Bound in human flesh, inked in blood – and amazingly hard to pronounce – the ancient “Necronomicon” (Book of the Dead) unleashes unspeakable evil upon mankind in director Sam Raimi’s (Darkman) outrageously hilarious sword-and-sorcery epic.
Back to do battle with the hideous “Deadites,” Bruce Campbell reprises his role from the Evil Dead series as Ash, the handsome, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-armed department store clerk from S-Mart’s housewares division. Demonic forces time warp him – and his ’73 Oldsmobile – into England’s Dark Ages, where he romances a beauty (Embeth Davidtz) and faces legions of undead beasts, including a ghastly army of skeletons. Can Ash save the living from the evil dead, rescue his girlfriend, and get back to his own time?
Overflowing with spectacular special effects, Army of Darkness will make you scream with fear and laughter.
Army of Darkness 8.0
As the third instalment in Sam Raimi’s iconic ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy, ‘Army of Darkness’ is a bit of a surprise: not only does it eschew the intensity of its horror roots, but it replaces it instead with a slapsticky, cornball humour that could easily have been off-putting to fans of the original. Surprisingly, the combination works well enough that the film garnered a tremendous following and even drew in new fans to the series.
A quick look back: in the first two films, Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash, traveled to a log cabin with some friends and was trapped in the woods with an evil spirit. After countless struggles, Ash eventually managed to cast the spirit away from this plane. In doing so, however, Ash was also transported away to (presumably) his doom.
‘Army of Darkness’ finally reveals exactly where Ash had been banished to: medieval times (Sam Raimi wanted to call this sequel ‘The Medieval Dead’, but had to settle for ‘A.o.D.’ instead).. Of course, it’s not the medieval era that we‘re accustomed to: with a budget as low as this film’s, Raimi had to make do cheap sets and costumes, actors with varying types and degrees of accents – and, not unlike ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’, many anachronisms.
Of course, it’s also a fantasy story and it’s played for laughs – so it’s hard to hold this against the filmmakers. In fact, one suspects that it was done specifically for the kitsch value of the exercise. After all, when you know that you can’t make ‘Ben Hur’, you might as poke fun at your inadequacies. ‘Army of Darkness’ certainly does plenty of that: there’s no hiding the glaring weaknesses in the film.
Case-in-point: the special effects are so low budget, that we end up with a film featuring plenty of stop-motion animation overlapped with live action. Not only was CGI in its infancy when this came out, but a low budget film as this one probably wouldn’t have been able to afford any in the first place. Thus, the use of multiple old-school techniques is quite apparent here. Presumably, for some, this is part of the charm.
The key element of this series, of course, is Bruce Campbell. In this one, Campbell hams it up to a degree that he hadn’t before. He began metamorphosing Ash into a caricature in the second film but, by the third, he has become a full-fledged cartoon – complete with cheesy witticisms, pratfalls, and demented courses of action which take our pseudo-hero deeper into the world of the Deadites. Again, it’s done mostly for laughs – and the film succeeds in its intention.
Because ‘Army of Darkness’ is, all in all, a very funny film – silly, for sure (maybe even stupid, at times!), but with enough tongue-in-cheek to charm. With a pretentious and ridiculous title like this one, it’s a wonder that this movie was, not only made, but actually has some entertainment value. And yet, ‘Army of Darkness’ has that in spades – enough so to have become a legendary cult classic.
Mind you, being the sibling of the original ‘Evil Dead’ hasn’t hurt one bit.