By contributor Patrick Zabriskie
Summary: A strangely exciting epic and a fitting end to the ‘Evil Dead’ series.
Review: The ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy’s progression is certainly peculiar. 1981’s ‘Evil Dead’ was a low-budget horror film set in a cabin-in-the-woods; ‘Evil Dead II’ in 1987 was an outrageous action-horror-comedy in the same scenario. And then came ‘Army of Darkness’ AKA ‘Evil Dead III: The Medieval Dead’ in 1993, a horror action comedy epic with slapstick elements set in medieval England. How we got from point A to point B is still a mystery to me.
Well, not really I guess. After all, at the end of ‘Evil Dead II’, Ash (Bruce Campbell) does get transported back to the middle ages, so I guess it makes sense. I guess… Anyways, he sets out to return to his own time, along the way defending a castle and its people. They’re terrorized by the same evil he has combated in the first two films, the dark forces of the Book of the Dead.
The highlight is an epic battle at the end against the Army of Darkness (a vicious horde of the living dead) that, believe it or not, is somewhat reminiscent of the Battle of Helm’s Deep from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It makes good use of stop-motion effects in the vein of Ray Harryhausen, the man behind the effects in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and the original ‘Mighty Joe Young’. Though these effects feel dated, they none-the-less have a certain charm. This movie is overall much more action oriented than its predecessors, and yes, Ash’s chainsaw and shotgun are back for more fun as well, though this time around it’s not nearly as gory.
I really love the way that Ash handles himself in this film. He cracks so many one-liners, whether it’s to the “primitive screwheads” he’s protecting or the armies of the dead, he just can’t seem to resist a dry witticism. It’s made the film wonderfully quotable. The comedy in general is upped from ‘Evil Dead II’, and it’s certainly entertaining, with nods to the Three Stooges and funny illusions to other films. Unfortunately it’s had its effect on the films ‘horror’ aspect, and so it really doesn’t feel scary at all. Like ‘Evil Dead II’, though, it’s so fun that you really don’t worry too much.
‘Army of Darkness’ is one of those once-in-a-lifetime movies. Its blend of genres may seem unorthodox, but it certainly feels fresh. To use a time-worn cliché, it’s a rollercoaster ride of a film that goes up and down and in crazy directions that leaves you strangely satisfied at the end. Like its prequel, there’s only one word that can sum this film up: Groovy.