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Army of Darkness - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray [SteelBook]
There's a reason why there are five reviews of variants of Army of Darkness, the final film in the Evil Dead trilogy, just in the same way there was an outcry to have a final film for the Evil Dead trilogy. People enjoy the way the lead character is equal parts larger than life in his braggadocio and sometimes lacking in his pragmatism. It scares the heck out of you one moment and makes you laugh the next. And it found the right mix of elements in each of the films to launch some careers in the process.
Anyway, Army was co-written by Sam and Ivan Raimi (Drag Me to Hell) co-wrote the film, with the former directing. Compared to the previous two films, Ash (Bruce Campbell, Ash vs. Evil Dead is banished to the middle ages as demonic forces opened a time vortex to send him back there. All Ash wants to do is get out of the Dark Ages and return home to his job with S-Mart, but he's going to have to kick a lot of ass in order to do it.
There is a certain intimacy to the way that Raimi is able to draw you into get the pants scared off of you, followed by a blast from Ash's boomstick. Maybe it's the clenched jaw nature of what's to come, but it touches a primal cord in the viewer whenever he gets into his horror groove (or takes a mild step back with say, A Simple Plan). With Campbell being so comfortable with Ash helps a tremendous deal too; Ash attacks the Brit luddites with gusto when he frees himself, but there's a certain obtuseness that shows up with him in these films that makes him relatable. I don't think I'm going to run into armies of the undead any time soon but I imagine I would handle it as confidence and flawed as Ash's approach is, and Campbell's ability to sell it is a big reason why so many like him. That and the chin.
There is not a lot to consume beforehand when it comes to Army of Darkness, but the phrase "popcorn movie" gets tossed around from time to time. For my money Army has this going more than a lot of films where this gets used. It does not take itself so seriously but you wouldn't know it from the commitment of those involved in it, and that's a big reason why it works, why so many were happy to see a third version come to realization and why its 4K debut may have been anticipated.The UHD:
There are several versions of the film in this version, but the UHD treatment has been given to the theatrical cut only. It is a new 4K scan of the film that Raimi, cinematographer Bill Pope and editor Bob Murawski signed off on and having not seen it in a while, I really enjoyed it. The battle sequences look sharp in the evening, and the opening moments as Ash walks through the desert include those fine sand grains, and Campbell's chin never looked better on my 55" screen, as does some of the other facial details. There are moments of haloing in the sequence where Ash gets thrown in the pit, and the castle's gate looks like some edge work has been applied to it, but this is still as sharp as the film is going to look.The Sound:
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless is fine for the film; given the source and nature, it's not going to blow your doors off too much; the opening credits time vortex and other action leading up to film three give you a sense of what you'll expect, the first act includes nice sounds of the bow killing the fleeing prisoner nice enough with channel panning; the battle sequences sound clean and adequately immersive. It does the work.The Extras:
So you get four discs, four different versions of the film and in this case, all are housed in a steelbook with some nice artwork with it, the second such steel casing for an Evil Dead trilogy film if memory serves. Disc One is the UHD of the theatrical cut (1:21:08) only, while Disc Two includes a Blu-ray version of same, along with "Medieval Times", a lengthy look at the film featuring new/recent interviews with most of the participants, running longer than the theatrical cut of the film at 1:36:34. All parties discuss how the third film came together, and they share their thoughts on working with one another one more time in this setting. The deadites are recounted and Raimi talks about coming back to the film and his work with the stop motion creatures. Props, production designs and builds are shown and some production anecdotes are thrown in for good measure, resulting in an enjoyable accompaniment for the film. The film's original ending (4:37) and alternate opening (2:58) follow, the latter with commentary from Raimi and Campbell, along with three deleted scenes (11:06). The theatrical trailer (2:03) five TV spots (1:54) and a promotional clip for the home video release (:32) complete the disc.
Disc Three has the Director's Cut (1:36:23), along with commentary by the Raimis and Campbell, as they talk about spotting members of the stock company and some family members, the differences between this and the theatrical cut, and working with Universal and Dino de Laurentis, and touching upon how the film's big moments happened. Whatever ground the earlier feature missed, the commentary seems to hit. There is a compilation reel of on-set video footage (4:40), and some additional film from KNB Effects (53:54), who show the work put into the skeletons, deadites and other various scary moments, and the many rehearsals to get things right in the shot. The typical on-set making of for the film is next (4:51), with additional, extended interview tape with Raimi, Campbell and producer Robert Tapert (5:02).
Disc Four includes the International Cut (1:28:51) as well as a cut for television (1:33:03), and a trailer for the former (2:08). A stills gallery and storyboards follow, along with "The Men Behind the Army" (18:58), which includes more on the visual effects team's work in the film.Final Thoughts:
Between the film's popularity and its laserdisc, VHS, Beta, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray and now 4K releases, there's a reason why there are approximately 43 versions of it. And yet, you shrug your shoulders, knowing that you're going to buy it again. And to their credit, Shout puts everything together in one package that's as complete as I can recall an Army release being. Technically maybe the UHD of another cut would be good, but it's a minor quibble, as this is another gem of a release in 2022