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Army of Darkness

Reviewed by Alex Strickland

"Alright, you primitive screw-heads, listen up. . .see this? This. . . is a movie review! A 12-paragraph, 41 line, 600 word document. T-Gate’s top of the line. That’s right, this sweet baby was written in Sacramento, California. You can find it in the movie reviews department. It retails for about 500 k, has got an easy-to-read format, clever word-usage. . .and a nice punchline. You got that?!"

Army of Darkness, Sam Raimi’s third (and final?) installment in the Evil Dead Trilogy, moves even further away from it’s horror roots than it’s predecessor did. With Evil Dead 2, Raimi crafted a precarious balance of fright, gore, and humor - the perfect balance, some might say. Army of Darkness, however, seems more like a three-way cross between The Three Stooges, Jason and the Argonauts, and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. But you know what? It works beautifully.

Our hapless hero Ash, after seemingly dispelling evil’s forces in Evil Dead 2, finds himself transported to 13th century England - back to where it all began. It seems King Arthur’s men, and all of England, is under the terror of a horde of demons known as ‘deadites’. Originally mistaken for one of Duke Henry’s men, and therefore an enemy, he is later revealed as the prophecied savior who will retrieve the Necronomicon and help defeat the evil. But of course Ash, in his usual fumbling way, manages to screw things up, and awakes the Army of the Dead. What follows is a hilarious, highly-enjoyable, and action-packed (if slightly flawed) classic.

Bruce Campbell has got to be one of the hands-down coolest actors in cinema history, like Clint Eastwood or Humphrey Bogart. He takes the character of Ash, who really seems like a bumbling fool at times, and makes him an every day kind of guy we wish we could be - a witty, shotgun-toting, chainsaw-wielding, butt-kicking smart-ass. The sheer amount of great one-liners this film produces makes it hard to compare it to its precursor. Sure, in many ways Evil Dead 2 is superior, but it’s like ranking your children or something. It’s just not very easy, or maybe even possible, to do.

Besides Campbell’s Ash, the acting is okay. Nothing too spectacular here, but no glaringly bad performances either. Rather average, I would say. Davidtz is alluring and likable as Ash’s medieval love interest, and the rest of the performances, like Gilbert’s King Arthur, Abercrombie’s (Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld) Wiseman, or Grove’s Duke Henry are competent. Raimi’s direction and writing, combined with Bruce’s talents, are really what makes the movie, though. Raimi, ever since the first Evil Dead, has made a niche for himself with wild, inventive, but well-executed camera effects. Things like the "spirit in the woods" cam make an appearance here, along with other Raimi trademarks. The camerawork is never gratuitous or distracting; it just looks plain cool. I’ll be interested to see what he’s done with this summer’s live-action Spiderman film.

The special effects are hit and miss - the stop motion skeletons are great, but the puppets and creature suits sometimes fail to be very convincing. In fact, to create much of the skeleton warriors, Raimi enlisted extras dressed in rotting-skeleton like suits, which is rather distracting at times. It’s nothing too bad, but sometimes it detracts from your enjoyment of the film. All in all, if you’re looking for an enjoyable movie to laugh and have fun with, look no further than Army of Darkness; and if you’re a fan of the first two it’s a must-see.

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Director
Sam Raimi

Screenplay
Sam Raimi
Ivan Raimi

Released
February 19, 1993

Cast
Bruce Campbell
Embeth Davidtz
Marcus Gilbert
Ian Abercrombie
Richard Grove

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray