I absolutely love the fact that, in a movie about a time-traveling man named Ashley with a chainsaw for a hand battling an army of evil undead in the middle ages, the biggest issue I had with the realism of the film was in the apparent ability of a double barreled shotgun to shoot 3-4 times without being reloaded. Come on, guys…
In any case here is my review for the final installment of the Evil Dead Trilogy, Army of Darkness.
Army of Darkness begins directly after the close of the last film as our hero Ash (Bruce Campbell), is sucked into a rift in time and space while attempting to banish an evil spirit awoken in the first film. At the end of that rift is somewhere in England in the year 1300 AD. Mistaken as an enemy soldier and taken prisoner by Lord Arthur and his men, Ash survives his own would-be execution and shows himself as a the prophesied savior of the land from the evil scourge of the Deadites. In order to get home, Ash is told that he must find the Necronomicon, the ancient Sumerian book of the dead. Armed with a new mechanical hand and a sawed-off shotgun, Ash rides off to find the book, but once he does a misquoted incantation raises an army of the undead with a burning desire for the very book which Ash needs to get home. Ash returns to the castle and tries to bring a little bit of the future into the castle defense from the army of Deadites advancing upon them.
Ashley Williams has got to be having some sort of identity crises over this past movie. In the first film, he’s just the average Joe fighting for his own survival against his undead friends. In the second movie, it is clear that he has kept his life but not his sanity, yet every badass needs at least a little crazy in him and all and all it made for a really fun character to watch for the second film’s transformation of the first film’s premise. In Army Of Darkness, Ash has instantaneously become less of a wide-eyed, neurotic survivalist and more of a one-liner-spitting, hyper-confident man’s man for whom pick-up lines like “Give me some sugar, honey” actually work on women. This transition was fun at times but just too over-the-top for the most part to feel natural. At times Ash even started to remind me a lot of Jim Carrey’s character in The Mask (Which came out after this by the way).
Ash isn’t alone this time though, as there are more supporting characters here than the first two films combined. Everyone is fairly generic unfortunately, from the two warring rulers, Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) and Duke Henry the Red (Richard Grove) to the prerequisite wise man (Ian Abercrombie) and the token romantic interest Sheila (Embeth Davidtz). A small splash is made by the commander of the Deadite army, aka Evil Ash, but I wasn’t left with a single memorable line from his character.
This is where I’m conflicted. Army of Darkness‘ screenplay is both awesome and horrible at the same time, but where Evil Dead 2 used this effect to achieve a perfectly demented level of tongue-in-cheek humor, it just felt like the writers were phoning it in for Army of Darkness. Half of Ash’s lines sound like he’s trying to do an Elvis impersonation, and half of those sound like they might have been improvised on the spot. On the one hand, even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then and every comedy acorn here is legitimately awesome, from “This is my Boomstick!” to “Good, Bad, I’m the guy with the gun!”.
Sadly, these amazing lines are vastly outnumbered by completely forgettable ones, and the film’s humor is spoiled by an excessive amount of slapstick and cartoonishness. The worst of these involves Ash being attacked by a gang of miniature versions of himself, with the entire scene seeming more like an episode of the Three Stooges than a Horror-Comedy classic
The Verdict: 6.5/10 Perfectly Adequate
I can’t help but be disappointed by Army of Darkness. If it weren’t for my love of the first two movies and the main character they pass along to the film, I probably wouldn’t have even scored it as passable. The screenwriting is just so lazy that it felt like I had to wait ten minutes every time for a good line to come along, then when it finally did I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it because of the ensuing stream of dialogue which I can only assume was the result of Raimi telling Campbell “Just say stuff and we’ll keep filming until something decent comes along”.
I still love the trilogy and there are definitely enough classic moments in the film to make me glad to have watched it, but not enough to make me any less worried about The Evil Dead remake scheduled for the coming year. Keeping the fingers crossed on my un-severed hands…