HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Army of Darkness: Collector's Edition
HTS Overall Score:86
“All right you primitive screwheads…Listen up! This…is my BOOMSTICK”! Ah, what can be more quotable than hearing Bruce Campbell, the man with the chin, spout fantastic one liners while shooting deadites with a Remington double barreled shotgun. Based upon the “Evil Dead” series, Sam Raimi decided to go more commercial with his third installment in the series. The first two films were ultra-low budget horror flicks, with some “splatstick” humor thrown in for good measure. With a slightly bigger budget and some studio backing, Rami took the core of the series and then just had fun with it, adding in blood, gore, and over the top slapstick humor in a medieval setting. What more could you ask for? While the original Blu-ray from Universal was a bit subpar (to say the least), SCREAM Factory has been licensed by Universal to put out a definitive 3 disc set that includes not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different cuts of the movie in one set with a VERY impressive lineup of extras.
Taking place right after “Evil Dead 2” where Ash (Bruce Campbell) is sucked into a time warp, we see where he’s dumped out at the end of that warp. Transported back through time, the store clerk with a penchant for guns and chainsaws awakens to the realization that he’s in 1300 B.C. and that the locals have a nasty problem with undead zombies called deadites. Thought of as a prisoner of war between two warring kingdoms, Ash is taken to the citadel of Lord Arthur, a pompous windbag of a knight who’s more interested in waging war on his neighbors, ruled by Duke Henry (Richard Grove) than taking care of the deadite problem. After using his chainsaw and shotgun (thus dubbed his boomstick), Ash convinces the leaders that he’s an ancient prophecy come to fruition. The one who will come from the sky and rid the people of the deadites.
Given a task of finding the Necronomicon (yes that good old evil book of spells from the 1st two movies), Ash is promised that when he returns with the book, the wise men will transport him back to his own time. Begrudgingly fulfilling his task, Ash wanders through the darkness and retrieves the book, only to run across a magically created “bad Ash” upon staying too long at an abandoned windmill). This wouldn’t be so bad since he actually kills this evil version of himself and buries it in pieces, but he KINDA botches the whole book of the dead thing, inadvertently causing the rebirth of his dismembered self and an entire horde of skeleton warriors. Now Ash is faced with the decision to get out of dodge and get back to his own time, or stay and help the human’s in their impossible quest to defeat these undead monsters and their lust for the book of the dead. Well, when you have a beautiful woman (Embeth Davidtz) you gotta do what you gotta do, and no movie is complete without a full out battle between humans and undead.
“Army of Darkness” is just one of those movies that really is watchable in any decade. It carries a ridiculous amount of fun along for the ride, being not completely horror, or completely comedy, but skating a fine line between the two. Hardcore “Evil Dead” fans sometimes have a problem with the movie straying too far from the gory horror nature of the series, but I personally don’t mind the deviation. It’s campy, gory and STUPID amounts of fun to boot. Bruce Campbell is allowed to seriously let loose, with off the wall references to the “Evil Dead” movies and more than enough one liners to satisfy any Arnold fan. The movie doesn’t even TRY to take itself seriously, as every line, every piece of fabric, and every wink and not to the other movies is just Raimi and Campbell poking fun at themselves. I don’t think that Raimi ever once thought that the movie should be taken seriously, as it’s obviously played with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and I have always through of it as the perfect ending for “Evil Dead” series. The first “Evil Dead” was near pure horror, with some very black humor thrown in to lighten up the mood, as it was a GOREFEST from beginning to end. The movie has even been banned in several countries. “Evil Dead 2” takes the humor a bit farther, and the movie balanced a great horror movie with some very sly humor that is more than obvious at times. “Army of Darkness” just takes that step a BIT farther, throwing all caution to the wind and just having a blast with the premise. I mean, you had ash put a chainsaw on his hand in the previous film and fall into a vortex. Where are you going to go after that with a serious film?
The first act of the film is sheer brilliance, with goofy one liners and some great bits of laughable horror to keep the story moving. Once we move on to Ash’s quest for the book of the dead, things change to a decidedly more comic nature. The windmill sequence with the mini ash’s and the “bad Ash” is pretty much a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, with Raimi poking fun at Disney elements, as well as even a little bit of Gulliver’s travels. The last act tries to make it a bit more serious, but it’s kind of hard when Evil Ash is making all sorts of Bruce Campbellis quotes and undead skeleton warriors are smart mouthing in a posh British accent.
What really holds the movie (and the series) togethetr is Bruce Campbell. The man is decidedly a B level actor, but he thrives in that world and has made himself into a veritable legend. If the movie is serious (Evil Dead), both serious and goofy (Evil Dead 2), or just plain off the wall nuts (Army of Darkness), he can handle the roles with masterful ease. The rest of the supporting cast does their job well, but really we’re here to see Bruce Campbell be Bruce Campbell. To make this even sweeter, we have the Theatrical Cut, the Director’s Cut and the International cut to enjoy here, and on the 3rd disc as an extra we even have the TV cut. I personally like the Theatrical having grown up with it, but the Director’s cut is objectively the better film, with a longer runtime and better pacing. I hate to say that I love the S-Mart ending of the theatrical cut better, but each one has their advantages and the inclusion of all the cuts allows the set to satisfy everyone.
Rated R for violence and horror / NR for International, Director's Cut or TV Cut
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56210[/img]If you remember the 2009 “Screwhead” edition of “Army of Darkness”, you’ll remember that the video encode was a nasty mess. Smeary and covered in DNR, giving an overly processed and overly sharpened image, it was was widely considered a rather poor release by Universal. Not to mention that it contained only the theatrical cut of the film instead of the other cuts that many DVD’s included over the years. When SCREAM Factory got ahold of it I was really curious to see what would be the results, especially since they made a vague statement about not being able to get a brand new master for the theatrical or Director’s cut. Color me REALLY surprised when I actually saw the disc in person. The theatrical version looks NOTHING like the nasty master Universal was using for the last release. From what I have been able to gather, the International cut was given a 4K remastering from the IP and that looks SUPERB! Let me reiterate that. It looks SUPBERB! Gone is the nasty DNR and sharpening, with razor sharp clarity and fine detail abounding. Grain is a bit thick at times, but still consistent throughout. Dark levels are good, with relatively inky blacks and great shadow detail.
The Theatrical and Director’s cuts looks almost as incredible as the 4k remastering, and for good reason. Instead of just taking the old master that Universal gave them, it appears that SCREAM took the 4k master of the International cut and then frankensteined it using supplementary footage from the older master. So for about 85-95 percent of the movie we’re getting the 4k remastering, and then certain scenes will be spliced in using the older master, which usually are VERY obvious. Look at the beginning where Ash is looking down into the deadite pit. The shifts and cuts stand out a bit more when you see the stunning 4K scenes a split second before. Even with those older mastered scenes, they look leagues better than the old Blu-ray as the filtering and DNR is gone from that set. I did see a bit of macroblocking here and there, but this 3 disc looks amazing, all things considering. There is ONE bone of contention that pops up, and unless you’re a hardcore “Army of Darkness” fan, you may not even notice it. In the theatrical cut, when Ash is on his quest for the book, there is a couple second scene where his horse jumps a stone wall that is unintentionally not there. The audio for it is still present, but the video looks like it was cut from when they frankensteined the two versions together. I personally don’t mind, as it is a very minor flaw in an otherwise amazing edition, but it may bother other people differently.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56218[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track for this set is a great sounding, and aggressive, track. There’s some heavy duty LFE when Ashe uses his boomstick, and certain aspects of the ending battle have a lot of rumble to them as well. The rattling of bones and the clanking of chains, along with the screaming of the crazed deadites, all come through with great directionality and detail. Surrounds are active with said sounds, as well as the tinier ambient noises. Dialog suffers very little, except for some minor strain in the top end. Vocals are always intelligible and fully balanced with the effects. I can’t tell much, if any, difference in quality from the “Screwhead” edition, but that’s not a negative, as that edition had a great sounding audio experience as well.
• Theatrical Version
• NEW Medieval Times: The Making Of "Army Of Darkness"
• Original Ending
• Original Opening With Optional Commentary by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell
• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Home Video Promo
• Director's Cut
• Audio Commentary with director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi
• Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage From KNB Effects (55 min.)
• Vintage Creating The Deadites Featurette (21 min.)
• Vintage "Making Of" Featurette
• Extended Interview Clips with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert
• International Cut
• Television Cut
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos from production designer Anthony Tremblay, visual effects supervisor William Mesa, and special make-up effects artists Tony Gardner
• Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos from the collection of super fan Dennis Carter Jr.
• Storyboards for Deleted or Alternate Scenes
• Vintage The Men Behind The Army Featurette
“Army of Darkness” holds up just as well as it did almost 23 years ago. It’s a stark change from the “splatstick” humor of the second and the near pure horror of the 1st “Evil Dead” film, but the almost cartoonish nature and clever blending of humor and goofy gore make it just as unique and classic as the afore mentioned films. SCREAM Factor have done a fantastic job at making this edition the definitive edition of the film, making it a complete joy to have on my shelf. There are a few glitches here and there, and it was shame that they couldn’t get 100% 4K transfer for the theatrical and director’s cuts, but the work they did to make those cuts as great as they could really must be commended. HIGHLY Recommended!
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC / 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS - HD MA 2.0
Studio: SCREAM Factory
Runtime: 81 minutes (Theatrical) / 96 minutes (Director's Cut) / 88 minutes (International) / 90 minutes (TV cut)
Blu-ray Release Date: October 27th 2015
Buy Army of Darkness: Collector's Edition On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: HIGHLY Recommended
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