Case Number 17372: Small Claims Court

ARMY OF DARKNESS: SCREWHEAD EDITION

Universal // 1992 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // September 30th, 2009

The Charge

"Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up!"

The Case

Like the other Evil Dead films, Army of Darkness has been double-dipped so much on DVD it's become monotonous. Fans of the movie no doubt own one of the seven or eight previous releases, whether it was released by Universal or Anchor Bay, so why should people shell out more money for the "Screwhead" edition? Actually, this latest release does have its virtues, even if they will only appeal to die-hard fans. For now, let's have some hot chocolate while we explain what Army Of Darkness is all about for newcomers.

Technically, Army of Darkness is actually the third film in the Evil Dead saga, which began back in 1982. Ash (Bruce Campbell, Spider-Man 3) and some college buddies decide to go to a cabin in the woods (hey, wouldn't you?) which is inhabited by evil demons (known as Deadites). After the demons kill all of Ash's friends they, naturally, go after him, setting up the battle that came to be known as Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. Ash survives, but after his hand becomes possessed, he's forced to slice it off with a chainsaw.

The worst is far from over, however. Because of an ancient text called the Necronomicon, Ash inadvertently opens a time-warp that transports him back to 13th-century England. Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) believes this visitor to be one of the men of enemy Henry the Red (Richard Grove, Point Break). The only one who identifies Ash is a Wiseman (Ian Abercrombie, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), but Arthur decides to send Ash to his death by throwing him in a pit that houses a Deadite. Ash emerges victoriously, and demands to be sent home. In order for the Wiseman to help him, Ash must obtain the Necronomicon...but in doing so he accidentally raises an evil skeleton army!

Like other cult films, Army of Darkness is not for everyone's taste. Those who are not familiar with the Evil Dead universe may have a difficult time actually "getting it." The movie is filled to the brim with tongue-in-cheek, bad-ass dialogue and many of the lines are quotable. To put it simply, the viewer will either laugh nonstop or come away thinking this is the one of the stupidest movies ever made. I'm definitely with the cult crowd on this one, yet I don't think the film is as strong as the first two installments. The first film was sinister and serious, while the second perfectly juggled terror and humor in a strikingly fresh way. By contrast, Army Of Darkness is just plain old goofy fun, though I really wish it had the edge that was present before.

Of course, Army of Darkness wouldn't work without the twisted minds of star Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi. More often than not, the film feels like a giant, effects-laden party for themselves, and these guys probably couldn't care less what critics think. The visual effects range from excellent to schlocky, and they serve the story extremely well in terms of the off-the-wall tone. Plus, the reference from The Day The Earth Stood Still and nods to Three Stooges are silly but ingenious. There's so much to enjoy here for fans and devotees it practically screams for multiple viewings. Enough about the film, though. What about the DVD?

This all-new "Screwhead Edition" has the distinction of offering the best transfer to date of Army of Darkness. Grain and visual hiccups are still occasionally evident in the 1.85:1 Anamorphic print, but overall the image is sharp and clean. Flesh tones are remarkable, and black levels are exquisite. Some of the effects certainly show their age, but fans shouldn't even care. Audio-wise, Universal gives us a booming 5.1 Surround track. Every shotgun blast and chainsaw crank-up is heard with generous clarity, and the legendary dialogue sounds better than ever. English and French subtitles are also provided.

As far as extras are concerned, Universal not only drops the ball but misses several opportunities. The all-new feature is a 27-minute documentary "Creating the Deadites," where we meet the special effects supervisors, who talk about the work they did on the skeletons and demons. It's engaging enough, but it still doesn't exactly justify the double-dip. The only other bonus is the director's alternate ending, which remains a hot button of debate between fans. Otherwise, the many deleted scenes (which I personally love), commentary, and other documentaries from previous releases are missing here. I understand if Universal wasn't able to get them because of rights issues (they were on the Anchor Bay DVDs), but the bottom line is Universal could have done so much more here.

The Verdict

The film is found not guilty and free to go, but Universal is charged with not only double-dipping but mindless double-dipping. As a result, they are ordered to not release the film again until Raimi and Campbell finish Evil Dead IV.

Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French

Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Alternate Ending
* Featurette

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0106308/combined