Army of Darkness

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"Come get some "

April 17th, 2013

So with my absolute love for the first two Evil Dead movies you'd assume I was a big fan of the final part of the trilogy Army of Darkness. I'd like to say that I loved every bit of it but that'd be a lie and while it has grown on me with repeat viewings my first viewing left me a little disappointed. Switching genres this one was a fantasy comedy with heavy emphasis on the comedy.

Like the last film I wasn't aware of the sequel until I stumbled upon it during a trip to the local video shop. While I was more aware of cinema releases I can't say I ever remember it hitting cinema screens despite watching most movie related programmes on TV. In actual fact I had seen the poster and video cover multiple times (what an amazing design it was)but passed it over thinking it was another cheap swords and sandals production (such as Deathstalker). They often had brilliant cover work but always offered up shit. The fact that it wasn't called Evil Dead also meant I looked elsewhere. After a time I eventually returned to the film (I had worked my way through most of the stores limited selection) only to discover the sub heading The Medieval Dead. Turning the VHS over I realised what it was, quickly checked it out and invited my friends around for another crazy experience.

Army of Darkness continues from the amazing cliff-hanger ending of Part 2 that had Ash transported back into the past as the prophesied saviour who fell from the sky (not that it really needed a follow up). Much like Evil Dead II we get a quick recap of the plotline, re-filmed for this outing (It's also the third time someone else played Linda) which then offers a slight retcon variation of the ending. Ash (despite being the one foretold)is quickly taken prisoner by Lord Arthur who mistakes him for a waring clan. Once released Ash quickly learns the deadites plague the land and only he has the skills to take on the Armies of Darkness ….only he doesn't much care and just wants to return to his own time.

The plot is quite an ambitious one and comes with a larger scope than the movies previous. While this is great when compared to the rather confined location of the first two movies I don't think the concept is capitalised on in terms of the epic scale it could have been (Not that that even crossed my mind the first time I saw it). I understand that while the movie has a much larger budget than the first flicks (and feels like a better made production) it's still small scale when compared to blockbuster releases at the time but I felt the money was spent on silly visual gags.They look great but was it money well spent, I'm not so sure.

Overall the story is not too bad as Ash once again has to play the reluctant hero but this time it is played from a different angle. Now a seasoned warrior his reluctance comes less from fear but his own selfishness as he ignores the plight of those around him. Ash then sets off on a Jason and the Argonauts type quest to recover the Necronomican to banish the evil from the land.

My main disappointment came from not the story but the overall tone which was a little too goofy for my tastes. I see the allure for filmmakers to attempt something different (It keeps things fresh) and the trilogy does indeed stand out for how different each movie looks and feels yet this is a major departure from what came before (I can see why the changed the name). Normally I'd find it hard to effectively convey the tone of a movie but there are a couple of shows out there which can let you know what you are in for (which just happen to be produced by Rami and have appearances from most of Armies cast). High camp is what we're dealing with here as this is essentially a filmic version of Hercules and Xena. Not that I'm opposed to those shows but I didn't particularly want it in the Evil Dead franchise (Yes I'm aware they were made after it's just for comparison).

That's not to say that Bruce Campbell doesn't excel within high camp in fact it's probably his greatest turn as Ash (I frequently reference his one liners from this film). Watching the movie to see him alone is enough to satisfy anyone (and satisfied I was) but even such a great performance cannot save the film completely. Unfortunately the final act is a little muddled which buries Ash into a leader role, its fine for character development and rounding out the trilogy but it really dulls the character, he becomes your typical action hero and I can get that from any other movie.

Back to the actual comedy usage and I have to say even though I don't mind slapstick (it worked in the last film) Army of Darkness is all but a living cartoon. Campbell sells it well enough but watching him drink boiling water, fight mini versions of himself, play out a three Stooges routine with skeletons, getting sucked into a book and a myriad of other sketches were not to my liking (there are many out there that will lap it up). After a time I began to miss the horror elements.

Which leads me into the actual representation of the deadites, played more for laughs they are never scary. The makeup effects for those who represent the original deadites are still top notch but they are quickly dispatched with. Despite the movie being called Army of Darkness I expected hordes of deadites but a switch is made for a skeleton Army. The stop motion is fun but never the showdown I desired (I just cannot accept them as the Evil Dead). In fact (I'm sure I'll piss people off) the skeleton Army is far more akin to the droids used in the Star Wars prequels, incompetent comic relief.

Then comes the rather wonderfully bleak ending that I found out was actually an alternative cut (Two endings are out there). While I liked the darker ending I must admit that the more upbeat one does fit the movie better and allows Ash to deliver one of his most famous lines.

Army of Darkness may not have been my cup of tea but it is fun. If you can distance yourself from those that came before it you'll have a blast especially as Campbell gives a great final outing as Ash. I've grown to like the movie more as the years have passed but for me it will never reach the same level as those set in the Cabin (I am a horror hound after all).

Other reviews in the series

Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi
Released: 1992
Starring:Bruce Campbell
Embeth Davidtz
Marcus Gilbert