Army of Darkness (Screwhead Edition) [Blu-ray]
Special Edition, Screwhead Edition
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All primitive screwheads, listen up! Cult superstar Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) reunites with director Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell, Spider-Man) to battle the deadly forces of evil in Army of Darkness - the outrageous, effects-fueled action epic that will make you scream with fear and laughter. 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. One of the most popular horror comedies of all time, now digitally remastered and loaded with bonus features, Army of Darkness Screwhead Edition is drop-dead fun!
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"Army of Darkness" pretty much picks up from there, finishing up the legendary trilogy that Sam Raimi started with "The Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn." This time around, Sam Raimi dials down the horror once again, while dialing up massive quantities of skeletal comedy -- while there's the odd gross-out moment (eyeball in the shoulder!), most of the story is devoted to the increasingly manic Bruce Campbell struggling to defeat an undead horde of skeletons with only his trusty boomstick and chainsaw.
Having appeared in the 14th century, Ash (Campbell) is immediately captured by the arrogant Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert), who mistakes him for one of Duke Henry's (Richard Grove) men. He tries to explain that he's not, but ends up tossed into an execution pit filled with iron spikes and demonic Deadites -- and only the timely intervention of the Wise Man (Ian Abercrombie) allows Ash to reclaim his chainsaw and "boomstick," kill the Deadites, and establish that he is a prophesied savior come to free them from the Deadite scourge.
But of course, the entire universe hates Ash. So when he's sent on an incredibly simple quest to reclaim and de-power the Necronomicon, Ash immediately encounters bizarre Deadite attacks that are specifically designed to torment him -- including the formation of an evil doppelganger from his own body, Evil Ash. And when he manages to botch the whole thing, the Deadites prepare to storm the castle and take everything over. Life is hard when you're Ash.
Considering that the series started with a serious attempt at horror, it's a little odd that "Army of Darkness" mostly drops the horror. Of course, there's still some gloriously gross moments (the emergence of Evil Ash, and his decaying face a few scenes later), but most of the movie is played for laughs (including a long sequence where Ash is assaulted by a small army of Lilliputian doppelgangers, who jab him in the butt with a fork and tie him to the floor). Even the grosser moments are played for laughs ("Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun").
And that's what makes this whole movie so gloriously entertaining -- it's gross, nasty and violent, but it's presented with the gleeful joy that comes with a cavalcade of one-liners and memetastic moments ("All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up... this... is my BOOMSTICK!"). Nothing is presented very seriously, because... well, how can you take this seriously? It's about a college student/S-Mart employee who gets blasted back in time to fight demonic zombies in a medieval setting. The cheese is thick and gloriously unserious, climaxing as Ash careens through the titular army in a massive armored steampunk-car/tank that easily hacks them apart.
And despite the much larger cast and more extensive sets and special effects required, somehow Raimi maintains that rough, low-budget feel -- the stop-motion, tiny Ashes, and especially the battle sequences that are clearly against inanimate Halloween skeletons. It still feels like a cheesy low-budget movie that does NOT care
Bruce Campbell is at the absolute height of his Campbellitude here -- he gives a delightfully hammy performance as a gun-toting, one-liner-spouting Ash. He plays the kind of guy that every guy likes to think he'd be in such a crisis, uttering don't-give-a-dang one-liners, shooting monsters and smooching a wench with extremely good teeth with great relish. And he gives an equally quotable ("Little goody two-shoes!") performance as the Evil Ash, who is just as snarky but... well, his face is rotting off. The supporting actors give good performances, especially Abercrombie as the wise man that nobody ever seems to actually listen to, but this is clearly the Campbell show here.
It may have effectively left horror behind, but "Army of Darkness" instead embraces a gloriously gross brand of comedy, with knights, skeletons, bagpipes and one S-Mart employee with a boomstick and a robot hand. It's hard to find a movie more resolutely fun than this.
If you are 5 and younger, this movie might still give you nightmares. But if you're 6 to 60, then this movie will either be cool or riotously hilarious (albeit on the dark side).
Impressions (disclaimer: I am not an expert at evaluating transfers to HD format):
The majority of the HD digital transfer looks excellent. Clean, sharp, crisp contrast and color. Some defects still present here and there -- most notable is something smudging the screen in a couple places shortly after Ash falls into the 13th century. On a few scenes, the video quality takes a strikingly sudden turn for the WORSE -- for example, looking down into the pit at Ash after he falls in (thankfully only lasts a few seconds). I also noticed that the rear projection scenes (used extensively in the final battle) look extremely pixilated and grainy.
Sound was very good throughout on my 7:2 surround system.
Special Features consist of a featurette on the making of the Deadite Army (worthwhile) and the Original Ending (presented in a very low definition, grainy letterboxed format). Haven't dug into the disc yet for Easter Eggs (if there are any).
Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10. Best presentation of this movie I've seen yet and maybe as good as it gets.
The plot is of a "S-mart" sales guy getting transported to the 1300's to fight against Deadites and recover an artifact book. Bruce Campbell did an outstanding job in the lead role. This movie was a pleasure to watch. Stupid comedy in places, old-style effects, silly quest and it is all fun fun fun! This is on my watch-it-again list.
The B Movie quality stands out even more now and makes it even more hilarious.
I'd also like to point out that the ending on this is the S Mart ending, NOT the time travel one. The time travel one is on there as a bonus but not as part of the movie. Couldn't stand that ending being tied in when I had the Official Bootleg version of the movie.
There are a couple of scenes that didn't get the fully restored treatment, but it's not a big deal! Also, there aren't a whole lot of bonus features.
Overall a good buy!
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