"Army of Darkness" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
The first two Evil Dead movies have elements of horror to them, focusing on Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his attempts to kill the deadites to survive the terrifying cabin in the woods. Even when the second film contained more humor, it still was able to deliver on the horror elements, even if it more campy and not as scary as its predecessor. Yet, when looking at the third film in the franchise, "Army of Darkness", director Sam Raimi and Campbell decide to lean entirely into the comedy atmosphere, crafting a film that is a cheesy, action film rather than focusing on anything in the horror genre. While this film is very entertaining and a lot of fun, there are times when the movie is just too campy, trying to distance itself from the first two films.
At the end of "Evil Dead II", Ash was sucked into a vortex, throwing him back to the medieval times, where kings and knights rule over the land. Now captured by Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert), he is sent on a perilous mission to recover the Book of the Dead, which is a powerful item that can summon the army of the dead. The Lord tells Ash that if he retrieves this book for them, they will send him back to his own time period. However, when Ash doesn't fully listen to their directions and says the incantation wrong, he summons the dead army, which is now ready to attack Arthur's kingdom and end humankind for good.
From the get-go, it is obvious this movie is unlike its predecessors. From the set-design to the characters, the viewer knows this movie is something completely different. Like I mentioned, the first two movies were so heavily into the horror genre that that was what Raimi was known for. I'm sure everyone was expecting Ash's next adventure to be somewhat in the horror genre. This is not what Raimi had in mind. This film is so over-the-top and campy that it is incredibly enjoyably. Consider the quick one-liners and cheesy catchphrases that the characters use, especially Ash's popular line - "Groovy." It is hard for this movie to be considered scary, nor is it easy to take it seriously.
Sure, this movie is incredibly enjoyable and fun, but it makes me wonder why they didn't decide to pursue the horror genre. I'm not complaining and I'm glad Raimi went into this direction, but this movie just feels so out of place for this franchise. When looking at the franchise as a whole in present time, this is the only movie that simply doesn't fit, especially when the 2013 reboot and 2023's "Evil Dead Rise" now exists in this universe.
Besides this however, the movie does a lot of things right to become a comedy. The characters are hilarious and fun to watch, the action is over-the-top goofy and enjoyable, and Ash is a great leading character, played expertly by Campbell who understood the assignment here. I found myself enjoying this movie immensely, and I appreciate this new direction that Raimi and Campbell went in. It's definitely not a work of art or a comedic masterpiece, but it is simply just a very fun movie that is meant to entertain for around 80 minutes.
After a while, the movie does start to feel repetitive and sort of does the same gags over and over again, sort of like the same complaint I had for the movie before this one. It simply just starts to become too campy, even for this movie. I think I would have liked for there to be a little bit more of a horror element to it, but that's just me. I know tons of audiences love this more campy, comedic vibe to it, but I just wanted there to be a return to form for Raimi somewhere in this movie.
I think this is probably the weakest in the trilogy Raimi made, but even then, the film is pretty good and enjoyable. I applaud Raimi for thinking outside the box, and I'm glad he made the movie he wanted to make, rather than the movie that was expected of him. While I do wish there was more of a horror element present and they would die down the comedy a little bit, this is still a very fun and enjoyable film that is easy to watch.