Typical of Sam Raimi, his “Evil Dead” series managed to become so much more insane and wacky the more it progressed. If “Dead By Dawn” wasn’t an indicator that he’d embraced the overall sheer chaos and insanity of Ashley Williams battling demons from another dimension, “Army of Darkness” dives head first, transforming Ashley’s newest misadventure in to something of an action horror movie with a stern tongue in cheek. While Raimi does inject his share of humor, though, “Army of Darkness” retains its essence, never once reducing the concept of the series in to an embarrassment.
“Army of Darkness” is, like all of the previous movies, a loving effort from Raimi, who operated on a low budget and did the best he could. Thankfully, the best results in a technical last outing for Ashley Williams, the man who becomes an inadvertent foe of pure evil, when he finds himself stuck in an abandoned cabin in the woods, fighting everything from his amputated hand, to the demonic manifestations of his friends. When we last see him in “Dead by Dawn,” Ash has warped back in to medieval times, utterly incapable of processing what’s happened, and crying out in frustration as the film closes.
“Army of Darkness” finds the man regaining his bearings as a fish out of water, dominating the war torn demon infested land he’s dropped in to, by fate. Armed with his chainsaw and Boomstick, Ash finds himself in the middle of a war of good and evil. After taking down a deadite, Ash becomes the hero of King Arthur’s court, and seeks out the unholy book of the Necronomicon, which he’s told will bring him back to his own time and home. Seeking out the book, Ash accidentally creates a Deadite copy of himself that manages to rise up and build a large army of the dead that seek to bring down King Arthur’s castle.
Ash now has to lead the troops to battle evil in the war, while also trying to make it home before he loses grasp of the book. “Army of Darkness” is filled with the usually carnage and chaos you’d expect from Raimi, who seems to channel his inner child with these films. There are some wonderful bits of dark humor, including Ash’s battle with small copies of himself, his rivalry with Evil Ash, and his romance with one of the maidens of the castle. “Army of Darkness” is the perfect film to end the trilogy on, as it embraces the first two film’s dark humor and dread, while also expanding on the mythology of the Necronomicon in the process. It’s a long time favorite, and a film wholly deserving of its cult status.
Scream Factory graces fans of the series with a wonderful three disc Blu-Ray edition of “Army of Darkness” allowing a ton of great special features, and three versions of “Army of Darkness”! On Disc one there’s the eighty minute theatrical version of “Army.” There’s also “Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness,” a wonderful production from Red Shirt Productions that exhaustively explores the production of the film, with vintage footage, great interviews, and some discussion with Bruce Campbell. There’s the film’s original ending, the alternate opening of the film with optional commentary by Raimi and Campbell, as well as eleven minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Raimi and Campbell. There’s also the theatrical trailer, TV Sports, and the US Video Promo. Disc Two features the ninety six minute Director’s Cut of the film.
There’s also a Director’s Cut Audio Commentary with Raimi, Campbell, and Ivan Raimi, all of whom have a good time discussing the film, conveying anecdotes about making the movie, and much more goodies. There’s the On Set Video Footage Compilation, a great twenty one minute piece entitled “Creating the Deadites,” garnering archival footage, and interviews. There’s a fifty three minute Behind the Scenes wealth of footage from KNB Effects, a Vintage “Making Of,” and Extended Interview Clips. Disc Three features the eighty eight minute International Cut of “Army of Darkness,” as well as the ninety three minute television version of the movie, which is lacking in picture quality, but might be fun for nostalgia buffs. There’s the International Theatrical Trailer, Still Galleries with rare behind the scenes photos, a still gallery of props and rare photos, Storyboards, and a vintage “The Men Behind the Army,” exploring the VFX and props. Finally, there’s a Special Thanks for the folks that helped in the release of the Scream Factory Special Edition.