Army of Darkness, 1992.
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert and Ian Abercrombe.
Following on from the events of Evil Dead II (1987) which saw Ash vanquish the demonic force before being sucked through a time portal to the Dark Ages, we now find our wise-cracking hero having to seek out the cursed Necronomicon so as to find his way back to the present. However, due to his own general incompetence, Ash once more accidentally releases the forces of evil and has to do battle with them in order to save the world.
We return to the Evil Dead franchise for the third time in my cavalcade of horror, although in this instance, I might be cheating a bit this time around. After all, Army of Darkness is not really a horror film at all, instead being more of a fantasy adventure tale, albeit one with a chainsaw wielding, gun toting arsehole as the heroic knight in shining armour.
Bruce Campbell is back once more as Ash, this time in full on dickhead mode. He’s punching knights, sleeping with their women, beating up possessed old ladies and forgetting to say the magic words, all the while being a total arsehole to everyone and anyone. Oh and he’s the only hope humanity has if it wants to remain free of the demonic hordes of the undead.
Campbell is on phenomenal form here, finally being allowed to let it rip with smarmy wisecracks and badass one-liners, all while once more showing off his brilliance as a performer of slapstick comedy. And for an added bonus, Campbell also stars as the film’s villain, an evil doppelganger of Ash whose introduction to the story is the culmination of one of the funniest sequences in the film, and features one of its best one liners.
As said in the introduction to this review, this is not a horror film, in fact, the closest it gets to being like horror is when Ash is being tormented in a windmill, feeling like a throwback to the first half of the previous film.
Instead, we have much more focus on comedy, with the film really throwing the gags at you, and Ash generally having the crap kicked out of him by all manner of skeleton hands and tiny doppelgangers. Some of the jokes don’t quite land, sometimes coming off as a bit forced, but thankfully most of them do and are always a joy to watch.
Those hoping for more of the guts and gore of the previous two films will be sorely disappointed with this installment, with the only blood in the whole film appropriately enough being a huge fountain erupting from a pit.
Although, what we get instead of the gore is big action set pieces, especially in the film’s second half when all hell quite literally breaks loose. We get armies of skeletons and monsters, knights on horseback battling said skeletons and Ash busting out something straight out of Mad Max to battle the forces of evil. It’s like an old Ray Harryhausen film on steroids.
Army of Darkness is definitely the weakest in the Evil Dead series, with its abandonment of the horror elements costing it a few points in my view, and admittedly it does take a good while to get going after a strong opening sequence.
Although don’t let that make you think, for even a second, that I dislike the film, because when it does get going it’s blast to watch.
We have a charismatic leading man at the peak of his powers, charming special effects that act as a loving tribute to the fantasy films of old, and a stellar action packed finale that turns me into a dribbling fanboy with every viewing.
It might not be the best of the series, but it’s still a bloody good time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★