Saturday, October 31, 2015

Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness (USA, 1992) - Color, Director(s): Sam Raimi
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 81 min.

Z-rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cheese Factor: 3 out of 5 stars

Following the end of Evil Dead II where they successfully open the portal to send the evil away, Ash is hurled back in time to the Middle Ages. Once again, the ending doesn't match up with the opening to the sequel. After arriving in the past, he kills a Deadite and all the knights hail the prophesied hero from the sky. At the beginning of Army of Darkness, Ash is in chains as a slave and has to prove himself to the people which isn't too hard when you've got a chainsaw arm and a boomstick. Sam Raimi had already directed the financially successful Darkman by this time and had a production deal with Universal Studios, which gave this film a significantly higher budget the previous two. The film was dedicated to Irvin Shapiro, who passed away during production in 1989. Shapiro was the one who allowed Raimi to screen the first film at the Cannes Film Festival, which drew the support of Stephen King and landed them a distribution deal with New Line Cinemas. Shapiro would also suggest the title of Army of Darkness which was used in place of 'The Medieval Dead' title that Raimi originally wanted.

This shot is actually from Evil Dead 2 but I thought it was funny how that's obviously Ash

As the Promised One, Ash must quest for the Necronomicon in order to get home. Before removing the Necronomicon, Ash must recite the magic words (Klaatu, Barada, Nikto from The Day The Earth Stood Still) but being a goofball, he forgets the words and screws everything up. That's the appeal of Ash, he's an imperfect hero. Sure, sometimes he can be bad ass but he's a relatable everyman who works as a housewares clerk at S-Mart that just happens to also the savior of mankind. While he's not a total idiot, he does make stupid decisions like when lets a book bite his left hand even though he has a new metal hand that can apparently crush goblets.

"Fuck yeah! Now let me touch dangerous things with my other hand"

The mirror gag makes a return in this film, eventually leading to a separate entity known as Bad Ash splitting away from him and becoming the main antagonist for the film. When Ash screwed up the words, he unleashed the evil and awakened the titular Army of Darkness that they must defeat in the final battle. I think James Rolfe of Cinemassacre said it best, "Since the days of Ray Harryhausen, stop motion skeletons are always awesome!" I find it interesting that Landmark Entertainment Group attempted to launch a Skeleton Warriors franchise a couple years later complete with comic book and video game tie-ins and a line of action figures. Coincidence?

Army of Darkness has the least horror of the Evil Dead films and is more of a slapstick action comedy mixed with sword-and-sorcery Fantasy elements. You can see the influences of Arthurian legend, Harryhausen films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, and The Three Stooges. The tone of the film is silly, almost to a cartoonish level, with gags like eye poking and sound effects that sound like they came out of a Looney Tunes episode. Ash's double-barreled shotgun consistently fires 3 or more shots. Despite being slightly incompetent, Ash's personality is that of a loud-mouthed wiseass. He's got some endlessly quotable lines of dialogue like "I've got news for you pal, you ain't leadin' but two things, right now: Jack and shit... and Jack left town" and "Hail to the king, baby!" which Duke Nukem rips off lovingly references.

Nudity: None

Gore: Aside from the geyser of blood at the beginning when they toss a guy into the pit, the rest of the movie is relatively bloodless. A radical departure from the gore-fest of the previous films, this one could totally pass for PG-13. There are some great special effects though from the KNB EFX Group with Greg Nicotero.

Awesome: Despite being financially successful at the box office, many people don't appreciate this installment as much as the others. I admit that I didn't much care for this film initially but its definitely grown on me after repeated viewings. In fact, I'm one of those fans who LOVED the over-the-top splatstick gore of Evil Dead 2 and was disappointed to find that Army of Darkness wasn't more of the same. If you watch it as a comedy though, it's a total laugh riot. My favorite part was always the trunk of his car filled with supplies including a bottle of Coca-Cola Classic, an issue of Fangoria, and a Chemistry book. The original ending had Ash oversleeping in the cave and waking up to a post-apocalyptic world but Universal wanted it to end on a brighter note. The most common ending has Ash back in his own time, working at S-Mart. Most of the comics and other media pick up from this timeline. In addition of Freddy and Jason, Ash has had a bunch of crossover adventures in the comics with the likes of Raimi's own Darkman, Re-Animator, Hack/Slash, Xena: Warrior Princess, and even Marvel Zombies.