HD DVD: For Fans Only
2 Stars out of 5
Sale Price 3.89
Buy Now
3rd Party 3.89
In Stock.
Release Date: June 26th, 2007
Movie Release Year: 1993
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Army of Darkness (Re-issue)

Review Date July 2nd, 2007 by
Overview -

The second of two HD DVD re-issues to hit store shelves last week, 'Army of Darkness' was originally released in October of 2006 as an HD DVD/DVD combo disc.

As I discussed at length in my recent review of 'Unleashed,' the HD DVD/DVD combo format has long been a source of contention among HD DVD early adopters, and while Universal Studios Home Entertainment had traditionally been the hybrid format's largest supporter, more recently they've appeared to shift their strategy, reserving more expensive two-sided discs for only their more recent theatrical titles released day and date with the standard-def DVD.

In March of this year, the studio went one step further, announcing (in a high-def first) that it would discontinue production of the HD DVD/DVD combo editions of 'Unleashed' and 'Army of Darkness,' and would instead re-issue both films on HD DVD without their standard-def flipsides.

But while news of this move seemed to be music to the ears of combo-haters, unfortunately in revisiting both titles, we found that these first-ever high-def re-issues are not without their trade-offs...

OVERALL
For Fans Only
Leave A Comment
  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
    Length:81
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.85:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH
    French Subtitles
    Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features: Theatrical Trailer
    Movie Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    Release Date: June 26th, 2007

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

2 Stars out of 5

It's no secret that genre fans generally have a strong distate for the mixing of horror and comedy. Films like 'Scream,' 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' and the recent rash of PG-13-rated spook-fests have all come under heavy fire from the horror community for watering down the genre for mainstream tastes to the point where hardcore, balls-to-the-wall terror is an endangered species. But oddly, while Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' films would seem to represent everything that these fans despise, somehow it remains a beloved franchise.

To be sure, the first 'Evil Dead' in 1981 was no joke. But by the time 1987's 'Evil Dead 2' rolled around, the series was already a total parody of itself, an approach taken to almost absurd extremes with 1992's 'Army of Darkness.' All three films feature the character of Ash (Bruce Campbell), the lone survivor of a demonic attack on a group of friends in an isolated cabin in the woods. As told in 'Evil Dead,' Ash and his buddies mistakenly unearth "The Book of the Dead," which invokes some very ill-tempered, oozy monstrosities hellbent on human destruction. Though 'Evil Dead 2' was essentially a comedic remake of the first film, 'Army of Darkness' spins a new tale, as Ash is plunked down in medieval times, and must continue to do battle with The Book of the Dead if he hopes to save mankind and return back to present day.

In all reality, of course, the plot is beside the point of the 'Evil Dead' films. In this film in particular, Raimi seems less interested in telling a coherent story than he is in staging a series of slapstick setpieces that are no more frightening than a carnival funhouse ride. And he found the perfect collaborator in Campbell, who with the 'Dead' films has proven himself to be one of the most accomplished -- and underrated -- physical comedians in movies today. Campbell flails about as chainsaws whirl, zombies cackle and Raimi stages camera moves so intricate and outlandish that by the time we get a point-of-view shot of an eyeball flying into a victim's mouth, it all seems commonplace.

But truth be told -- and I know this is sacrilege to say -- as accomplished and audacious as Raimi and Campbell have been with the 'Evil Dead' films, there seems to be not one iota of personal feeling invested. It seems Raimi cares little about anything outside of pummeling Ash with all manner of camera tricks. The story in 'Army of Darkness' doesn't really exist as such, the human dimension is nil, and the film's damsel-in-distress (Embeth Daviditz, trying the best she can) is pure window dressing.

In the end, I'm not sure there's ever been a series of film as visually inspired and visceral as 'Evil Dead' that mean so little. Rather than playing effectively as horror films, they seem more like the modern equivalent of a Charlie Chaplin or Three Stooges comedy, only without the humanity. I know this may cause me to lose my honorary membership in the horror movie fanclub, but after trying over and over again to "get it," the 'Evil Dead' films continue to leave me feeling absolutely nothing at all.

(Note that this HD DVD release of 'Army of Darkness' features the 81-minute, theatrical cut version of the film, not the 96-minute expanded version that has long been available on standard-def DVD.)

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:81
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    French Subtitles
    Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Theatrical Trailer
    Movie Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    Release Date: June 26th, 2007

Video Review

2.5 Stars out of 5

'Army of Darkness' made its original next-gen debut on a HD-15/DVD-5 double-sided combo disc. And while this re-issue drops the DVD side of the platter, the video transfer and its tech specs remain identical, with the disc sporting only its original HD-15 single-layer.

As I wrote in my original review of the combo edition the transfer itself is a hit or miss affair. Though it is nice to see the film in full 1080p/VC-1 video, the source material is inconsistent, and time has certainly not done the film's pre-CGI special effects any favors. To be sure, there's no major print damage (such as rips, tears or excessive dropouts), but dirt is noticeable (particularly in shots involving optical effects, which are numerous) and grain is rampant. Darker scenes fare the worst, with the image often looking flat and fuzzy. Colors also suffer from a dated appearance, but the transfer appears to have been pumped up to compensate, with hues oversaturated and smeary at times. At least fleshtones are more or less accurate, although some of the more stylized segments have a reddish tint (especially the film's present-day bookend segments, which are pretty dreadful).

There are some plusses, however. Daylight scenes fare the best, with Ash's arrival at the medieval castle boasting a rather detailed image and a nice sense of depth. The vivid colors also work better here, and don't look quite as artificial. Still, this transfer is all over the place -- the aged source material combined with the film's limited budget, an abundance of darkly-lit scenes, and extensive opticals makes for one of the weakest HD DVD releases I've seen from Universal. Considering the material, I'll give this one a few extra charity points, but as I wrote my original review of this transfer, 'Army of Darkness' could really use a from-the-ground-up, full-on remastering.

Audio Review

3 Stars out of 5

Again a direct match with its combo disc predecessor, this HD DVD re-issue of 'Army of Darkness' gets the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround/1.5mbps treatment. As I wrote in my original review, this is a pretty nice soundtrack, although the film's sound design is what you'd expect from a mid-budgeted genre film from 1992 -- surround use is sporadic and fairly obvious, and envelopment inconsistent.

'Army of Darkness' sports a surprising amount of dialogue for a horror film. Though some ADR is obvious, dialogue is always clear and well-balanced in the mix. Surround use is limited to the score throughout most of the film, except for a random discrete effect here and there, such as a galloping horse or a shotgun blast. The rears only really come alive during the climactic fortress battle (the 'Evil Dead' version of Helm's Deep), which contains some nice split surround activity, although it's nothing compared to a film like 'Terminator 3.' Otherwise, dynamic range is solid, boasting fairly deep low bass and reltively natural and spacious mid-range. Still, despite the Dolby Digital-Plus upgrade, there's little-to-no audible difference between this track and the Dolby Digital track on the most recent standard-def DVD.

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

Once again, here's where this re-issue differs from the old HD DVD/DVD combo. As was the case with 'Unleashed,' Universal's combo disc release of 'Army of Darkness' only included supplements on the DVD side of the disc. Since the DVD portion of the release has been dropped from this re-issue (and since Universal apparently couldn't be bothered to re-do the HD DVD side), we get nothing in the way of supplements on this one.

Granted, we're not missing much, at least compared to the combo release. While DVD editions of 'Army of Darkness' have included an alternate ending, deleted scenes, audio commentary, storyboards, etc., the flipside of the combo disc included only the film's Theatrical Trailer. Still, if you thought the supplements package on this one couldn't get any worse, it has.

Final Thoughts

'Army of Darkness' is arguably the least effective of the three 'Evil Dead' films, and it's certainly the most jokey. But if you're a fan (and you know who you are), you gotta have the whole trilogy no matter what.

Unfortunately, this new HD DVD-only re-issue of the film does not right any of the wrongs of the previous HD DVD/DVD combo released by Universal last year. The good news is that, at $5 cheaper, at least it's a better bargain. The bad news is that Universal has lost the only meager extra on the old combo version -- the film's theatrical trailer. If a $5 discount and no trailer appeal to you, then by all means pick this one up. Otherwise, cross your fingers and hope Universal issues a better, more deluxe special edition on HD DVD in the future.

Sale Price 3.89
Buy Now
3rd Party 3.89
In Stock.
See what people are saying about this story or others
See Comments in Forum

Blu-ray News

The latest Blu-ray, news, releases & pre-orders
  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:81
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
    Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH
    French Subtitles
    Spanish Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Theatrical Trailer
    Movie Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
    Release Date: June 26th, 2007