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Army Of Darkness – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Army-of-DarknessBound in human flesh and inked in blood, the ancient “Necronomicon” – the Book of the Dead – unleashes unspeakable evil upon mankind in this outrageously hilarious third chapter of Evil Dead Trilogy from legendary director Sam Raimi (Darkman, Drag Me to Hell) and producer Robert Tapert (Ash vs. Evil Dead).   On October 27, 2015, SCREAM FACTORY™ is proud to present ARMY OF DARKNESS Collector’s Edition, featuring the Theatrical Cut of the film, the Director’s Cut (with 15 minutes of extra footage), the International Cut and the TV version (in standard definition). This definitive collector’s edition of ARMY OF DARKNESS is jam-packed with a wealth of bonus content, including new interviews with star and co-producer Bruce Campbell and the cast, special make-up effect artists Howard Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero, audio commentary, alternate and deleted scenes and much more – all collected in a special 3-Disc Blu-ray set!

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Film 

Back to do battle with the hideous “Deadites,” Bruce Campbell returns to the role of Ash, the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart’s housewares division. Demonic forces time warp him – and his ’73 Oldsmobile – into England’s Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty and faces legions of the undead. Can Ash save the living from the evil dead, rescue his girlfriend, and get back to his own time?

With the success of Darkman, Sam Raimi was finally able to bring to life his vision of Ash fighting deadites in medieval times.  Originally titled The MediEvil Dead, the film was the first in the series to be backed by a major studio.  However, the film is still done on the cheap.  Bringing the comedic aspect of Evil Dead 2 to the forefront this time around, Raimi unleashes an insanely fun, quotable film featuring an encore performance by Bruce Campbell and a tribute to the comedy and adventures Sam Raimi enjoyed growing up.

Army of Darkness treats us immediately to another recap.  This time it features new footage mixed in with footage from Evil Dead 2.  This time around Linda is cameo’d by a young Bridget Fonda, which is pretty fun.  We also learn that Ash worked at a department store prior to taking his long weekend vacation to the cabin in the woods (zing).  If Army of Darkness 2 actually comes to fruition, I can only hope the tradition of re-shooting and retelling the events of the first film is kept around and had fun with.

The film finally progresses this story far away from the cabin.  This doesn’t stop it from keeping around the series tropes.  A lot of the acts we loved in the first to film are revisited in creative ways here.  The mirror is here, the quick cut workshop montage, the crazy breakdown, all present.  This time the scare factor is at an all time low.  Maybe it’s the setting (I really doubt it), but the horror is played for scenery and monsters.  Everything’s a little cartoon/comic book-esque in presentation.

Replacing a lot of the horror, but keeping with the insanity is even more of the physical comedy tour de force by Bruce Campbell.  Its clear why we love this guy, and this movie just gives us ultimate Ash.  He’s in full schmuck mode, acting arrogant as he feels he is an advanced being and above all people in the kingdom because he comes from the future.  Most of this derives from his new-found confidence in Evil Dead 2, this time taking him overboard, creating his own conflict and leading to his own peril.  The villain is “Bad Ash” who comes directly from him.  Ash puts everyone in danger in this film, but learns to take the reigns, become a leader and fix best he can what he created.  In the beginning he’s only wanting to go home and get away from everybody, but in the end, he wants to leave, but he wants to make sure the kingdom is a better place than when he got there.

Sam Raimi pays plenty a tribute in this film.  We get a Gulliver’s Travels segment, some more 3 Stooges love and the final battle is a massive love letter to Ray Harryhausen.  The finale is also done in a very fun, swashbuckling fashion akin to something like Princess Bride meets Jason & the Argonauts.  Its quite the spectacle for the type of low budget movie it is.  Once again, a low budget does not stop Raimi.  He goes incredibly ambitious and acts as if he’s got the budget twice of what he has.  Skeletons are given a surprise amount of detail and character during the battle.  Its quite a joy and charming to watch.

While production went smoothly, Universal butted in during post production.  The film’s original ending was scrapped as Universal wanted an upbeat happy ending.  Raimi found Ash to be a schmuck and wanted the ending to reflect as such.  In a weird choice, the ending overseas was Raimi’s original and domestically Universal go their ending.  If we’d have Raimi’s original ending of Ash awakening to a desolate future, I’m sure we’d have seen an attempt at an Evil Dead 4 before now.  The S-Mart ending seemed to be a nice wrap up.  Which do I prefer?  I think I slightly lean toward the S-Mart ending.  Its more fitting in the tone of the film and feels more complete to the journey taken in Army of Darkness. As a young lad I thought the idea of the ending I couldn’t have was cooler.  Its fun, but…what if we never saw a continuation to this?

Army of Darkness might be the “for everyone” entry in the Evil Dead franchise.  Yes, it’s the third film, but its probably the most easily accessible from general audiences.  A person who isn’t in to horror or doesn’t get horror comedy could easily dig this movie.  Its not very graphic at all and has a much lighter tone.  I’m not gonna say kids should be watching it, but I’d say if you got a target age for you kid to watch horror movies, you get start them a year or two earlier than that on this.  It’s a fun time, and you’ll definitely be quoting Ash, trying mock his voice or ripping him off with your own property (looking at you Duke Nukem).  It’s just as an enjoyable romp as the previous entry and caps off what is currently a trilogy, making three highly enjoyable parts and pretty much a perfect trilogy.

With Scream Factory’s release, we get four different cuts of the film.  We have the US Theatrical Cut, which, let’s be honest; as much as we love the stuff that got excised from the film and may prefer different versions, this is the film we all fell in love with.  The theatrical cut is still very good, no matter how brief.  If we didn’t know of the changes and longer versions, I’m sure everyone would perfectly fine with this cut and love it just the same.  Its the film that is the reason we’re all here to begin with anyway.  The Director’s Cut is the definitive version and the International Cut isn’t bad either.  No matter the cut, even the TV Cut, you get something in that version that isn’t present in the others.

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Video

Theatrical Cut 

Director’s Cut 

International Cut 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  For all intents and purposes, the Theatrical Cut of the film looks pretty much like the already released Universal Blu-ray.  If there are enhancements/improvements I couldn’t tell.  However, the Director’s Cut and the International Cut are quite the leap forward and look outstanding.  The International Cut was given a 4K scan of the interpositive, while there’s no information on the Director’s Cut but I’m sure its at least a 2K scan.  The International Cut of the film looks quite gorgeous, but the Director’s Cut is no slouch and very very comparable.  You win either way you choose.  Detail might be a hair sharper and rougher areas may come to the forefront a little more in the International Cut.  Detail on both is very high on the skeletons and other deadites.  Castle stone, sand pathways, Ash’s torn clothes and most of these transfers shine through with the best detail Army of Darkness has ever seen.

Depth:  The Theatrical maintains a more flat look, but the two other cuts definitely have some more 3 dimensional flare to them.  Both of those also feature smooth, theatrical-like movements.  Background detail is also very good when the focus allows.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and bring a little more grain with darker scenes.  In the Director’s Cut and International Cut, shading is quite solid as you can still detect patterns and textures from clothing, surfaces and hair.  No crushing was witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Theatrical has a dingier look to it and colors are more faded.  With the director’s cut and international one the colors of red, green and blue pop out and become much more rich and luscious.  They have a striking and bold look to them.  The environments and costuming suddenly pop much more and make this look way way way better than it ever has.  The strength in coloring this time around for those two cuts makes a big difference.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are a bit more bleached out on the theatrical cut, while the other two cuts definitely have a more lifelike and full appearance to them.  On the Director’s and International Cuts, the facial detail in bruises, cuts, stubble and make-up all come in with much more clarity than before.

Noise/Artifacts:  Each cut features its share of grain, specs and dirt.  The director’s cut probably features the most.

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Audio

Theatrical Cut 

Director’s Cut 

International Cut 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  The original theatrical cut had a pretty good 5.1 mix to begin with, but I did find the International and Director’s Cuts to be just a hair better.  They both seemed to bring a little better clarity and fullness to their effects.  Things were a bit more balanced, loose and free when it came to dialogue, effects and score.

Low Frequency Extension:  They don’t call it a BOOMSTICK for nothing.  The subwoofer thumbs with the sounds of cannons and catapults crashing.  Flames feel a nice rumble from the LFE too.  Its quite an impressive jaunt.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Front channels do a marvelous job with chronicling the back and forth action in the film, cataloging the final battle with ease.  Rear speaker show a good deal of ambiance but get in on the fun with battle sounds, eerie winds and maniacal villainy when called upon.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.

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Extras 

Army of Darkness – Collector’s Edition is a 3-disc set (All Blu-ray) featuring 4 cuts of the film that comes with reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster design.  Some of the clips may be encoded in HD, but some are sourced from DVD & VHS.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Cut

Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness (HD, 1:36:35) – No Raimi? No problem.  This feature-length documentary has everyone else to fill in his blanks and provide anecdotes.  Its a perfect and illustrious look back at the film with nobody holding back and also featuring on-set footage, fx test footage and other cool footage to go along with the colorful interviews. 

Original Ending (HD, 4:37) – Since this disc only contains the Theatrical version of the film, the oversleeping ending is nice to have here for quick reference.

Alternate Opening with Commentary by Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell (HD, 2:58) – Instead of S-Mart, a creepy eyes only Ash recaps the previous films’ events.

Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell (HD, 11:06)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:05)

TV Spots (HD, 1:56)

U.S. Video Promo (HD, :32)

Disc 2 – Director’s Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell and Co-Writer Ivan Raimi

On-Set Video Footage Compilation (HD, 4:40) – Some candid videos featuring close-ups of creatures and Sam Raimi directing as well as some of the big battle marches.

Creating The Deadites Featurette (HD – VC-1 encoded, 21:29) – Howard Berger & Greg Nicotero discuss their Ray Harryhausen tribute approach to the Army of Darkness as well as going into a more detailed story of the effects than the documentary.  Features effects test footage, on-set footage and sketches.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage from KNB Effects (HD, 53:54) – Almost an hour’s worth of on-set footage, fx testing footage, creature footage and screwing around footage from the effects guys.

Vintage “Making Of” Featurette (HD, 4:51) – A nice little piece of studio fluff on the film from Hollywood yesteryear of the 90s.

Extended Interview Clips (HD, 5:02) – Full segments from the vintage “Making Of” featuring Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert.

Disc 3 – International Cut

Television Version (HD, 1:33:03)

International Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:08)

Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos (HD, 28:16) – Pre-visualization drawings, shot charts, on-set photos, make-up and effects test photos, make-up art, promotional stills, character head shots and posters.

Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos (HD, 4:05) – Photos of the prosthetics and props from the film as they would be just laying around on display.  Also, some more on-set photos.

Storyboards (HD, 7:37) – Features additional, extended and unused versions of some scenes.

The Men Behind The Army (HD, 18:58) – A vintage featurette on KNB studios working on the film.

Special Thanks (HD, :50) 

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Summary 

HAIL TO THE KING, BABY!  Scream Factory delivers the definitive release of Army Of Darkness.  All the official cuts of the film you want.  When it comes to the International and Director’s Cuts; the BEST the film has looked and sounded.  The extras on here just pile on detail after detail and don’t skip a beat.  The feature length documentary is an outstanding look back at this American classic.  And if you’re wanting some Sam Raimi action, they did port over the commentary for the Director’s Cut.  I honestly can’t think of a more fantastic release for an Evil Dead movie.  This HAS to be the best release out of any of the four movies.  Its one of Scream Factory’s best ever and one of the best releases of the year.  To call it “Groovy” would be a massive understatement.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Army Of Darkness – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Cullen

    Pre-ordering now!