Monday Movie Retrospective

February 19, 2018


Tally-Ho! Today’s Retrospective is on “Army of Darkness“, the third movie in the “Evil Dead” series of horror comedy movies, starring Bruce Campbell and Embeth Davidtz.

This movie, having been released originally on February 19, 1993, might actually be due for a remake, to introduce the concept to a new generation of movie fans. It’s a classic, but it is now a quarter-century old. Of course, we probably won’t get a remake soon, as this movie is considered both difficult to recreate and potentially under-performing. For a second-best experience, be sure to check out the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” Starz original series, which is excellent, and continues the story.

“Army of Darkness” rolls through a quick retelling of the events in “Evil Dead 2”, and to a lesser extent, “Evil Dead”. It then continues from the point when the hero of the story, Ash (Bruce Campbell) appears in the dark ages as a “Chosen One” who is initially mistaken as an enemy spy, as opposed to the original ending in “Evil Dead 2”, where he is immediately recognized as the Chosen One.

Well, Ash finds an opening and performs valiantly, regaining his weapons and intimidating the local king and his men, enabling the enemy duke to escape, and then demanding help in getting back home to his own time. He is celebrated, distinguishes himself once more, gets help to build a new hand, and is sent on a quest to recover the Necromonicon Ex Mortis from a nearby cemetary. He underperforms during this quest, but manages to return to the castle with the book.

At this point, everyone realizes that Ash has somehow made an error, leading to the rise of the eponymous “Army of Darkness”, an army of zombies known in this movie series as “deadites”. In the meantime, Ash insists that the wisemen at the castle assist him with returning to his own time, regardless of the danger now facing the castle. They reluctantly agree, noting that he performed his part of the bargain, returning the book to the castle. However, Ash witnesses the discussion regarding the evil army’s imminent arrival, the panic of the peasants, and he decides to act.

Ash fires his shotgun into the air, and makes an inspirational speech that causes the peasants to think and then to finally throw in their lot with the king to fight the evil army, defend the book from being stolen back by the dead, and hopefully, saving the world in the process. He then produces some textbooks that teach the defenders how to prepare for their defense, including some helpful chemistry that allows the wisemen to manufacture a small, but explosive quantity of black powder.

Before long, the Army of Darkness arrives at the castle, and the battle is joined. At first, it is a siege, where the army attacks, and the castle defenders repel them. However, it doesn’t take long for the evil army to break through the front gate and enter the castle grounds, attacking the defenders directly. The defenders perform well, whittling down the evil army significantly, but the evil army pushes forward, making progress towards where the book is locked and protected by a small squad of crack swordsmen.

Even with Ash’s help, the general of the evil army pushes through and retrieves the evil book. However, at the last minute, Ash saves the day (as the Chosen One is known to do) and the defenders celebrate. The hero rides off into the sunset to return to his own time, having saved this era from evil. Roll credits with a wonderfully exciting soundtrack.

This movie is considered a classic, having switched the ratio of comedy to horror with Evil Dead 2, producing a much more humorous and slightly less horrific movie that entertains throughout. There are a few slow moments here and there, but they serve the story more than they bore the audience. There are many quotable lines, and Sam Raimi’s unique style flavors the movie nicely. As time moves on, the movie’s influence on popular culture becomes more diluted as other cultural influences move in and out of popular cache. Nevertheless, its influence will remain for many years to come. I hope many people will newly-discover and enjoy this very enjoyable movie.

There are about four different versions of the movie available, and I hope the long TV cut remains popular, because it has a number of great extended scenes, including the windmill fight and the cemetery escape. By now, some of the movie-making magic of this film is legendary. The movie languished on the shelf for about a year, due to a relatively unrelated feud between film-makers, which led to Bruce Campbell feeling like he wasted a year of his life. The lead actress, Embeth Davitz, nearly quit acting altogether due to the difficulty of filming with the challenging makeup effects and prosthetics. When Bruce Campbell had a cut to his face checked, the doctor at first could not tell the difference between the real wound and the make-up effect wounds on his face. Ted “Theodore” Raimi plays four different secondary characters.

This movie gets three skeleton arms sticking up out of the ground out of two. Very highly recommended, as long as you are old enough to gain admittance.