Hail to the King, Baby! - "Army of Darkness" Review
Throwing Ash in the heart of the Middle Ages was something that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell wanted to do since the early ’80s, when they started thinking about a sequel to The Evil Dead. In fact, Evil Dead II was the result of not being able to obtain the necessary budget to produce castles and dozens of horses and armors.
But by 1990, Sam Raimi was an established director. Not only had he achieved two hits with his saga of Deadites, but with Darkman—the dark superhero movie he wrote after not being able to obtain the rights of Batman and The Shadow—he showed that his range was much wider.
Suddenly, financing Raimi wasn't a huge risk. So with an approximate budget of 11 million dollars, Raimi finally took on the task of fulfilling his long creative caprice.
Army Of Darkness resumes right where Evil Dead II stops. Of course, sending continuity to hell, we see that the reception of the knights of Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) to Ash wasn’t at all positive (as Evil Dead II showed). Believing he is an emissary of the enemy Duke Henry the Red (Richard Grove), Ash is captured and treated as a slave.
Ash recounts his story while making his pilgrimage to the place of his execution. Apparently, now the canon story of his fateful trip to the cabin only includes his girlfriend Linda (played this time by Bridget Fonda, which already at this point, using three actresses in the same role, had to be a planned joke).
Ash is thrown into a pit, to be killed by a couple of Deadites who are captured there. A "Wise Man" (Merlin?) played by the great Ian Abercrombie, suspects that Ash is, in fact, the future hero which the prophecy speaks of. After recovering his weapons, Ash is able to eliminate the Deadites, obtaining the respect of all.
Ash only wants to return to the present day. To do this, the wise man informs him that he needs a Necronomicon that is magically protected in the haunted forest. To release it, Ash must chant the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" (an obvious tribute to The Day The Earth Stood Still).
And it's here when the clumsy and mediocre Ash (who still will save the day) makes his first appearance. Of course, Ash forgets the phrase and end up mumbling something slightly different. And although he manages to get hold of the Necronomicon, he also ends up generating an undead villain clone of himself, that raises an army of darkness. The army wants to retrieve the book and also exterminate any human that crosses their path.
That is the setting for the final battle. On the one hand, Ash, Lord Arthur and Duke Henry defending humanity. On the other, a medieval evil Ash and his army of darkness, full of deadites, skulls, and even harpies.
Army Of Darkness has an unprecedented medieval setting, but in most of the other departments, this is an inferior (or not so original) movie compared to the previous two.
For example, and although it has good moments, the humor of this movie doesn't have the freshness and originality of the craziness displayed in Evil Dead II. And the creativity of the practical effects and makeup were already seen in The Evil Dead.
The directing style of Sam Raimi is much more solemn and sober, with good reason. This is a story that does not happen inside a cabin (and the mind of the protagonist), but outdoors, with big armies on horseback. Raimi opens the lens and tames the camera movements.
Of course, this doesn't mean that Army Of Darkness is a slow and boring movie. Nothing farther from the truth. The story moves incredibly quickly, considering everything that happens in just 81 minutes.
Sam Raimi makes an interesting cocktail, which mixes the slapstick of The Three Stooges, with the stop-motion of Ray Harryhausen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts and other literary references like Gulliver's Travels (that's right, you guessed it, there are tiny evil Ashes that tie the original Ash to the floor). All encapsulated in British mythology.
What's Your Rating For Army of Darkness?
The greatest merit of Army Of Darkness is that it looks like a movie twice as expensive. Raimi manages to capture his crazy ambition full of explosions, fires, skulls, monsters, catapults, swordfights and horses with the money he managed to raise. The effort and the final product achieved is just praiseworthy. It deserves its place on my Evil Dead movies list.
That's why it wasn't odd that after this movie, Raimi decided to attack other more massive projects, including the Spider-Man trilogy.
Army of Darkness drained his creativity within the Evil Dead universe but also gave him the confidence to experiment with more ambitious projects of diverse genres.
Title: Evil Dead 3 - Army of Darkness
Release Year: 1992
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards