Picking up where the last film left off, Ash finds himself somewhere in the 1300’s, a time plagued with medieval feuds and more damn Deadites than he can shake a boomstick at. Hailed as the prophesied one, the wise man of the castle says that in order to go home and banish the darkness, Ash must quest for the Necronomicon. Ash just wants to go home and couldn’t care less about the plight of some hapless villagers, but with no other choice, he does as he’s asked. Unfortunately, we find out that Ash follows directions poorly and in retrieving the book he accidentally releases an army of the dead upon the poor people who had hoped that he would help them.
Honest mistake. You guys can handle this, right?
While the first two installments of the Evil Dead franchise flip-flopped between horror and comedy, Army of Darkness forgoes horror altogether and barrels headfirst towards a straight-up comedy with a bit of action thrown in for good measure. It’s kind of evident that at some point between the first film and Army of Darkness, Raimi must have lost interest in the more horrific elements that the first film focused on. Instead, Raimi has Ash descend into what can only be described as a mix of bad-ass action hero and elaborate slapstick fallboy.
This right here is a perfect summation of this movie in GIF form.
Once again, the glue of the movie is Campbell’s Ash. After two previous films, it’s clear here that Campbell has become quite comfortable with the role. Ash has now been perfected into a determined, fierce, though not particularly bright hero that, despite some poor decision making, is still someone the audience can root for.
Campbell’s physical skill and timing is put to the test here. In Army of Darkness he’s often forced to work with things that weren’t real or weren’t there and had to be added later in post production.
Following the pattern of the other films, Army of Darkness seems to have been given another decent sized budget and an increased scale. The prosthetics used here are probably the best they’ve ever been and once again, despite its shift to comedy, the series shows no squeamishness when it comes to blood.
Though I think they used most of their blood allotment on this one scene.
Unfortunately, the scale of Army of Darkness might have ended up being a little too big. It’s clear that towards the end there were budgeting constraints. Sadly, this mostly effects the films grand finale, the final battle between the army of Deadites and the castle defenders. There are a lot of exploding skeletons at the end and one gets the feeling that there were much grander plans at work here, but they had to be scrapped for monetary reasons. This does not effect every scene at the end, but it is sad feeling that there were grander ideas that just couldn’t be pulled off.
If most of them are going to get blown up, you’ve got to make at least one of them look really, really good.
Army of Darkness may be my favorite Evil Dead movie, even though it often doesn’t feel like an Evil Dead movie at all. Instead it feels like more of a follow up to Monty Python’s Holy Grail. The horror elements are present, but are presented in such an over the top way that they just come across as gloriously ridiculous. I mean, having a second head growing out of your shoulder should be terrifying. But when said head is constantly trying to poke you in the eye with one of your own hands, it takes much of the fear factor out of it.
Army of Darkness can best be summed up as a medieval comedy. The fact that it has an army of skeletons and zombies in it feels like more of a footnote than an important aspect of the film. And that’s just fine. It’s not supposed to. Despite some of the terrifying shit going down, you know that the hapless hero will come out in the end, accompanied by some witty, sarcastic remark. And with this series, that’s really all the fans want.
That and a couple dozen gallons of blood.
Army of Darkness is available on a variety of streaming services.
It is also available on DVD and Bluray.