ARMY OF DARKNESS
I love this movie! ARMY OF DARKNESS is the final and my favorite installment in Sam Raimis EVIL DEAD trilogy. 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. Ash is captured by the Knights of the Realm, who 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 Ash to retrieve the Necronomicon from its unholy resting-place. For an idiot like Ash, this is easier done than said. Unfortunately, his failure to recite the proper incantation when he retrieves the Necronomicon raises an army of the dead, that want nothing more than to get their skeletal hands on the all-powerful Necronomicon. Unable to leave the "primitive screw-heads" in a lurch, Ash utilizes what little modern know-how he possesses to lead the forces of the living against 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 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, writer/director Sam Raimi plays most situations for laughs, filling the movie with sight gags that are reminiscent of The Three Stooges. Bruce Campbells is the lone stooge of the 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 was laughing uncontrollably at the physical gags that he brings off with aplomb. In fact, the more outrageous the gags became, the louder I howled 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.
Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a terrific job of bringing ARMY OF DARKNESS to DVD. The dual layered DVD offers viewers a choice of viewing the movie full frame or in an incredible looking, THX certified, 16:9 enhanced presentation. Of course, no one but a "primitive screw-head" would bother watching the full screen version. On the packaging, it says that ARMY OF DARKNESS is presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Judging by the way it looks and the fact that the DVD is 16:9 enhanced, I would say the transfer is framed at 1.78:1 (or a perfect 16:9). The wide screen transfer is incredible and totally blows away the image quality of the Universal Laserdisc release from the days of yore. The new transfer is very sharp and highly detailed. It also displays less film grain and video noise, than what was visible on the Laserdisc release. Color reproduction is excellent, with the new transfer delivering better saturated hues and more consistently natural flesh tones. Contrast is very good, while blacks are dark and very realistic. Neither chroma noise or digital compression artifacts effected the image in any noticeable way.
For this release, ARMY OF DARKNESS sports a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that really leaves to old Dolby Surround mix in the dust. The entire soundstage is livelier and more open sounding. Directional effects take full advantage of the discrete nature of the format, including the capabilities of providing split surround channels. Sounds pop out at the viewer from all sides and greatly enhance the visuals. Dialogue reproduction is clean and precise, plus the track delivers rather authoritative bass, which is better than I expected from a soundtrack that predates the digital formats. The musical score by Joseph LoDuca and Danny Elfman also benefits from the re-mix, sounding more vibrant than it has in the past. A Dolby Surround soundtrack is also provided on the DVD.
The interactive menus are nicely designed and offer animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menus, one can access the scene selection feature, which is weakly implemented, as well as the DVDs supplements. Bruce Campbell narrates The Men Behind The Army- an interesting look behind-the-scenes that features interviews with the special effects team that brought to life an army of darkness. Other supplements include the films legendary original ending, which is downbeat in comparison to the high-octane demon in the S-Mart ending. A theatrical trailer, plus biographies for key cast and crewmembers round out the extras..
Anchor Bay Entertainment has made two separate releases of ARMY OF DARKNESS available on DVD. There is a single disc set priced at $29.95 that provides the theatrical version of the film, plus the supplements mentioned above. Anchor Bay has also released 30,000 piece, limited edition, 2-disc set at $44.95. The second DVD contains the directors cut of ARMY OF DARKNESS, which features 15 minutes of addition footage, along with the original ending being integrated into the body of the film. The soundtrack is only 2.0 Dolby Surround. However, director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell provide an audio commentary for the directors cut of ARMY OF DARKNESS.
reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied
or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.