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Army of Darkness(1993)
Forced to lead a makeshift Dark Ages army against the demonic Deadites, who possess all the deadly magic of hell, the shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed, reluctant 20th century time traveler Ash must save the living from the dead, rescue his medieval girlfriend and get back to his own time.
For more about Army of Darkness and the Army of Darkness Blu-ray release, see Army of Darkness Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 6, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove, Patricia Tallman
Director: Sam Raimi
» See full cast & crew
Army of Darkness Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 6, 2008
Weird and explicit, Sam Raimi's "Army of Darkness" (1992), the third installment in the cult Evil Dead trilogy, is a campy horror flick with plenty of humor. Old chap Bruce Campbell is once again on board and fighting the forces of evil. Courtesy of Optimum Releasing.
Ash (Brice Campbell) is transported against his will from his haunted cabin to medieval times, right in the middle of a bloody dispute between two rivaling knights and their armies. He manages to earn the respect of both and asks to be sent back home. A sorcerer serving one of the knights announces that this would be impossible, unless Ash obtains the Book of the Dead. He immediately agrees and sets out to retrieve the book from its evil guardians. Before he leaves, Ash is asked to memorize a magic sequence of words that must be uttered before the book is taken away from its holder.
Once in the forest where the Book of the Dead is kept, Ash realizes that he cannot remember the magic words. He attempts to improvise but screws up even more – he resurrects the Army of the Dead, which follows him back to the castle where everyone awaits him.
Army of Darkness is without a doubt the most elaborate of the three Evil Dead films. It offers a much more complicated story, or ambitious if you will, where humor and horror get an equal amount of playtime. It is also the most refined one of the three, as Raimi's emphasis on detail is nothing short of fantastic.
Still, Army of Darkness remains an utterly goofy film. It is packed with an abundance of poorly-written lines that come from all sorts of different directions. They tend to compliment Ash's extravagant behavior and ultimately add up more to the film's controversial flavor. With other words, unless you have an enormous amount of appreciation for Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2 (1987), I recommend skipping Army of Darkness in favor of something less cartoonish.
Technically, however, Raimi and team really strike gold. The film's elaborate decors are quite stunning to look at, while some of the exotic creatures are amongst the best I've seen. In fact, I feel confident stating that there are more than a few scenes here that come dangerously close to being perfect (the prologue in particular where Ash is captured is very well done).
The editing is also pleasing. Sonny Baskin, Bob Murawski, and Sam Raimi have smoothened out some of the more obvious rough spots from the story into a generally pleasing sequence of events where the tempo appears consistent (the director's cut offered on this Blu-ray disc is far less impressive). As a result, once the action gets going everything begins to make sense, of course, in a truly weird kind of way.
Finally, I wish to spare a few words on the film's cult status. I don't know if I completely understand why Army of Darkness, or the Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 films for that matter, are held in such a high regard. Perhaps it is the off-kilter humor that rubs a lot of people the right way, or the film's ridiculous script, which is so absurd it is actually somewhat intriguing. Whatever it is, I must be genetically immune to it as, at best, I find Army of Darkness to be a curious exercise in absurdity. Nothing more, nothing less.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Army of Darkness arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Releasing.
I am pleasantly surprised with Optimum's Blu-ray treatment of Army of Darkness. I wasn't expecting much of an improvement over the SDVD R3 disc (arguably the best presentation the film had received) but, suffice to say, once I popped the screener into my player, I really could not take my eyes off the screen. First of all, Optimum's transfer reveals an impressive color-scheme where reds, yellows, and blacks are practically perfect. In fact, while I was taking the screengrabs for the review, I could not stop looking at the desert scenes from the prologue – these simply do not look like something you would see in a low-budget production. Furthermore, detail and clarity are probably the best I have seen Army of Darkness reveal in any format. If you thought that the R3 DVD was solid, wait until you see this presentation (screen captures are typically not a truthful indicator as to what the actual quality of a Blu-ray transfer is, but take a look at screengrab 2). I did not notice any disturbing patterns of edge enhancement either. During the forest scenes, where Bruce Campbell acquires the Book of the Dead, I saw a bit of macroblocking, but nothing really disturbing that should interfere with your viewing experience. This being said, the quality of the actual print is also very good. There is plenty of healthy film grain and I could not detect any traces of DNR manipulation. Film noise is also kept at a minimum and as a result Army of Darkness really does look quite exceptional in 1080p. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" release which you will not be able to play in Region-A PS3 or SAs. To view the Blu-ray disc you will need to use Region-B or Region-Free hardware).
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English: Dolby Digital 5.1. Once again, the high-resolution audio track proves to be the winner. Plenty of surround activity (from the chase in the forest, to the witch pirouettes, to the final battle scene the Blu-ray disc delivers with a bang) and the more sophisticated your sound system the more of a difference you will hear. There are some terrific effects on this disc and, as far as I am concerned, it is almost impossible not to be impressed by the variety of sounds coming off the speakers. Some of the wackier scenes get a real boost with the DTS-HD Master mix, and I certainly felt like I've been missing a lot with previous releases. More importantly, however, the DTS-HD Master mix is notably solid – you won't hear any balance fluctuations, pops, or cracks. This being said, it is somewhat unfortunate that Optimum have not included optional subtitles for their Blu-ray release of Army of Darkness. While I personally did not need them, I am convinced that there are enough potential viewers out there who would have welcomed the inclusion of, at least, an English SDH track.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are some great extras on this disc. First, Optimum have provided the original theatrical trailer for Army of Darkness (in HD). Next is a collage of four deleted scenes - Original opening, Ash confronts Arthur, Original windmill scene, and Ash recruits Henry the Red. The video quality for these scenes isn't terrific but they are actually quite entertaining (all of them are in HD as well). This being said, Optimum have also provided the Director's Cut of Army of Darkness in standard-definition. I know this may sound rather controversial, and I do understand that plenty of people would want to see the Director's Cut, but other than comparing what is missing between the two versions of the film, I think that one would definitely want to see the HD cut. I also happen to believe that the Director's Cut is not as good as the theatrical version. Finally, the Blu-ray disc also contains the famous commentary by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell which has been available on previous SDVD releases.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I had forgotten how bizarre this film is. Bruce Campbell is truly a B-star with a flavor of his own - he is too weird not to be appreciated. His lines also tend to be a little dirty from time to time, but I guess that's what makes Army of Darkness such a wild ride. The actual Blu-ray disc, courtesy of Optimum Releasing, is a substantial improvement over previous SDVD releases. If you have the proper equipment to play Region-B software this disc comes very highly recommended.
Army of Darkness: Other Editions
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