Plot: What’s it about?
Ash (Bruce Campbell) returns to the screen once again, in the third installment of the Evil Dead series. The evil force, which is heard but never seen, chased Ash from his restful cabin, and through a time warp, tossing him into the dark ages, complete with knights, alchemy, the whole nine yards. His car also makes the trip, which is cool. Ash is mistaken by a local group to be part of arival army, and is shackled up like the rest of them, right alongside Henry The Red. They are led to a pit where one man is dropped in, an enough blood to fill a swimming pool showers out! Needless to say, Ash is hesitant about going in! But he does, and defeats the monsters within the pit, proving he is the “promised one.” Ash is forced to retrieve the Necronomicon. Or, to the layperson, The Book Of The Dead, which is inked in blood and bound in human flesh, to make it quite the sought after collector’s item. Of course he doesn’t want to get the book, but only within the book is the passage to send him back. Ash goofs up the magic words, and unleashed the dead onto these people. Will Ash stay to help them? Or will he back in S-Mart tagging sale items?
This movie is a horror/comedy classic, to be sure. There are so many great make up effects and gore gags, it’s hard to find a scene without one! It’s the combination of the two which make Army of Darkness so appealing, because the movie is so funny and bloody, it’s hard to take it seriously. And to take this seriously would be a mistake, because this movie is sheer satire, opening credits to closing credits. This slapstick approach to humor is immsenly entertaining, to say the least. This is one of the movies I watch when I need a good laugh. But don’t get this expecting a straight forward horror flick, because you’ll disappointed here. While there are elements of horror, most of Army of Darkness relies on the sharp tongue of Ash and the interactions between him and the others. It may seem boring to focus so much on one guy, but Ash is no normal guy. He’s sick and tired of dead people giving him hassles, and he kicks some tail in this movie.
Playing Ash is Bruce Campbell, who is also well known for his work for Hercules and Xena on television. Other credits for Campbell include The Hudsucker Proxy, Escape From L.A., and Evil Dead 1&2. Campbell is gifted as an actor, and while I don’t think he could lead a movie like Hanks or Newman, Campbell truly shines in a film such as Army of Darkness. True, it does not call for much literary acting, but physical comedy is hard as well, requiring a set of skills all it’s own. And Campbell has a great delivery of his off color remarks and jibes. Ash seems like a decent guy one moment, the next he’s a jerk, then he’s a hero! It’s amazing how this character is developed. But no matter what, he is always likeable. Campbell displays true talent in this movie, and it garnered him a loyal following. This is one of my favorite movie characters, and I hope the rumors of McFarlane toys making an action figure come true!
Also on this cast, aside from walking skeletons and the unseen evil, is a terrific ensemble group. Playing Ash’s medievil lady friend is Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List, Fallen), who brings a nice performance of a head strong but love sick girl to interact with Ash. Marcus Gilbert (Biggles), plays a cocky, fiery tempered Arthur, and does a decent job. Also heading up the cast are Ian Abercrombie (Puppet Master 3), Tim Quill (Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except), Richard Grove (Extreme Justice), Bridget Fonda (A Simple Plan), Michael Earl Reid, and Patricia Tallman (Night of the Living Dead-1990). A great cast for a movie of this type, and they do a bang up job. Literally.
Now, about this Limited Edition Set…it’s a two disc set, with the theatrical version on one disc, and the director’s cut on the other disc. So, everyone should be happy, since you can pick which version you wanna watch. Being given that choice is great, but the high cost of this set might eliminate some veiwers from being able to choose. You get your money’s worth however, as I will discuss later in the extras section. If you love Evil Dead movies, this set is a must have, no excuses. If you are a huge horror/comedy fan, you gotta have these discs. This set is without doubt the definitive presentation of Army of Darkness. It’s also limited to 30,000, although some claim to have seen higher serials. I don’t know, mine is under 30,000, so I can’t say for sure. But you should get this disc as soon as you can, because once it’s gone, you’re stuck. At least until a reissue.
Video: How does it look?
Well, I should do this in two parts, since the different cuts are quite varied in quality. First off, the theatrical cut. You get your choice of either widescreen or full frame here, both THX approved, and the widescreen enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The print itself is grainy, in every format it is, maybe the type of film or something. This transfer also shows grain, but not by it’s own fault, the source material is just not that great. Colors are great, and the black levels are incredible! This one blows the original Universal release away, and even surpasses the director’s cut. Director’s cut…it looks good, but the added scenes look like garbage. Yeah, they’re nice to see, but they look someone edited them in with a hacksaw. The quality is extremely poor here. But, you pay the price I guess. It’s still better than the VHS, and at least we finally have the true Army of Darkness cut.
Audio: How does it sound?
There are differences here as well, but none that astronomical to mention here. The theatrical cut uses Dolby Digital 5.1, whereas the director’s cut implements a Dolby Surround soundtrack. The movie is filled with effects, from clanging swords to rattling bones, and you will feel right out on the battlefield. The soundtrack is excellent, and sounds better than ever. Here’s the clincher…the dialogue is clear and clean. Whew. Had to come through in that area. I feel this is a good audio presentation, but I’m sure some audiophiles out there will disagree.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Watch out! You might hurt yourself wading through all these features! Seriously! The features are spread out over the two discs, so I’ll list all the features on disc one, then move to disc two. On the director’s cut disc, you get a whole boatload of goodies! Right off the bat, you get 15 minutes of extra footage, including the original ending, edited back into the movie. Not enough for you? How about a side splitting running commentary with Sam and Ivan Raimi along with Bruce Campbell? Still not happy? Ok, ok, how about this? Four never before seen deleted scenes. Happy now? No? Ok, final offer on this disc is a nice array of Sam Raimi’s storyboards. Now you’re satisfied. But that’s only the first disc, my friends. On the original theatrical disc, you get the isolated original ending, which is way more suited to this flick. So, you don’t have to sit through the movie to see it! Like you would have to anyway, since it’s a DVD. You also get the theatrical trailer, talent bios, and an exclusive behind the scenes featurette, narrated by Bruce Campbell. An army of extras!