Skip to main content

'Army of Darkness' Review: The Medieval Dead

Sam loves movies and enjoys science fiction, zombie movies, and pessimistic survival films.

"Evil Dead" comes back in medieval times. Can Bruce Campbell recover the Book of the Dead?

"Evil Dead" comes back in medieval times. Can Bruce Campbell recover the Book of the Dead?

The Return of "Evil Dead"

After The Evil Dead (1981), Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell had the ambition to move the saga to the Middle Ages to widen the mythological aspect of their universe. However, the reality of their gigantic ambition vs. the low budget prevented them immediately. That ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it brought as a consequence the effort and creative flourish of Evil Dead II.

It was precisely the success of that sequel that made Dino de Laurentiis give the green light to triple the budget for the next installment. Thus, the third film would finally achieve the greatest dream of its creator: a 1300 setting, at the height of King Arthur's time.

With the transition of time, a change of the title would come. Army Of Darkness would reaffirm the fact that this film, still belonging to a saga, was its own thing.

Movie Details

Title: Evil Dead 3 - Army of Darkness

Release Year: 1992

Director(s): Sam Raimi

Actors: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, a.o.

Reinventing the Formula That Made the Evil Dead Saga Great

Army Of Darkness is one of those rare examples in which the reaffirmation of the formula and the double downing of the exaggeration and the cartoonish style worked. The bigger and badder really meant better here.

Because while Evil Dead II is the absolute majority favorite and the absolute peak in terms of originality, Army Of Darkness manages its bigger budget way better and offers equally hilarious moments with far superior technical quality.

We are talking about a movie with the same horror/comedy/slapstick tone, but full of epic battles between armies, full of explosions, catapults, sword fights, and more complex choreographies.

Army of Darkness Storyline

Army Of Darkness picks up right where Evil Dead II ends. Ash and his Oldsmobile Delta 88 have been teleported to the Middle Ages, in the heat of the clash between Lord Arthur and Duke Henry. Ash is stripped of his emblematic boomstick (shotgun) and his chainsaw, taken prisoner, and thrown into a pit to be devoured by a Deadite.

But Ash, the best Deadite killer of the universe, manages to recover his weapons, eliminate the threat, surprise everyone, and become a hero, one one-liner at a time.

From then on, Ash's journey, with the help of the "Wise Man" (Ian Abercrombie) will consist of recovering the Necronomicon in the haunted forest. Of course, thanks to Ash's stubbornness in not memorizing the exact words of the necessary spell, an Evil Ash will emerge and join the army of darkness.

Ash then must save his new romantic interest, lead the battle between humans and Deadites, and achieve peace between Arthur and Henry.


What Do We Make of This Crazy Mix?

One of the strengths of Army Of Darkness is that all that plot is resolved in less than an hour and a half. The editing and the frenetic pace is perfect for the tone and the result is a rich concentrated film full of hilarious and wonderful moments.

Army Of Darkness is also Ash's ultimate showcase. A rising star in Evil Dead II, by this time the character already had the cult and the fandom at his feet, so everything revolves around the glorious over-the-top, whacky performance of a more muscular and theatrical Bruce Campbell.

Army Of Darkness received a lukewarm reception from the public and critics, but it was destined to automatically become a cult piece.

Sadly, the effort ended up draining Sam Raimi. It took more than 20 years before the director listened to his followers and decided to reignite The Evil Dead universe. Take a look at our ranking list of the Evil Dead saga.

© 2018 Sam Shepards