It’s 1991, director Sam Raimi now has the approval for a third movie in The Evil Dead series. So how does he capitalize on the cult success of the previous two films? Change the name to Army of Darkness and make it a horror-comedy. Because that’s worked out for so many franchises before it! See any of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, if you don’t know what I mean. Now does that mean it’s a bad movie? No, absolutely not. This movie brought a lot of folks into the fold of The Chin, Sam Raimi, and the fact that practical effects and good acting will always beat out CGI.
The movie starts out with Bruce Campbell as Ash narrating his current situation. There’s really no need for the narration, as it’s pretty apparent what’s going on. However, Bruce Campbell narrating anything is epic. We find out a little back story and why Ash is in the situation he’s in, flashback style, though the cuts and bruises he receives later in the movie are on his face. That’s why the right side of his face is filmed in this scene, to hide actual cuts and bruises sustained during filming. Just like the last movie, Evil Dead 2, we get a quick recap with some scenes redone to save on time. Ash is sucked into the vortex and now we begin our medieval escapade.
Through that awesome narration we now know that the movie takes place in 1200 AD and our hero has landed smack dab in the middle of not only a war, but a cursed land befouled by the evil that came from the book. Talk about bad luck. Some camera play and exposition, we come to the first real action of the movie: Ash versus the Pit Witch (and her bloated friend). Even up to this point, with lines such as “Well hello, Mister Fancypants!” to his fellow captor Henry the Red, who leads the other guys, this could still work as a horror movie. However, the next particular scene, is where we get the tone for the rest of the film.
If you never knew that the director was a fan of The Three Stooges, you will, now. Ash’s fight with the Pit Witch, while somewhat violent, is packed with goofy angles, over the top screams, and comedic timing. Escaping said pit Ash proceeds to establish himself as the alpha dog amongst these people, giving us one of his most quoted lines ever. “This is my…BOOMSTICK!” as well as some helpful information about what said boomstick is made of, where it’s made, and how much it retails for. Say it with me, kids, “Shop smart. Shop S-Mart! Ya got that?!?” Why do I keep involving children saying lines from horror movies in my reviews?
After Ash gets the only rest and relaxation he’s gotten in the last 72 hours interrupted by a deadite witch and the plot, we now get some classic Raimi montage footage. And let’s add in a ‘Groovy.’ for good measure. With the magic words ‘Klatu verata nictu’ (See The Day The Earth Stood Still) in hand Ash begins his quest for the book, and a stuntman that can pull of that chin. A chase scene and a really wide camera shot later we come to what might be either the most hilarious or most disturbing scenes the dream team has ever put to celluloid. And they filmed a woman biting her own hand off, mind you.
Our hero finds himself in familiar surroundings as he locks himself inside a windmill in the woods to hide from the evil chasing him. Because it worked so well the last time he barricaded himself in a wood shack in the woods with evil chasing him. However, I’m pretty sure if some looming force of darkness was on my heels making that howling sound I’d suddenly develop the ability to swim up a mountain side. A smashed mirror leads us to some Stooges type comedy and miniature cannibalism. Which results in an eyeball poking through the flesh on Ash’s shoulder, complete with a muffled voice to let us know it’s alive. Told you it was disturbing. But it doesn’t stop there, folks, oh no.
The thing begins to grow. First into another head, then into another person from the waist up, then into another person entirely. And here, about the half way mark of the movie, we have our antagonist. Seems the writing team figured they couldn’t have a movie with a hero and no villain. More disturbing imagery! Ash shoots then dismembers his evil twin, in one of the darkest Raimi montages, ever, and proceeds to bury the remains, and the doubt that we’ll never see that character again. After receiving a warning about the book he quests for, The Chin presses on.
Can’t have a medieval movie without a medieval graveyard filled with gothic, medieval tombstones. Ash finds the book, and a twist, to both lengthen the movie and torture Bruce Campbell with special effects makeup. Right before getting the book, however, Ash channels every person that’s ever had to remember something, ever. The humor in this scene is simple, and in that, hilarious. My favorite line being the final one when Ash decides a cough with an ‘N’ sound in front of it would suffice for ancient, evil magic. Again. Ash not so big in the brains department.
The equivalent of ‘Password not accepted’ turns the graveyard into a fireworks factory and awakens the dead, giving us another chance to witness another slapstick tribute to the stooges. We see Evil Ash resurrected, and soon afterwards, his army of the dead. Or darkness, you know, given the movie title and all. But all is not well when The Chin returns and delivers the news that he may have upset some folks back in the medieval graveyard. I couldn’t help one more ‘medieval’, sorry. Things happen! The love interest is taken away! Ash vows to stand and fight! Enter the final scenes!
The men of the castle send word to Henry the Red, the big brute earlier in the movie, that they need help. They also take part in a training montage, because reasons. Ash, being from the future and all, arms them with gunpowder. The formula which he found in a physics book which just happened to be in his trunk. For extra points try to find the issue of Fangoria. When all is said and done we enter what has to be some of the most epic battle scenes since Clash of the Titans. Or Jason and the Argonauts. Depends on your preference.
The army of the dead attack and go after the book! The men at the castle try to defend! Things aren’t going so well for our heroes, who seem to be dropping like flies. Now we see the Ashmobile! The classic that has been made over to be a steam powered (I’m guessing) contraption of death. The Chin meets up with former love interest now turned deadite, which he ends up tossing over the side of a wall like yesterday’s leftovers. And now, an exercise in duality. Evil Ash and Ash face off to fight for the book and the fate of all involved.
I will, once again, skip the ending because I don’t believe in spoilers. So let’s wrap up. This movie set a tone that Sam Raimi would reuse in other movies like Darkman and even further up like Spider-Man. It’s filled with flaws and production fails, try to count the air-rams badly hidden behind scenery, and some big plot holes. And where I’d usually pick apart a movie for them, this time I’m able to overlook them. Not because of fanboy-ism, okay, partly because of fanboy-ism, but mainly because the movie is just plain fun! Big sets, big action, big actor, and big one liners all add up for a horror comedy that is still just as fun today.
Thanks for reading, folks! Also check out the alternate ending and the extended windmill scene in various rereleases of the movie. So I have a question for all our loyal readers: Should I review the reboot of the series? Head to our Facebook or Twitter page to vote! Thanks again, folks. Stay tuned!
Watch the trailer to Army of Darkness