‘Army of Darkness’ Looks Groovy in Ultra HD [4K Review]

Army Of Darkness
Army Of Darkness

In a now six-year-old Blu-ray review for Scream Factory’s Army of Darkness (1992) I proclaimed—in the opening sentence—that edition was “the definitive home video release”. Cut to today and I’m eating those words, as Scream Factory’s latest release brings the film’s theatrical cut to 4K Ultra HD along with all the previous edition’s various cuts and bonus features.

Is this finally the definitive release? Doubtful. While the theatrical cut is the most widely seen version the fact is ask fans and they’ll all give different responses to the question of which cut is best—and three of the four aren’t in 4K… yet. Why is the theatrical cut the only one getting the spit-and-polish here? Because Universal had that full cut restored in 4K already. The elements for the other versions haven’t been given that treatment… (again) yet. Expecting companies to stop putting out new (or not) releases for this trilogy is like expecting Ash to get the words right when he retrieves the Necronomicon.

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Ashley “Ash” J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) was sucked into a time vortex at the end of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) and has reappeared in medieval times. The only way he can return is to acquire the Necronomicon—the Book of the Dead —and recite a passage. But in typical Ash fashion, things don’t quite go as planned, leading to an army of the dead being resurrected. With a full-scale battle imminent and the local citizens counting on his aid, Ash must fight against the Deadites if he wants any hope of making it back home.

Army of Darkness is a love letter to Ray Harryhausen, classic horror, and slapstick comedy that isn’t easy to classify. But that’s the secret to its endurance. Raimi did something ambitious and different, all with studio backing (more or less). The comedy does get a little tiresome at times (I’ve always found the mini Ashes to be annoying). But Raimi does strike a near-perfect balance between horror, humor, fantasy and heroics. Nothing was done with computers; this is all ingenuity and practical effects, matte paintings, camera trickery and old-school techniques.

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Campbell is fully in his element, doling out one-liners with the same ease with which he’s lopping off heads with a chainsaw. There’s a lot of greatness surrounding him, too. Evil Ash provides the perfect foil, the supporting cast is solid, the story moves at a quick pace and the film’s FX work is superb. Seriously, the FX team (which includes Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, and Tony Gardner) produced so many impressive pieces here that it’s overwhelming. The stop-motion skeletons alone are a work of art.

So you’re a fan of the film, but the real question is: which cut? There are four from which to choose—the theatrical version, the director’s cut, the international cut, and the television version. Raimi was forced to make cuts to create the theatrical edit, and the sixteen-minute longer director’s cut is his preferred version.

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Different versions feature alternate takes and dialogue. The director’s cut has a lot of great footage added back in except (in my opinion) for the ending. Ash waking up in a post-apocalyptic London isn’t nearly as satisfying or fun as the S-Mart ending. If you’re alright with getting only some of that director’s cut footage, maybe try the international version, which runs eight minutes longer than the theatrical cut and retains the S-Mart ending.

Scream Factory’s press materials proclaim the theatrical cut as coming from a “new 4K restoration of the film from the negative”, and that it has been approved by Raimi, director of photography Bill Pope, and editor Bob Murawski. Given that pedigree it should be no surprise the 2160p 1.85:1 picture is often stunning, with the native 4K presentation exhibiting finer details and brighter colors than ever before. All of the early scenes in Lord Arthur’s courtyard, for example, look outstanding. The added boost of Dolby Vision/HDR10 provides a richer color palette. Film grain is intact and still looks heaviest during night scenes. Likewise, the many optical effects shots still appear rough because that’s just how it is. Still, videophile fans will be impressed by the image; it is a worthy upgrade.

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The international cut is presented in 1080p and has been minted from a new 4K scan of the interpositive. There is still some dirt on the print, and the film’s many optical shots are soft, grainy and generally a bit rough. Colors, in particular, appear richly saturated and vibrant. Detail, too, is strong overall with close-ups yielding very nice details.

The director’s cut lists no technical information, though it seems likely Scream sourced this from the same master used for the R3 DVD all those years ago (i.e. 35mm, not tape). There are still obvious variations in quality when scenes jump to the additional footage. But it isn’t glaring as on previous home video editions. This would be my ideal cut of the film were it not for the ending. Finally, the television cut. It’s full-frame, interlaced at 1080i, jittery and will only serve as a curiosity—at best—for most fans buying this set.

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Shockingly, no new Dolby Atmos track was created for this 4K release. TV cut aside, every version of the movie features an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound track. The sound here is rich, with rears being used nicely to fill out the sound field and create a pleasing sense of immersion. Dialogue comes through clean and well-balanced amongst the plethora of effects present in most scenes.

The score, composed mainly by Joseph LoDuca with contributions from Danny Elfman, sounds full and impressive in lossless audio. The compositions are the perfect complement to the film. All cuts also include an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Subtitles are available in English.


There are no bonus features on this disc.

DISC TWO: Theatrical Cut

“Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness” (1080p, 1:36:34) – Much of the film’s cast & crew are interviewed here, though it’s Campbell who takes center stage and owns the show. This is partially because he’s that kind of guy, and also because Sam Raimi and Embeth Davidtz declined to participate. Still, Campbell regales with his usual comedic tales from the trenches, while others discuss their own respective roles on the film. Lots of ground is covered here, though much of it is redundant if you’re a fan with any familiarity as to how this movie was made. Some judicious editing could have turned this into a tight one-hour piece. Still, it’s damn comprehensive.

Original Ending (SD, 4:37) – Ash, having taken one too many sleepytime drops, wakes up to a post-apocalyptic London.

Alternate Opening (SD, 2:58) – Ash provides a different recap of the events prior to this film. Optional commentary with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell is available.

Deleted Scenes (SD, 11:06) – The footage here comes from three key scenes. The film’s opening, Ash at the windmill, and a final meeting between Ash and Henry the Red. Optional commentary with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell is available.

The film’s theatrical trailer (SD, 2:03) is included, featuring an odd instrumental rework of Metallica’s “Sad But True”.

Two “TV Spots” (SD, 1:54) and a “U.S. Video Promo” (SD, 0:34) can also be found here.

DISC THREE: Director’s Cut

The only audio commentary on this set is unsurprisingly featured on this cut, featuring director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi. If you have ever heard these guys (specifically Sam & Bruce) on a commentary, you’ll know how much fun it is to hear their tales. If not, correct that issue at once by playing Army of Darkness with this informative, lively, often hilarious track.

On-Set Video Footage Compilation (SD, 4:40) – These are quick clips of some behind-the-scenes footage from the film.

Creating the Deadites Featurette (HD, 21:29) – KNB honchos Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero introduce this piece, which is comprised of their own personal camcorder footage, shot in the KNB studios while prep on the film’s FX took place.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage from KNB Effects (SD, 53:54) – Just as the title says, this is lots of unedited footage shot by the guys in KNB, showcasing the film’s FX work.

Vintage Making of Featurette (SD, 4:51) – This is essentially just a studio EPK providing an overview of Army of Darkness.

Extended Interview Clips (SD, 5:02) – These archival clips have a few more words with Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert.

DISC FOUR: International & Television Cuts

The big bonus here is the Television Version (1:33:03), presented in 1.33:1, 1080i, with no chapter stops. A quick sampling of this cut showed it is rough, often jerky (framerate issue?) and likely only worth a watch to those who might have grown up watching this on cable.

An international theatrical trailer (SD, 2:08) is available.

“Still Galleries with Rare Behind-the-Scenes Photos” features 339 images. “Still Gallery of Props & Rare Photos” features 49 images. A gallery of storyboards contains 57 images.

The Men Behind the Army (SD, 18:58) – This carryover from the old Anchor Bay theatrical cut DVD is a vintage making-of piece.

Special Features:


  • NEW 4K RESTORATION OF Army of Darkness FROM THE CAMERA NEGATIVE, Approved by director Sam Raimi, director of photography Bill Pope, and editor Bob Murawski
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 tracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature


  • NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE CAMERA NEGATIVE, Approved by director Sam Raimi, director of photography Bill Pope, and editor Bob Murawski
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 tracks
  • Medieval Times: The Making of “Army Of Darkness” – A Feature-length Documentary With Over 20 people Interviewed Including Star & Co-Producer Bruce Campbell, Actors Ted Raimi, Bill Moseley, And Patricia Tallman, And Many More…
  • Original Ending
  • Alternate Opening With Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell
  • Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • U.S. Video Promo
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature


  • Audio Commentary With Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell, And Co-Writer Ivan Raimi
  • Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage From KNB Effects
  • Creating the Deadites – Vintage Featurette
  • Vintage “Making Of” Featurette
  • Extended Interview Clips With Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, And Robert Tapert
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 tracks


  • Television Version With Additional Footage (Standard Definition)
  • International Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Production Designer Anthony Tremblay, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Special Make-Up Effects Artists Tony Gardner And KNB EFX, Inc. (Over 200 Stills)
  • Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos From The Collection Of Super Fan Dennis Carter Jr.
  • Storyboards For Deleted Or Alternate Scenes
  • The Men Behind The Army – Vintage Featurette
  • Army of Darkness
  • Special Features


While this might be the best home video release so far, the only difference between this edition and the last release is the 4K disc for the theatrical cut. The new steelbook looks awfully nice, too, but this is mainly aimed squarely at videophiles who want the highest possible video quality.

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