Army of Darkness (Scream Factory, Blu-ray)

Director- Sam Raimi

Cast - Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 3

Distributor - Scream Factory

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 11/12/2015

The Film (2.5/5)

   Ashley J. Williams aka Ash (Bruce Williams) is a department store house wares clerk at S-Mart. He went on a vacation with his girlfriend/group of friends to a cabin in the woods, where an archaeologist had been translating an ancient occult text the "Necronomicon". After Ash reads aloud from the book demonic deadites begin possessing the occupants of the cabin until Ash discovers with the help of the archaeologist daughter a passage that will send them away. Unfortunately, for him it takes him away with them, and back to the year 1300 A.D.

   Army of Darkness takes place in 1300 A.D. Ash finds himself captured by a medieval army convinced that he is a soldier for the enemy. When it becomes apparent that not only is he not a solider, but that he might be the "chosen one" he is tasked with retrieving the Necronomicon from far away cemetery. The book contains magic, that not only will resurrect demons, but also break the curse that currently plagues the land. Unfortunately, Ash fails at properly acquiring the book, and causes the army of the dead to rise and attack the land of the living. It's now up to Ash to take over as leader, and help lead a revolt against the Army of the Dead.

   The Evil Dead Trilogy of films is an interesting series in the horror genre. Each film in the sequence is completely different tonally from one another, while the first 2 qualify as part of the same sequence the second feels closer to a remake of the first, and only with an explanation from the filmmakers does Evil Dead 2 begin to feel like a true sequel. The first film is a pure visceral horror experience, it does have humorous moments, but it is overall a violent and unrelenting film.  Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn has a similar premise but the film blends horror and comedy achieving a solid mix of laughs and scares. That film creates something that could be described as a deranged fever dream.

     Army of Darkness goes in the entire other direction from the other films. It is a comedy first, and a horror film second. Raimi, Campbell, and company grew up on a steady diet of the Three Stooges, and other such slapstick comedy, and their early shorts display a fondness for such material. Even the earliest Evil Dead film displays homage to that style of comedy, but the comedy is completely overwhelmed by the sense of terror. With Army of Darkness we get a slapstick comedy in a medieval setting using creatures that pay excellent homage to the work of Ray Harryhausen, mixed with Raimiís now trademark demonic horror.

   You get the feeling when watching the Evil Dead films, and now Ash Vs. Evil Dead that this series is exactly what Raimi/Campbell want it to be at the time they make it.  The first was a perfect drive-in chiller, while the second mixed the horror with slapstick, the third and now the TV show is more of a gory comedy than anything that came before it.

   Army of Darkness, however, is too far in the comedy direction for my personal taste. I do enjoy it, just not as much as I do the prior 2 films. When I was younger I watched this every weekend, and at the time I got a lot out of it, now when I watch it the comedy has worn off, and that doesn't leave much.

 

Audio/Video (2.5 Theatrical Cut, 4/5 DC/International)

   Scream Factory presents 4 different cuts of Army of Darkness on this Blu-ray, 3 of them are presented in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfers in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The fourth the television version  is presented 1:85:1 in a 1080i aspect ratio. The theatrical cut is basically same transfer as the Screwhead Edition with the same issues that plagued that version, it's a decent upgrade from the DVD, but largely non-essential. The Director's Cut of the film, and the International Cut of the film look absolutely fantastic. Detail is excellent, colors are stable, natural, and pop from the screen, there is a nice level of grain present, as well, and blacks are solid.

   The 3 of the essential cuts presented utilize DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in English. The 5.1 tracks offer more depth into the experience with score and ambient noise, but both tracks are solid throughout.

 

Extras (5/5)

   Scream Factory have gone out of their way to create an insanely comprehensive release for Army of Darkness. Each disc in the set contains various extras, the first disc with the theatrical cut contains an over 90 minute making of for the film, while the second discs ports over a commentary with Sam and Ivan Raimi with Bruce Campbell. Aside from those we get tons of behind the scenes footage from the film, galleries, deleted, and alternative scenes, trailers, storyboards, making ofs, and more.

 

Overall

   Scream Factory have created the definitive release of Army of Darkness for North America (there is believe it or not a 6 disc European release). The Blu-ray in DC and International form looks outstanding.  Scream have crammed this set full of extras, and it maybe one of, if not their finest release this year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.