young stuntman Kimmo Rajala (who took some insane risks in the first of roughly three-hundred feature credits). They also shot a new opening with Sam's previous editor (the film originally opened with the foreign film Ed was editing). Although shot in English, the production was dubbed by talent from the English-language Radio Bandit station. In discussing the film's distribution, they reveal that Smart Egg Pictures took it to Cannes and sold it in sixty countries while they made a poor domestic deal. This featurette – in Swedish with English subtitles – also appeared on the German Blu-ray.

"Before Ed" (9:47) looks at the early filmmaking endeavors of the main core – who were inspired first by STAR WARS and then later by Raimi – including the killer flower short DAY OF THE EASTERLILLY, the two-part video gorefest short THE RESSURECTION OF MICHAEL MYERS, and SEX, LIES, AND VIDEO VIOLENCE. "Beyond Ed" (10:13) looks at their subsequent collaborations, including Michael Hjorth's "THE THING in Sweden" film THE UNKNOWN (a work-for-hire that Jacobsson thought of as a chance to shoot in scope on location but turned out to be a four-day shakycam-fest), a pilot for HUNGER which was developed into a feature project with Twentieth Century Fox Sweden before falling through, and the slasher INSANE (available on streaming services stateside). "Reconstructing Edward" (21:05) follows Jacobsson and Doc from 2011 when they started sorting through the elements for the film stored in Doc's kitchen pantry through 2016 when they finally got the film and the added scenes scanned, cleaned, color-corrected, and remixed.

The section on "New Scenes" (6:10) features Jacobsson and Doc discussing some of the bits they have added, including a montage of Ed at work, the reasons for the deletion of which they could not recall but discovered that the audio was missing when they scanned the film, as well as the restoration of the balcony scene at the end of the second act which was initially removed because they thought the flickering of the slow motion footage would be distracting. The deleted scenes featurette (21:35) includes an extension of the pre-credits sequence, lengthy and ultimately superfluous introductory scenes for Barbara and Emmy at home, Barbara's first visit to the cottage to bring Ed some of his belongings, among others during the first half-hour that slowed the film down. A gallery of teasers and trailers includes the new "Special ED-ition Trailer" (1:04), the original English Trailer (1:59), English-subtitled Swedish trailer (2:29) and two teasers (0:34 and 0:32), as well as two themed teasers: "Bergman" teaser (0:44) in which clips from the foreign film-within-a-film at the start give way to gore, and the "Nutty Professor" trailer (1:44) highlight the limb-lopping Dr. Wrench character from one of the "Loose Limbs" entries. Also included is an image gallery (0:31) and an Easter Egg called "Daddy's Gonna Cut: Bits and Pieces" (9:01) which is an assemblage of amusing bits from the assemblage of the making-of.

Besides the original cut of the film (93:09) on the bonus Blu-ray disc (which will presumably not be part of a future standard combo edition), the disc also features the extraordinary long behind the scenes documentary "Lost in Brainland" (186:39) – the title referring to a line in the film that was also proposed as a title for the film between THE CENSOR and EVIL ED – a longer version of the making-of on the first disc (on the "Beyond Ed" featurette, Jacobsson joked with Doc about the thoroughness of the INSANE making-of featurette which he spent six months on, making one wonder how long that one was). The discussion of HIGHLIGHT are expanded with some on-set news channel visits, its poor reception, and there is more on the planning of EVIL ED (including input from co-writer Christer Ohlsson who discusses his attempts to temper the humor and the horror). Doc reads from the production diaries with some behind the scenes video and workprint footage as illustration, the featurette expands upon the editing, the two new sequences, the new opening, and the hospital third act. The featurette also expands upon the film's domestic reception with news station reviews as well as its contemporary following with some YouTube video reviews. Also on the disc is a collection of bloopers (4:41) from the "Heads Rollin'" featurette. Not supplied for review were the reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys, and the collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film by horror journalist Michael Gingold. (Eric Cotenas)