Third in the series, the tagline says it best:
Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.
I’m reviewing the theatrical release. Partially because that’s the one most people are familiar with, but mostly because I watched the Director’s Cut last time.
Bruce Campbell …. Ashley J. ‘Ash’ Williams/Evil Ash/Mini-Ash
Embeth Davidtz …. Sheila
Marcus Gilbert …. Lord Arthur
Ian Abercrombie …. Wiseman (Wiseman John in the script)
Richard Grove …. Duke Henry the Red
Ash has been transported back in time – sucked along with the evil he’s been fighting for two movies now.
How do I choose just one!!?
I mean…”Hail to the king, baby.”? Score by Danny Elfman? “Gimme some sugar”? “Good, bad…I’m the guy with the gun.”? I’m going to explode here!
Okay, this has been bugging me for a while – there’s a great deal of dissonance at the beginning that makes it difficult for me to get into the film – he’s supposed to be in 13th century England…in a desert? It really just doesn’t work for me.
This is one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen. I mean, think about it
– “A jerk from the future gets transported back in time to fight an eldritch horror”. THat’s not a common theme. Add to that “He brought the horror with him. He’s *really* a jerk. And a screwup. Did I mention he’s got a chainsaw for a hand?” and so on. It reads like a brainstorm that happened at 2am on WAY too much coffee. And you know what the best part is? It WORKS. 6 of 6.
The effects were…well, inconsistent would have to be my best description of them. That’s not the same thing as “sometimes they were bad” – generally they were really
good, even down to the stop-motion skeleton army. There were a few places where things just felt wrong (though I’ll really get to that in production). 4 out of 6.
The story is a bit weak, for all its originality. Everything hangs together off of a series of one-off gags, coincidences, and completely improbably events (even for a
reality where eldritch horrors exist). It’s actually (in my opinion) the weakest part of the movie. 3 of 6.
The acting is, on the other hand, the best part. Not necessarily because it was good, but because it’s perfect for what it is. A cheesy, B grade, over the top horror flick that doesn’t take itself seriously. Bruce Campbell utters some of the most memorable lines in movie history and makes this movie preeminently quotable. The supporting cast is suitably melodramatic and serves well as a counterpoint to Ash’s “modern jerk”. 6 out of 6, because while it’s not “good”, it’s dead on for what it aims to be.
The emotional response is mostly based off of the fact that this is now a classic – coupled with the enjoyment of reciting your favorite lines (often for days afterwards). There’s no real emotional attachment to any of the characters, other than the satisfaction you get watching them squish deadites. 4 of 6.
I think the production is the one area that was truly uneven. Sam Raimi has a few cinematic styles that are unmistakable – anyone who saw Army of Darkness and then went to see Spiderman 2 this summer knows exactly what I mean. There are just certain scenes that scream Raimi. And that’s good – there’s just something about it that works. The moment where Ash’s chainsaw locks into place is just perfect. On the other hand, we have
scenes like Ash being sucked into a pit – his face and arms become elongated – and stay that way. The head shaking to fix himself is silly in a way that somehow clashes with the silly that takes place a few minutes later as he gets molested by hundreds of skeleton hands. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems like there were two different minds at work on some pieces of this film. 3 out of 6.
Overall, it’s a great movie. Bruce Campbell is undoubtedly one of the more charismatic actors in Hollywood (even if he’s not one of the most successful) and this movie
showcases his truly inspired insanity. Go. Rent. Enjoy. Hail to the king, baby. 5 of 6.
In total, Army of Darkness gets 31 out of 42.