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Alright you Primitive Screw-heads, listen up!
You see this? This... is my boomstick!
The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington.
S-Mart's top of the line.
You can find this in the sporting goods department.
That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five.
It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger.
That's right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

I love this movie! ARMY OF DARKNESS ($30) is the supposedly final (and my favorite) installment in Sam Raimiís EVIL DEAD movie series. Where the first two installments placed gore first and comedy second, ARMY OF DARKNESS brings the humor to the forefront. ARMY OF DARKNESS stars Bruce Campbell as Ash- the wonderfully moronic hero forced to battle the evil unleashed by the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, otherwise known as The Book of the Dead. As ARMY OF DARKNESS opens, Ash is trapped in the Dark Ages, thanks to the power of the Necronomicon. Upon his arrival in Medieval Britain, Lord Arthur and his men capture Ash, and then try to execute him by dropping him in a pit containing Deadites- the demonic creatures that threaten to overrun England.

However, after defeating the Deadites, Ash is able to turn the tables on the "Primitive Screw-Heads" and is now revered by them as a hero. While living the good life in Medieval England may be appealing to some, Ash wants nothing more than to return to the present. Unfortunately, getting back to his own time requires that Ash to retrieve the Necronomicon from its unholy resting-place. And for an idiot like Ash, retrieving the Necronomicon is easier done than said. Unfortunately, Ashís failure to recite the proper incantation, when he recovers the Necronomicon, raises an army of the dead, which want nothing more than to get their skeletal hands on the all-powerful tome. Unable to leave the "Primitive Screw-Heads" in a lurch, Ash utilizes his modern know-how to lead the forces of the living againstÖ an army of darkness. For the climatic battle sequence, ARMY OF DARKNESS turns into an incredible homage to the works of Ray Harryhausen, with the skeleton battle sequence being a fitting tribute to the masterís work on JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

While the plot of ARMY OF DARKNESS has a number of intense moments, and there is a goodly amount of gore, co-writer/director Sam Raimi plays many of horrific situations for laughs, by filling the movie with sight gags that are reminiscent of The Three Stooges. Of course, Bruce Campbellís Ash is the lone stooge in this movie and his performance is utterly brilliant. Not only does Campbell make Ash a totally likable and completely believable idiot (who can be heroic when required), but also he is a marvel at slapstick comedy. I tend to laugh uncontrollably at the physical gags that he brings off with aplomb. In fact, the more outrageous the gags become, the louder I usually howl with laughter. The cast of ARMY OF DARKNESS also includes Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove, Timothy Patrick Quill, Michael Earl Reid, Bridget Fonda, Patricia Tallman and Ted Raimi in a number of different guises.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made ARMY OF DARKNESS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Zowie! This 1080p presentation is the absolute best I have ever seen ARMY OF DARKNESS look in the home venue, and I have to give kudos to the folks at Universal. That said, I have to also point out that ARMY OF DARKNESS was made on a small budget, so there are some production related weaknesses that crop up here and there, but none of them take away from the overall pleasing visual quality of this Blu-ray release. For the most part, the image appears quite sharp and offers a good level of fine detail. There are individual shots that appear softer (by varying degrees), but the vast majority of the film is strongly resolved. Additionally, the picture can appear quite dimensional, but this is dependent upon how various scenes are lit and shot. Colors are fairly impressive and usually come across at a strong level of saturation. Blacks are accurate, as are the whites. Contrast can be a bit edgy, but is otherwise fine. Shadow detail can be fairly impressive, but it can be hampered by production limitations. The elements from which ARMY OF DARKNESS have been transferred appear surprisingly clean. Film grain appears at varying levels; sometimes it is a bit heavy, but fortunately, Universal has resisted the temptation to artificially process it away.

ARMY OF DARKNESS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is another film from the pre-digital era that has been nicely upgraded for release on Blu-ray, but whose sound design is demonstrative of the time in which it was created. As such, the sound I more front heavy than newer soundtracks, but the rear channels do augment key sequences rather nicely with active effects, as well as the expected ambience and fill elements. The musical component is also pleasingly spread through the soundstage, plus the lossless encode bolsters Joseph LoDuca and Danny Elfmanís musical themes. As for the bass channel, it adds weight to the effects, but it isnít overbearing. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. A Spanish DTS 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks have also been encoded onto the disc, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the extras. The primary extra is Creating The Deadites, a retrospective look at the special effects make-up. An Alternate Ending closes out the standard extras. Universal's U-Control interface is utilized for an interactive version of the movie that provides in context picture-in-picture, pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player).

ARMY OF DARKNESS is a personal favorite that has been a great presentation on Blu-ray. As the Directorís Cut is noticeably absent, some will find the supplemental section wanting. Still, the high definition presentation is certain to impress fans and I find it impossible to not recommend this terrific looking release.



Army of Darkness (Screwhead Edition) [Blu-ray] (1992)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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