by Brian McKay
Okay, this movie is pure cheese. This comes as no surprise to the fans, nor did Sam Raimi have any illusions otherwise when he made it. The only people who seem surprised by this fact are the ones who spend their time bitching about it because they don't get the whole "Evil Dead" franchise to begin with. If there's one thing that elevates this movie above the cesspool of typical B-movie shlock (besides Raimi's direction), it is the fact that Bruce Campbell is the centerpiece. I mean, is he not the coolest guy with a chainsaw for a hand that you've ever seen?Some people are just surrounded by an aura of "Cool". Anything they say or do, no matter how contrived the situation or dialouge, still manages to come off as being bad-assed. Sam Jackson, or George Clooney, for example. And, in his own special way, Bruce Campbell is an icon of cool. It's not because he's a great actor (even he refers to himself as a Hollywood B-list working shmoe). It's because he's Bruce fuckin' Campbell. End of Argument. That's why one-liners like "Gimme some sugar, Baby", or "Well hello Mister Fancy-pants" work. Coming from anyone else's mouth, they would be ludicrous. When Bruce says 'em, in the role of our less-than-brilliant hero, Ash, they are ludicrously cool.
"LISTEN UP YOU PRIMITIVE SCREWHEADS: BRUCE CAMPBELL IS GOD - YA GOT THAT???"
Army of Darkness is the third installment in the "Evil Dead" series. It's a bit watered down as far as violence and gore goes, and it doesn't actually bear the name "Evil Dead" in the title, probably because some genius studio executive decided it would be a good idea to distance this movie from the franchise. In addition, the ending of Evil Dead 2 and the beginning of AOD don't exactly mesh. But hey, Ash is back, and I can forgive all those minor quibbles. Having been transported to the middle ages by an evil vortex in the last movie, he finds himself stranded in Merry olde England, a Hick in King Arthur's court, if you will. At first he is stripped of his weapons and treated with suspicion. Only when he defeats a couple of monsters and gets his weapons back does he get the upper hand again. The local wizard tells him that in order to be transported back to his own time, he must quest for the "Necronomicon", the book of the dead. So off he goes, blundering through his mission, and inadvertently waking an army of undead in his attempt to retrieve the book. This also gives rise to his Evil doppleganger, who captures his newly-found medeival girlfriend, Sheila (the ever-hot Embeth Davidtz), turning her into one of his posessed minions.
So, naturally it's up to Ash to unite the medeival warriors, (who he affectionately refers to as "Primitive Screwheads"), rescue his beloved Sheila, defeat Evil Ash and his skeletal army, and protect the Necronomicon. Simple enough, right?
There's a lot that doesn't quite work in this movie, but then, there's a lot that does. In the "Not Quite" column (if one were being objective and stepping outside the role of a rabid Evil Dead fan), most of the makeup and visual effects are laughably bad - even for a low-budget B-movie such as this. The animatronic or stop-action skeleton effects are simply pathetic, and the "two-headed Ash" sequence is painfully amatureish. Likewise, the three-stooges type slapstick (or "splatstick", as Campbell likes to call it) comedy is just a little too drawn out and over the top, ending up not nearly as funny as the bits in Evil Dead 2. Still, I gotta give Bruce props for trying.
In the plus column, however, Ash is hilarious as always, and he kicks a fair ammount of ass with his beloved arsenal of shotgun, chainsaw-hand, and even swords. The fight coreography is surprisingly good for a movie of this caliber. Not quite as good as "Gladiator" or "Lord of the Rings", but certainly better than you would expect. Although Bruce really hams it up, his supporting cast play it straight respectably, keeping things just this side of completely ridiculous.With most trilogies, the third one is the weakest of the bunch ("Godfather", "Star Wars", etc.) "Army of Darkness" is certainly no exception. But I've watched it a dozen times and it never stops being fun. Hail to the King, Baby!
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=779&reviewer=258
originally posted: 01/21/02 09:50:30