House of Horror: Army of Darkness (1992)

Army_of_Darkness_poster

Title: Army of Darkness (1992)

Director: Sam Raimi

Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi

Starring:

  • Bruce Campbell
  • Embeth Davidtz
  • Richard Grove
  • Marcus Gilbert

Plot: A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home.

Review: Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart.

Army of Darkness, or Bruce Campbell Vs. Army of Darkness as it appears on the screen during the film, is not a true horror movie. It is, however, the third film in the Evil Dead franchise, bringing an end to the character Ash who has been put through the wringer over the last two films.

Army of Darkness starts out much like Evil Dead 2 ended, with Ash being pulled through a time portal and sent back to 1300 A.D. Stuck in the past with his car, chainsaw and shotgun, he’s left to find a way back to his own time while dealing with the Deadites that are killing people around him in addition to the two feuding armies trying to kill each other.

Stretch Ash
I make that same face when I see my bank statement.

Eventually, Ash finds out that he can be sent back to his time, but must get back the Necronomicon, the book of the dead that started all of this two films ago. While Ash gets the book back, he unwittingly unleashes the Army of Darkness who immediately attack King Arthur and his people.

Ash is forced to fight alongside of the people, and with the help of Duke Henry and his people, they are able to stop the deadites for that time. Ash is able to then return to his time (or not, depending on which copy you of the film you have) and the film ends on yet another cliff hanger with Ash standing tall and now a real hero.

As I said at the top of the review, AOD is not a true horror movie. It has more comedy then anything though that being said, we still have a funny monster picture. Continuing and finishing the story of Ash from the last film is great. Ash is back – he’s still a bit of a coward – but slowly becomes a badass as the film progresses.

Sam Raimi and crew captured the look and the feel of being around in 1300 A.D. The costumes, the sets and the weapons all look great and really put you in that era. Along with the sets and costumes, the dialogue the character use is spot on and mixes so well with Ash and his one liners. It’s great watching this character interact with people who have no idea what the hell he’s talking about.

Deadites
Deadite Army…or your friends Saturday night.

There’s quite a bit of slapstick here – way more then Evil Dead 2 – that you could really tell Sam Raimi decided to cut loose when Ash is fighting mini-Ash’s, and then a complete clone of himself that’s pure evil. There’s plenty of jokes, one liners that are highly quotable, and the finale is a satisfying one with plenty of action and cool stunts.

On the other hand, there’s quite a bit of slapstick here and some of it tends to drag on for a long time. If you’re not a fan of the Three Stooges or silly jokes, you won’t like the second half of the film, which at times drags with everything it tries to pack in. The first time I watched it, and the last time (this past weekend), I found myself wishing they had cut out a bit of the middle fluff and got down to brass tacks with the finale.

Speaking of the finale, there’s an alternate ending, with one being a happy ending and one being a sad. I won’t spoil the sad ending, which is considered the alternate ending here in the states (foreign markets got the sad ending), but I prefer the happy one. I’d rather see Ash standing tall and ready to kick more ass then being once again caught in a horrible situation. Considering we didn’t get Evil Dead 4, it’s the best ending to go with.

Groovy
Groovy.

Another issue I have with the film is  the overall confusion with what and who it is. Not having the Evil Dead moniker in its title I think hurts the film because those that aren’t hip to the these films may not realize there was a third Evil DeadFurthermore, I think it’s a detriment to the first two films that were and still are good films and there’s no reason why this couldn’t have been Evil Dead 3, or Medieval Dead.

To make the title situation worse, the movie itself says the title is Bruce Campbell Vs. Army of Darkness. This makes it even more confusing because Bruce Campbell isn’t playing himself. He’s playing Ash, so shouldn’t it say Ash Vs. Army of Darkness? It’s all very confusing and quite frankly, stupid. It’s like no one could decide on a definitive title so let the film have two different ones, both of which don’t fit in with the rest of the films in the franchise.

One area that is both hit and miss to me are the effects. The monsters, for the most part, look outstanding. Evil Ash looks nasty and scary at the same time. Other monsters, like the skeletons, look cheap and just bad, even by 1992 standards. This does fall in line with the previous films, which didn’t exactly have the best effects in film. So on one hand, I give them credit for some of the creatures, but some of the other effects are just bad.

Ash
See this? This is my BOOMSTICK!

Word of advice when it comes to Army of Darkness and picking it up on DVD from someone who owns the film. There are six, SIX different DVD editions of Army of Darkness (and that’s just Region 1). There are your standard editions, your two disc editions, your directors cuts and one is even called a Bootleg Cut – whatever the hell that means. If you want the definitive Army of Darkness DVD, pick up the Army of Darkness: Boomstick Edition. It includes the Theatrical Cut (82-min) & Director’s Cut (96-min) on separate discs – same content as original R1 2-Disc Limited Edition release – as well as an 8-page collector’s booklet.

Acting: Bruce Campbell is awesome once again as Ash. Seeing Bruce dance his way through the picture is fun In his world, all of this is normal and it’s silly. He throws down some of the best one liners in the history of film and looks cool doing it.

Embeth Davidtz does a fine job as Sheila, Ash’s love interest. She’s hot and really that’s all she needs to be as the character doesn’t have much to do besides stand around and get Ash excited.

Marcus Gilbert did a good job as Lord Arthur. Nothing stands out about his performance, but nothing was bad either. It’s really hard to carve out a piece of the film for yourself when you’re up against Bruce Campbell in “his” role.

Gore Factor: There’s not much gore here with some monsters getting shot and stabbed. It’s nothing like the last two films in terms of trying to gross people out. Gore hounds will be let down.

Nudity Factor:  There’s plenty of skeletons showing their bones… that’s all.

Fun Facts:

  • During the filming of Army Of Darkness, the Delta 88 car falling out of the sky was shot two times. During the first attempt, the 25 ton crane lifting the Oldsmobile failed due to mechanical problems and toppled over the edge of a cliff at the quarry location where filming was taking place. Fortunately, no injuries occurred as the crane operator dropped from the cab before the crane went over the edge. Days later, a larger 80 ton crane was brought in to remove the damaged crane and re-shoot the car drop. In the final edit, elements of the re-shoot as well as footage from the end of Evil Dead 2 were used.
  • According to Sam Raimi in the book “The Evil Dead Companion” by Bill Warren, Charles Napier was to play Ash’s boss in S-mart but his role was totally cut. Likewise, Bridget Fonda was scheduled to have more screen time as Linda.
  • An issue of the magazine “Fangoria” can be seen in the car’s trunk.
  • S-Mart is chain of grocery stores in Mexico.
  • To my longtime friend Nikki C, happy birthday!
  • Bruce Campbell says that in order to make it appear that the chainsaw was always running, tobacco smoke was pumped through a tube that was slid up his right pant leg, up his shirt and into the chainsaw.

Overall: The first half of the film, with its one liners and smooth moves by Ash, is great fun. The middle drags but thankfully the finale is action packed enough to end the film on a good note. Some of the effects work and others don’t though there’s a bit too much slapstick for my liking. Still, Army of Darkness is a satisfying end to Ash’s journey and it’s a shame we never got (and never will get) an Evil Dead 4.

Rating: 3.5/5

Author: Jeremy Nichols

Jeremy Nichols is regular writer for the Place to be Nation, a father of two and a full time gamer. He hosts a video game podcast at VGCE.podomatic.com and loves Super Mario Bros. Sweep the leg! Send Jeremy an email