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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Bruce Campbell Vs Army of Darkness


Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz and Bridget Fonda
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 September 2008

Having fought off the Deadites in the preceding two films, and lost a hand along the way, Ash’s problems are compounded when he is thrown back in time to a medieval period, where he is instantly mistaken for the enemy. Overcoming his new hosts’ suspicions of him, and his own stupidity, Ash much capture the Necronomicon if he is to have any chance of returning home. Problem is he can’t quite remember the magic spell, and mumbling the spell only makes things worse...

Army of Darkness (1993) was directed by Sam Raimi from a script by Sam, his brother Ivan and Bruce Campbell. The film was the third instalment of the Evil Dead trilogy and won three awards - two for the director and one for best horror film; it was nominated for a further three.

A number of things distinguish it in comparison to The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, not least the amount that it cost. The preceding two films were very much budget affairs and sometimes this showed, however with Army of Darkness a fairly reasonable amount of money was made available. This culminated in a much more coherent script, a more polished look and a better special effects budget. I’m pretty sure that Bruce Campbell was getting a little sick of being tied to the front of Sam’s car to be driven at speed through a forest. The trilogy has spawned three so-so games and a number of better comics.

With the release of the Blu-ray, what you get is two versions of the film on a single disc. The first in high definition (1 hr, 20 min, 46 sec) is the best print of the film I’ve seen. The increase in detail and colour does have an added bonus in making the film fell more like a  comic book. Blood, for example, is obviously too bright a shade of red, which adds to the overall comic effect. Audio for this version is either DTS-HD MA 5.1 or 5.1 Surround Sound, with the former having the acoustic edge.

The second version of the film is the Directors Cut (1 hr, 35 min, 46 sec) which made a few minor additions, but more importantly completely changed the ending of the film, leaving it with a more down beat feeling. In standard definition, even up-scaled, the print does not compare to the theatrical cut, nor does the audio which is only 2.0 Dolby. However, to balance this, the Director's Cut does have a full length commentary by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell which is nearly as funny as the film. These are obviously two old friends and their warmth for each other is obvious as is their ability to take the mickey.

There are a couple of extras on the disc, the original theatrical trailer and three deleted scenes all in standard definition.

So is the film worth parting with your hard earned pay? Well of course it is. Raimi, at this point, is a more accomplished director and Bruce Campbell is at his manic best as the antihero Ash. It always surprises me that Campbell never became as big a comic actor as his abilities would indicate. Following this film he appeared in The Hudsucker Proxy, but then appeared to do more television work than films, or work in supporting roles until his next great outing as the leading man in Bubba Ho-tep (2002), which if you haven’t seen it, you should.

The film has a good supporting cast, Embeth Davidtz plays Sheila, the medieval babe that becomes Ash’s latest squeeze, and Marcus Gilbert is really funny as the exasperated Lord Arthur, who has to put up with an increasingly mad and desperate Ash. If you’re attentive you can also see Ted Raimi popping up in various small roles.

The best way to describe the film is that it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It may not be to everyone’s taste, a comedy / action adventure / horror flick will certainly put off most hard core horror fans, and fans of comedy may be a bit bemused by some of the horror stuff, but overall I think it works very well. If there was a down side it’s the lack of real meaty extras. The film has been released umpteen times with various extras and to tack on what came with the DVD left me feeling a little short changed.


Charles Packer

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