Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
Hail to the king, baby.
on April 18, 2016
When we last saw Ash Williams, he had been sucked through a time vortex and ended up in the 14th century... where he STILL had to contend with undead horrors. No, not going to give context.
"Army of Darkness" pretty much picks up from there, finishing up the legendary trilogy that Sam Raimi started with "The Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn." This time around, Sam Raimi dials down the horror once again, while dialing up massive quantities of skeletal comedy -- while there's the odd gross-out moment (eyeball in the shoulder!), most of the story is devoted to the increasingly manic Bruce Campbell struggling to defeat an undead horde of skeletons with only his trusty boomstick and chainsaw.
Having appeared in the 14th century, Ash (Campbell) is immediately captured by the arrogant Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert), who mistakes him for one of Duke Henry's (Richard Grove) men. He tries to explain that he's not, but ends up tossed into an execution pit filled with iron spikes and demonic Deadites -- and only the timely intervention of the Wise Man (Ian Abercrombie) allows Ash to reclaim his chainsaw and "boomstick," kill the Deadites, and establish that he is a prophesied savior come to free them from the Deadite scourge.
But of course, the entire universe hates Ash. So when he's sent on an incredibly simple quest to reclaim and de-power the Necronomicon, Ash immediately encounters bizarre Deadite attacks that are specifically designed to torment him -- including the formation of an evil doppelganger from his own body, Evil Ash. And when he manages to botch the whole thing, the Deadites prepare to storm the castle and take everything over. Life is hard when you're Ash.
Considering that the series started with a serious attempt at horror, it's a little odd that "Army of Darkness" mostly drops the horror. Of course, there's still some gloriously gross moments (the emergence of Evil Ash, and his decaying face a few scenes later), but most of the movie is played for laughs (including a long sequence where Ash is assaulted by a small army of Lilliputian doppelgangers, who jab him in the butt with a fork and tie him to the floor). Even the grosser moments are played for laughs ("Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun").
And that's what makes this whole movie so gloriously entertaining -- it's gross, nasty and violent, but it's presented with the gleeful joy that comes with a cavalcade of one-liners and memetastic moments ("All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up... this... is my BOOMSTICK!"). Nothing is presented very seriously, because... well, how can you take this seriously? It's about a college student/S-Mart employee who gets blasted back in time to fight demonic zombies in a medieval setting. The cheese is thick and gloriously unserious, climaxing as Ash careens through the titular army in a massive armored steampunk-car/tank that easily hacks them apart.
And despite the much larger cast and more extensive sets and special effects required, somehow Raimi maintains that rough, low-budget feel -- the stop-motion, tiny Ashes, and especially the battle sequences that are clearly against inanimate Halloween skeletons. It still feels like a cheesy low-budget movie that does NOT care
Bruce Campbell is at the absolute height of his Campbellitude here -- he gives a delightfully hammy performance as a gun-toting, one-liner-spouting Ash. He plays the kind of guy that every guy likes to think he'd be in such a crisis, uttering don't-give-a-dang one-liners, shooting monsters and smooching a wench with extremely good teeth with great relish. And he gives an equally quotable ("Little goody two-shoes!") performance as the Evil Ash, who is just as snarky but... well, his face is rotting off. The supporting actors give good performances, especially Abercrombie as the wise man that nobody ever seems to actually listen to, but this is clearly the Campbell show here.
It may have effectively left horror behind, but "Army of Darkness" instead embraces a gloriously gross brand of comedy, with knights, skeletons, bagpipes and one S-Mart employee with a boomstick and a robot hand. It's hard to find a movie more resolutely fun than this.