Picking up immediately after the events of Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness follows Ash through his journey back in time. He ends up in 1300 BC and is immediately marked for execution. He must rely on his wits, his chainsaw appendage, and his boomstick to escape certain death.
Army of Darkness is the weakest of the Evil Dead trilogy but it is still a classic and remains a highly enjoyable film. The serious tone of the original Evil Dead has been completely replaced by slapstick humor, physical comedy, and one-liners. But that seems to have been the natural progression. The first film was serious, the second began to explore the more humorous side of horror and the third continued to move in that direction. Evil Dead II got the balance just right, while this film goes a little bit too far in the direction of comedy but the result is far from disastrous. The film is just slightly hindered by its tendency to sometimes rely too much on gags to float the picture rather than the scares that made the first two films so memorable.
The difference in budget between the second and third films is noteworthy. As always, Raimi does an effective job of setting the tone and orchestrating every last detail to ensure the finished product is up to the highest level of quality possible. With a larger budget, he is able to pull together a very clean production.
With Universal financing the film, the effects went from good to great. The stop motion skeletons are spectacular. It’s a shame that no one uses stop motion anymore because there is such magic to it. It is far more enjoyable than the always-perfect CGI that is used in nearly every horror film now.
Sam Raimi directs this threequel and co-pens the script with his brother Ivan. The Raimi brother’s screenplay is really clever. There are plenty of very quote worthy one-liners and the juxtaposition of a fast talking store clerk from the 20th century with the backdrop of medieval warfare is brilliant. It’s a great spin on the old fish out of water scenario. Bruce Campbell gives what is arguably his best performance of the franchise in this film. He seems the most at home with the Ash character in Army of Darkness. It’s as if he has fully found his rhythm and run with it.
It seems as though Army of Darkness was planned far in advance of actually going into production. It was a full five years from the release of Evil Dead II to the subsequent release of Army of Darkness but the second film ends with a lead in to the third chapter. And Army of Darkness picks up seamlessly where its predecessor left off.
The body count in Army of Darkness is reportedly into the 100s but almost every one of those is a skeleton, so it’s debatable as to whether that really counts or not. Either way, the effects are spot on and the final showdown between Ash and the skeleton army is ultra memorable.
There is much debate amongst fans in regard to which ending is the more suitable. Same Raimi and Bruce Campbell are big proponents of the original ending but fans of the film seem to favor the theatrical ending. I like them both. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the theatrical version, simply because it is more animated and very amusing. But the original ending is slightly more fitting to the tone of the franchise. So I see merit in each.
Surely you’ve seen Army of Darkness. If you don’t already own the Anchor Bay 2-disc DVD set, it is perhaps the most comprehensive US release of the film to date. It contains the theatrical cut, the director’s cut, and plenty of extras. Which ending do you prefer? Let us know in the comment below.
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Writer(s): Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davis
Studio/ Production Co: Dino De Laurentiis Communications, Universal
Budget: $13 Million (Estimated)
Length: 88 Minutes (Theatrical) 95 Minutes (Original)
Sub-Genre: Cinema of the Undead