Buy on Amazon!
This, is my BOOMSTICK!
(This review contains spoilers for Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn).
Army of Darkness is a follow up to Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn that is just as zany, but nowhere near as original. The film feels less like an Evil Dead film, and more like a bastardized Lord of the Rings. It’s still a good time, and Bruce Campbell has hardly been more fun to watch. However, if you’re looking for another descent into maddening horror, look elsewhere.
At the end of Evil Dead 2, Ash had seemingly prevailed over the Evil with the help of Annie, but just as he thought it was safe the great portal sucked him and his Oldsmobile into the past. Earlier in the film it was hinted that somehow Ash would be sent back in time and become a legendary hero after he defeated the Evil in medieval Europe. Sure enough, after his journey through the portal, he awakes in a land of knights and kings. It’s here that the third installment in the series, Army of Darkness, begins.
Instead of waking up and saving a group of soldiers from a flying deadite, Army of Darkness begins with Ash in chains, being dragged to an execution. As he plods through the desert he recounts everything that led up to his capture. The film follows the continuity that began with the retelling of the first Evil Dead in Evil Dead 2. Soon he finds himself labelled as a traitor and a servant of Henry the Red (Richard Grove) who is at war with Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert). Arthur throws Ash into a pit, but Ash escapes and proves that he is from the future. Wiseman (Ian Abercrombie) proclaims Ash as the hero of prophecy, and gives him the task of retrieving the Necronomicon so the Evil can be vanquished and Ash sent back to the future.
Where the first film was a shockingly effective horror film, and the second was an even crazier but no less effective film, the third is a totally silly medieval fantasy epic. The plot plays out similarly to The Lord of the Rings, with an ancient artifact of evil that doubles as the only way to destroy the forces that created it, a determined hero, and even a large Helm’s Deep style climax.
While the plot is entertaining, it feels totally unlike an Evil Dead film. This movie doesn’t even try to be scary, but instead fully adopts the Looney Tunes on Crack vibe that permeated the second film. While a strange decision on Raimi’s part, it gives Bruce Campbell to do one of the things he does best, slapstick.
There are many scenes in this movie that feel like a Three Stooges sketch with monsters. It is fun to watch, and worth a laugh, but I was left wanting more of what the originals offered. Really, the only thing that makes this even related to Evil Dead is the use of Ash and the Necronomicon. Gone are the explosions of gore and madness.
Army of Darkness is so goofy that by the time the final scenes roll around, you don’t care how silly it all seems because it’s been such a crazy ride that you just accept whatever Raimi throws at you. The cast looks like they’re having fun, and you’re along for the ride. The film is woefully short, and lacks the originality of it’s prequels, but the zaniness of the proceedings and the always awesome Bruce Campbell make this campy horror comedy worth watching