Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi
Produced by: Robert Tapert
Reviewed by: Brett H.
ďItís a trick. Get an axe.Ē
When I think of horror movies, I think The Evil Dead. When I think of horror comedies, I think Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. Without a doubt, Sam Raimiís iconic Evil Dead series holds a special place in my heart. Although I sought out the first two films as soon as I could, I was a bit hesitant on the third instalment in the series, Army of Darkness. So much so that when I finally had the privilege of being able to rent them (how the hell did video stores in my town didnít carry these titles until í98-ish is beyond me) that I passed on the last entry. It was barely horror and I hadnít even seen the first two flicks. That night Evil Dead I & II beat the shit out of me. I had never seen anything like the original and although I was not too enthused about the second slipping so deep into the horror/comedy well, I still found it magnificent. A good six months passed and I finally decided to seek out Army of Darkness. What I discovered turned out to be, in my mind, the definitive cult classic of all time.
ďMy name is Ash, and I am a slaveÖĒ the beloved weasel says. Ash (Bruce Campbell) has been sucked through time (continued on from the ending of Evil Dead II) and the year 1300 hasnít been kind to him. The former S-mart employee is shackled and chained and being dragged to his death. After a quick recap of the mythology of the series, itís to the pit with Ash, who is believed to be an enemy from a rival village. After being tossed into the pit for certain death to the glee of villagers, Ash finds himself in another battle for survival. The pit contains a captured deadite and obviously once you go in, you donít come out. But, this isnít your average Joe. This is Ashley J. Williams. Badder than Shaft and Leroy Brown combined, horrorís greatest hero is tossed his trusty chainsaw by a nobleman who believes him to be a savior that has been dropped to earth to end the plague of the demonic deadites. Itís not long before the deadite has been wrastled and dismembered and Ash crawls out of the stinking pit, ready to kick ass and take names. The former more so than the latter.
Ash couldnít really give a shit about the problems the primitives are having with these hell spawn (especially since he was pelted with rocks and spat on before being thrown into the pit!), but nevertheless, he needs to get back home to his time. A daunting task indeed. The wise man that had given him the chainsaw tells him he must retrieve the Book of the Dead to be sent back to his time. In addition, he must recite the words, ďKlatu, Verata, Nicto!Ē before picking it up. If he doesnít speak every syllable correctly, the army of darkness will invade the world. Balls the size of grapefruits one minute and raisins the next, Ash takes off on a horse en route to a cemetery where the book is being held. Will he find it? And even more important, will he remember the words when he gets there? Klatu VerataÖ Ēitís definitely an n-word!Ē
Itíll be a cold day in hell before any cult movie ever tops Army of Darkness. Iím actually very happy that I never watched the film after watching the first two that night so many years ago because Iím not sure Iíd have been able to appreciate it for what it is. I thought Evil Dead II was straying a bit too far from the original in the comedy department, but Army of Darkness takes it to a whole new universe. Whereas slapstick was always a major part of the series, itís taken beyond any expectations youíd have in this film. Itís barely horror, the virtually non-existent gore pales in comparison to the others, there are deadites, but they are totally different. Different isnít always a bad thing and Army of Darkness proves this, as it brings slapstick comedy, medieval action and the most amazingly cheesy dialogue the screen has ever known to a series in which youíd never expect these ideals to work in.
Many detractors say that itís not scary or shocking enough for their tastes, and thatís a fair assessment, but the sheer quality of every aspect of the film is just so superb that it never bothered me that the series changed its tune so considerably. After all, how can one stay mad at Sam Raimi when Ash spends so much of his time being completely badass? Throw away all your action movie heroes and make way for the real king of the man movie. When a sure-fire, passionate love scene between Ash and his love interest stems, how does he bed her? Easy. The most immortal line in cult history, ďGimme some sugar, baby!Ē Later on he even tells her that the kind words they spoke when rocking the casbah was just pillow talk! Ash is totally oblivious to the feelings of others and is infinitely introverted, and thatís what makes everything so hilarious. With a chainsaw as one hand and a trusty double-barrel boomstick as his other, he is the ultimate badass movie hero. ďAre all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?Ē ďJust me baby. Just me.Ē
Itís not a stretch to think that everyone canít assess that something is going to go horribly wrong with our hero along the way, and sure enough that is the case. Ash does battle with all sorts of ghouls in this one. Get ready for talking-slapstick-skeletons-riding-horses with funny accents, a hoard of mini Ashes and the king of deadites, the devastatingly funny ďBad AshĒ, an exact copy of the Ash we all know and love, except heís, you guessed it, bad! Thereís a few deadites that mildly resemble the ones every horror fan knows and loves and Ash constantly goes from scared to heroic, cocky to incompetent, smarmy to caring and every characteristic in between. Just when you think it canít get any better, the denouement will have you laughing and cheering the iconic Ash on and you will want to start the movie over and experience it once again. The medieval theme works infinitely better than you could ever imagine and the effects, direction, and music are all top notch. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Bruce Campbell is going to run, trip, stumble and get the hell beat out of him in typical Raimi tormenting fashion.
Army of Darkness is a movie that is recommendable to nearly anyone. Itís such a good melt of action and comedy with a bit of horror that young and old, male or female, human or extra-terrestrial, can enjoy it for entirely different reasons. In my life, Iíve run into one person who didnít enjoy the film and thatís probably the best praise I can give this treasure. Itís so universally loved that a blind buy is perfectly acceptable. Anchor Bayís DVD has a featurette, trailer and the original, downbeat ending which is nowhere near as good as the theatrical one. For once, I side against the director going with his original vision. The picture and audio are great and itís standard Anchor Bay fare. Thereís an alternate directorís cut DVD out there by Anchor Bay as well which omits the hilarious theatrical ending and uses the original one featured on the supplements of this disc along with extended and alternate scenes. Although enjoyable, itís still no match for the intensely paced theatrical version, but still is essential for the hardcore fans. If you havenít seen this film, ďWhat, were you raised in a barn or somethiní?Ē because Army of Darkness is the cherry on top of the sundae in the Evil Dead series. Thereís no question, itís a must own, even though it's not as good as the two movies that proceed it. That alone proves just how monumental Sam Raimi's premiere series is. Forget Spiderman, whether alone munching popcorn or relaxing with a group of buddies sippiní some cold ones, pop Army of Darkness in and "hail to the king, baby!" Essential!
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