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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 (Campbell) 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 Martin Liebman on September 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 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
A shoddy video transfer and minimal supplements lessen this anticipated Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 11, 2009
Good, bad, I'm the guy with the gun.
It's a film that would make both The Three Stooges and Clive Barker proud. An oddball yet absolutely successful pairing of slapstick Comedy and undead Horror with a medieval setting thrown into the mix for good measure, 1993's Army of Darkness sits proudly near the top of the list of most unconventional yet absolutely entertaining motion pictures in history. Following up on 1981's oft-banned The Evil Dead and 1987's The Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (itself a Horror-Comedy hybrid), Army of Darkness represents the most accessible and audience-friendly of the three. Though it lacks the hardcore gore that marked the first two, it nevertheless retains the series' low-budget charm despite being picked up by a major Hollywood studio for theatrical and subsequent home video releases. Each entry of the series now bona-fide classics, it seems fans just can't get enough of the cheap special effects; gore; humor; and of course, Bruce Campbell's over-the-top antics and protruding chin that all have come to define the series. Hail to the king, baby.
Beginning with a short recap of Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness takes the now one-handed series hero Ash (Bruce Campbell, My Name is Bruce) into medieval times where he's deemed an enemy spy and sentenced to death. Beating his would-be killer with the help of his "hand"-y chainsaw, Ash's heroics and prowess with his "boomstick" convince the powers-that-be that he's the embodiment of a long-prophesied hero that will return the ancient and all-powerful tome the "Necronomicon" to its rightful place among the living. It's also, apparently, Ash's only hope of returning home. Ash sets out to retrieve the book and finds himself in one misadventure after another as he encounters pint-sized replicas of himself and battles a full-sized clone. Reaching the Necronomicon, Ash fails to follow proper procedure and unwittingly unleashes an army of darkness on mankind. Will he hang around to fight off the deadites with his trusty boomstick, or will he pack his bags, bid medieval times adieu, and go about his merry little life in the housewares section at S-Mart?
Army of Darkness is one of those films that's just about above reproach. It's so good at being a bad movie that one must not only accept it but wholly embrace it, for there's something absolutely magical about its zaniness. Every frame would spell trouble for a picture that, even for a millisecond, dare take itself seriously under the pretenses set forth in the film. Every line of dialogue, every special effect, every over-the-top performance, every rip-off from classic literature makes the movie vulnerable to a shrug-off at best and a nasty dissection of all its miscues at worst. Fortunately, it's plainly obvious that Army of Darkness intends to be ridiculous, and the old wink-and-a-nod approach works to perfection. Backed by a goofy but sound plot when taken for what it is, Army of Darkness also works because its story allows for plenty of absurd and otherwise unbelievable antics to dominate the film. It's all meant to be taken in stride, and the audience that understands where the film is coming from cannot help but have just as much fun watching it as the cast and crew obviously had in making it.
Without a doubt, the one element that really ties not only Army of Darkness but the entire Evil Dead trilogy together is the work of Bruce Campbell. Labeled a "B" actor, Campbell is nevertheless a master of his craft; his uncanny ability to mix offbeat verbal humor and zany physical mannerisms with pseudo-serious drama and seriously twisted horror makes his effort here -- and in the previous pair of Evil Dead films -- extraordinary. He fully grasps the concept, taking "over the top" to an entirely new level, and it's his ability to craft the character into the story that sells the movie above all else. Whether fighting off the undead with a chainsaw, advising customers at S-Mart, peeling his face off a hot stove, downing a pot full of scalding water to kill a "baddie" lodged in his gut, rearranging his suddenly-distorted mug, or schooling a newfound love interest on the meaning of "pillow talk," Campbell proves a master of every situation. Combining a confident and impeccably timed verbal effort with a masterful physical performance in each Dead film, Campbell is an actor at the top of his game when the script seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, elevating both to uncharted heights of movie magic greatness.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Video Quality
Army of Darkness makes its highly-anticipated Blu-ray debut with a disappointing 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. The transfer appears to be the victim of noise reduction; it looks overly processed and far too sharp, lending to it an artificial appearance rather than a pleasant, film-like look. Grain appears sporadically but generally during effects shots or low light levels. Bright outdoor shots look "good" but display the most egregious of the processed appearance. The occasional speckle of dirt also creeps up from time to time. The transfer also suffers from some overzealous edge enhancement; distant exterior shots of the castle, for instance, are particularly aglow. Colors look fairly bright, and detail is moderately impressive. Chain mail armor, for example, looks thoroughly textured and nicely rendered, though it's not quite as sharp and lifelike as similar items worn by characters in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Braveheart. Black levels are decent, and flesh tones never appear overly rosy. Army of Darkness doesn't look bad by any stretch, but there seems to be plenty of room for improvement.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Army of Darkness grooves onto Blu-ray with a strong DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that fares much better than the video presentation. Full, aggressive, and fun, it never lets up and delivers an engaging sonic experience that takes full advantage of the entire soundstage. The soundtrack positively booms on occasion, particularly in conjunction with the thuds of Ash's "boomstick" or, at another juncture in the film, as Ash hides in a wooden cabin as enemies attempt to beat their way into the structure. Directional effects, too, are solid. Sound often scatters all around the soundstage, and plenty of smaller details make their way into the mix, too. Whether clanking bones in one scene or thunder clapping off in the distance in another, the listening area often fills up with smaller but in no way unimportant sound effects that complete a surround sound experience. Also featuring solid dialogue reproduction, Army of Darkness sounds better, clearer, and crisper on Blu-ray than it ever did on DVD.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Apparently, "Screwhead Edition" is code for "minimal supplements." Army of Darkness does feature Universal's U-Control functionality, but it serves only to superimpose production photos over the movie. Creating the Deadites (1080i, 21:29) takes a fascinating retrospective look at the film's special effects with Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, and Bob Kurtzman. Also included is the film's alternate ending (480p, 4:42), theatrical trailer (480p, 2:03), and BD-Live connectivity.
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Odd, twisted, violent, and incredibly funny in a Three Stooges sort of way, Army of Darkness -- and the entirety of the Raimi/Campbell Evil Dead collaboration -- makes for an incredibly entertaining time at the movies. Though the only of the three Dead films to be released by a major studio and given more than a shoestring budget, Army of Darkness retains the quirkiness of its lead character and charming low-budget roots for what is arguably the strongest entry into the series, and perhaps Bruce Campbell's finest effort. Universal's Blu-ray release of Army of Darkness, however, comes off as something of a disappointment. Though the disc sports a strong lossless soundtrack, it also features a watchable yet substandard 1080p image and only a few scattered extras despite the "Screwhead Edition" label. Diehard fans will probably pick this one up (again), but more casual fans should wait until the inevitable re-release somewhere down the line. Until then, sharp smart, shop S-Mart.
Blu-ray bundles with Army of Darkness (1 bundle)
Army of Darkness Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 15th - September 15, 2009
After the conclusion of the ‘X-Men Trilogy', 20th Century Fox looked for a new way to capitalize on the extremely popular superhero property. Eventually word leaked that they would pursue a series of “origins” films which would detail the lives of the X-Men before ...
• Army of Darkness Re-announced for September - July 13, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has re-announced the Blu-ray release of 'Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition' to September 15th, day-and-date with the DVD re-release. Originally announced with a May release date, the title was pulled off retailer lists for ...
• Army of Darkness Announced for Blu-ray - February 13, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring Sam Raimi's 'Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition' to Blu-ray on May 19th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Coming on a BD-25, video will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p VC-1 accompanied by a ...
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