With Ash vs. Evil Dead just days away from release, the talk behind the Evil Dead trilogy has begun picking up again. Not that it was dead to begin with, as watching Bruce Campbell let loose with a chainsaw never gets old. The original film created an unsettling but satisfying take on horror, while Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn twisted the theory in more absurd (and even more enjoyable) directions, eventually leading Campbell’s Ash into the past for the third film, Army of Darkness.
Universal previously tried to do justice to Darkness with a special “Screwhead Edition” a few years ago, but it couldn’t quite justify the material with lacking extras (mind the alternate ending) and average picture quality. But, at last, fans can finally get the edition they deserve with Shout! Factory’s pristine three-disc package, which comes with more than enough extras – and four cuts of the film – to sate even the bloodiest of appetites.
The four editions of the film – theatrical, director’s cut, television cut and international cut – only have small, subtle differences to each other, but the fact that Shout would throw all four in there for fans to compare and appreciate is really something. That said, the director’s cut is probably your best bet, as it feels the most complete without losing any of its sheer goofiness.
And yes, it is goofy. Ash (Campbell) finds himself transported to medieval times, where he’ll have to deal with knights and deadites alike as he fights to get back home. Things don’t quite go as planned, especially when an evil version of Ash shows up (“You’re goody little two shoes!”), but it’s all part of the fun.
All of the versions here feature top-notch video transfer. Some are better than others – the TV version is weaker compared to the others – but the rest look terrific, capturing the Ray Harryhausen-style special effects and deadite carnage down to a T. The best would probably be either the theatrical or director’s cuts, but you’re welcome to judge which ones work best for you.
As for the audio, all the movies support both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0, so you can choose whatever channel you prefer. Both are meaty and support the material wonderfully, so you can catch all of Ash’s terrific dialogue (“This…is my BOOMSTICK!”) and the fun musical score, as brief as it may be. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Then there are the extras, in which there are plenty. On the first disc, besides the theatrical cut, you also get the original ending, along with an alternate opening, a theatrical trailer and deleted scenes. Nothing major, but all great supplements.
Then we get the second disc, and here’s where things get good. Along with the director’s cut, you also get commentary from Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Ivan Raimi, and they play off each other like college chums. It’s a welcome listen and filled with fun facts. You’ll also find a great deadite creation feature, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, all of which are great for fans.
The third disc comes with both the international cut and TV version, as well as still galleries, storyboards and another piece that looks at the creation of the visual effects. It all wraps up with a special thanks piece that’s well worth a look.
Overall, this is probably as good as you’re going to get when it comes to finding a near-perfect version of Army of Darkness on Blu-Ray. The picture in all cuts (mind the TV version) outdo whatever the Screwhead Edition offered, and the extras are abundant, and filled with gory goodies. Sure, it’s goofier than either of the Evil Dead films, but it’s just the thing you need to fulfill your Ash fix – and with the TV series due back this week, the timing couldn’t be better.