My favorite thing about Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead trilogy is that, aside from lead character Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the general premise of an evil book making demons possess the living, there’s really nothing to connect them thematically. The Evil Dead, despite its low budget look and sometimes campy moments, is a full-fledged, balls-out horror movie and is damn fine at it. Evil Dead 2 is still pretty damn scary, but turns the idea into, as Campbell himself has called it, “a demented Warner Bros. cartoon” with its focus on laughs and frights. And then we come to the culmination, 1993’s Army of Darkness, which suddenly becomes a swashbuckling romance set in medieval times with plenty of Three Stooges slapstick.
Army of Darkness is in some way the most baffling of the bunch. For some reason, it was produced by Universal along with Evil Dead 2‘s financier, Dino De Laurentiis, which means a major studio put money into the third part in a loosely-connected trilogy that mostly only horror aficionados even knew about. So bizarre. And, they couldn’t even really market it the same way because this was wasn’t a horror movie, really. It was more like a silly Ray Harryhausen movie with some monsters in it. But just because it’s a difficult movie to define doesn’t mean it’s not really excellent. Soon after it was released to less-than-stellar business, Army of Darkness became a cult phenomenon in a way completely different to the first two films.
For the uninitiated (though I’m not sure who you’d be), the film continues directly from Evil Dead 2 (with the exception of certain scenes being reshot for the recap), explaining that Ash worked at the convenience store S-Mart. He gets sucked back through a time portal along with his chainsaw-hand, his trusty double-barrel 12-gauge Remington, and his Classic Oldsmobile Delta 88 and ends up in medieval England where the locals are besieged by the Deadites. Ash, who staves off execution and becomes a small castle’s chosen savior, fouls up a lot of things and ends up releasing evil from the Necronomicon and creating an evil duplicate of himself who leads an army of skeletons. It’s pretty nuts.
Over the years there have been countless editions of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray, owing to the massive number of re-edits and versions that have been stitched together. There has never been a definitive version of Army of Darkness… (dramatic pause) UNTIL NOW! Scream Factory, whose work making terrific special editions of horror titles really can’t be overstated, has compiled what is surely the best, last, and only Blu-ray of AoD you’ll ever need to buy.
This 3-disc Collector’s Edition set offers three different cuts of the movie along with a veritable evil forest-ful of extras. Disc One has the 81-minute theatrical cut of the movie (which really hacks everything to pieces) as well as the set’s main draw, a newly-minted feature-length documentary about every aspect of the film featuring Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, the KNB Effects guys, cast, crew, and appreciators. This is a fantastic watch and gives you the complete picture of the movie and how it was made the way it was. No stone is left unturned. This disc also boasts various sundries like deleted scenes, trailers, and TV spots.
Disc 2 is probably the one most people will watch for the film. It has the 96-minute Director’s Cut, which leaves in the original ending and all of the deleted tiny-Ash-clones slapstick bits. This disc has a feature commentary with Campbell, writer-director Sam Raimi, and co-writer Ivan Raimi. Recorded a while back but still great. This also has behind-the-scenes footage from KNB Effects, a vintage making-of, and extended interview clips.
And finally, as if that weren’t enough, there’s Disc 3. This one has the 88-minute international cut of the movie made from a new 4K-scan of the inter-positive as well as the complete TV version of the movie in standard definition and made in glorious pan-and-scan.
Four full versions of Army of Darkness in one convenient package. If you’re a fan of this movie, been looking for something to tide you over before Ash vs Evil Dead starts, or just looking for an excellent and fun adventure movie, then there’s no reason not to pick up this Blu-ray set. In an age where digital media is pretty much the norm, companies like Scream Factory are making physical media worth buying. Hail to the King, baby.
Images: Scream Factory
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!