Tag Archives: Bruce Campbell

Army of Darkness (1992) Review

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: M – contains violence and offensive language
Bruce Campbell as Ashley “Ash” J. Williams and “Evil Ash”
Embeth Davidtz as Sheila
Director: Sam Raimi

Zombie-battling hero Ash takes on an army of skeletons after being sent back in time.

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My rewatch of the Evil Dead movies continues with its third instalment, Army of Darkness. This movie would be a jarring entry in the franchise considering that it takes quite a notable shift in tone and approach. However, it actually pulls it off quite well, better than expected.

Evil Dead II had to reshoot a recap of the events of the past movie because of rights issues, and funnily enough Army of Darkness has to do that too, albeit with it being much shorter and toned down. So hypothetically, you could just jump into Army of Darkness without any issues, but the first 2 Evil Dead movies are still worth checking out. While the second movie changed a little in the tone and approach from the first movie, becoming a horror comedy instead of a mostly straight faced horror, its third instalment takes an even bigger step. First of all, instead of it being set in a cabin in the woods, it is now in a medieval setting which happens to have deadites, following from Evil Dead II’s ending in which lead character Ash Williams was transported back in time. It is also a little more story focussed than the previous two movies, with it not being contained within a small location. Still, it doesn’t lack the distinct energy and creativity from the previous movies. The difference in tone is immediately noticeable. Army of Darkness is a PG-13 movie and it is a little jarring coming to that following the last two movies and lacking the usual blood and gore. The tone is far more comedic and lighter, which does have the consequence of making it feel a little disconnected from the last couple of films. It is also over the top and silly, and it leans further into the comedy and self awareness. It gets ridiculously goofy and campy, perhaps a bit too silly at points. However, on the whole it is a very well written movie, incredibly quotable and memorable, and most of the jokes work. The third act is also really entertaining, especially with the battle scenes. The endings are pretty interesting; there are two different cuts, Director’s and Theatrical, each with their own distinctly different ending. The Director’s Cut ending makes sense and is a good ending for an Evil Dead film, but I think the Theatrical Cut ending is the most tonally fitting for Army of Darkness, even if it only exists because people at test screenings found the original ending to be too dark.

Army of Darkness has a much larger cast compared to the last two Evil Dead movies, but again it mostly comes down to its lead star, Bruce Campbell. This is where his character of Ash Williams fully became the icon that he is today. Campbell elevates every scene he’s in, his comedic timing is on point, and he’s just fun to watch, whether he’s delivering one liners, or being put though the (PG-13 level) wringer. He’s at his most entertaining here, and I think this is one of the all-time best comedic performances in a movie.

Sam Raimi’s direction is strong once again, with the same creativity and vision you’ve come to expect from him. The camera movements are great, especially with the zooms and POV shots. The practical effects are generally good, especially with the makeup effects. There’s also some solid production design, and I liked the looks of the castles, skeletons and monsters. Even the effects that look dated today add some sort of charm.  

While I admit that I prefer the more horror focussed Evil Dead movies, Army of Darkness is still really fun to watch. It’s a campy, quotable and highly entertaining action comedy, helped by Sam Raimi’s direction and Bruce Campbell’s career defining performance as Ash Williams, and is an absolute blast to watch from beginning to end.


Evil Dead II (1987) Review

Time: 84 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence
Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks as Jake
Kassie Wesley as Bobby Joe
Richard Domeier as Professor Ed Getley
Director: Sam Raimi

The second of three films in the Evil Dead series is part horror, part comedy, with Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again battling horrifying demons at a secluded cabin in the woods. After discovering an audiotape left by a college professor that contains voices reading from the Book of the Dead, Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) becomes possessed by evil spirits that are awakened by the voices on the tape. Ash soon discovers there is no escaping the woods.

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With the latest film in the franchise releasing relatively soon, I decided to rewatch the previous Evil Dead movies in the lead up to it. The Evil Dead released back in 1981 ended up being something of a low budget horror classic, especially with the creative direction and impressive practical effects despite the budget constraints. 6 years later, director Sam Raimi directed a sequel which many have regarded as the best of the franchise, myself included.

The opening 10 minutes might confuse people who recently watched the previous film. While Evil Dead II is indeed a sequel to the original, Raimi didn’t really own the rights to his original film and so couldn’t use any of the previous footage from The Evil Dead. So he reshot his own recap of the first movie and due to constraints, they opted to only feature lead character Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda instead of all 5 characters in the original movie. While you could very well just jump into Evil Dead II completely blind, I’d still recommend watching the original. The plot is very similar to the first movie; Ash is still at the cabin dealing with the undead, and you could say that it’s just a rehash of Evil Dead but with a bigger budget. However, it works better for me in just about every way, and I found it to be really entertaining. The first Evil Dead was a crazy movie and had some over the top moments which bordered on hilarity especially with the blood and gore, but on the whole it was straight faced horror movie aiming to be intense and scary. Its sequel however opts to play more as a horror comedy, and delivers on both aspects. The issues of the first movie are conquered by the more absurd approach in its sequel, as is self aware and embraces the silliness. Horror comedies are pretty hard to pull off, but Raimi delivers on that. The dark and slapstick humour is pretty much pitch perfect and makes the movie so much fun to watch. I liked the first movie, but it does take its time to escalate to craziness, even though I do appreciate that. Evil Dead II takes the deranged insanity of the original’s last 30 minutes and sustains it for the entire runtime of the movie. It is a far more exciting movie and is absolute madness from beginning to end. It also concludes with an insane ending, which would lead into the third entry of the Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness.

Bruce Campbell gave a decent and commendable horror performance in the first Evil Dead. However, he gets taken to a whole other level in the sequel, and it would be the start of his character of Ash Williams becoming a pop culture icon, who would become fully realised in Army of Darkness. On top of Campbell’s acting just being better, Ash isn’t only a normal guy put through the wringer, but is also pushed to far beyond insanity. His performance is completely manic and unhinged, to the point where he resembles a cartoon character. Bruce Campbell chews the scenary delightfully and also has a likable charm to him, and he especially delivers on the physical comedy. The supporting cast aren’t particularly huge, but the acting was at least a little better than the cast of the first movie.

Sam Raimi returned to make a sequel to the 1981 original and this time he is working with a considerably larger budget. However it doesn’t lose the creative vision behind the first movie, if anything Raimi’s style is more fully realised here and his direction is fully confident. At its heart, it is still a low budget horror that takes advantage of the increased production value. There’s a lot of creative and unique choices and familiar trademarks, from the use of stop motion, snap zooms and POV shots. It’s a better looking movie, from the cinematography to the production design. They also again use some practical makeup and effects from the deadites to the violence and gore, which still look rather impressive and hold up well today.

Evil Dead II is not only an improvement over the first movie in just about every way, but also horror classic in its own right. It is a very fun and absurdly over the top horror, made excellent by Sam Raimi’s still creative but more refined direction and style, and an incredibly entertaining lead performance from Bruce Campbell.

The Evil Dead (1981) Review

Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence
Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams
Hal Delrich as Scott
Betsy Baker as Linda
Sarah York as Shelly
Director: Sam Raimi

Ashley “Ash” Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend and three pals hike into the woods to a cabin for a fun night away. There they find an old book, the Necronomicon, whose text reawakens the dead when it’s read aloud. The friends inadvertently release a flood of evil and must fight for their lives or become one of the evil dead. Ash watches his friends become possessed, and must make a difficult decision before daybreak to save his own life in this, the first of Sam Raimi’s trilogy.

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The Evil Dead made a massive impact upon its release, despite its low budget. It would go on to spawn two successful sequels, a tv series that would run for 3 seasons and a remake in 2013 (which is actually pretty good as well). The story itself is simple and some of the technical aspects are dated but for the most part it really does hold up well.

The Evil Dead is very straightforward. People go to a cabin in the woods, they unleash the living dead, chaos and hilarity ensues. Storywise there isn’t really much to say about The Evil Dead and it does fall into some of the horror tropes such as people doing something really dangerous (such as unleashing the living dead upon themselves). Unlike the rest of the series which got more cartoonish and humorous as they went on, most of the movie is pretty dark and serious in comparison. Maybe there might be some slapstick violence and an unbelievable amount of blood thrown all over people, but outside of that there isn’t much humour as you’d think given the series’ reputation (although there is some dark comedy in there as well). However, it is just as crazed, insane and unpredictable as the rest of the series, with it doing to places and showing things on screen that you wouldn’t expect. The Evil Dead is just under 90 minutes long and that was pretty much the best length for it, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

The actors weren’t anything special, neither were the characters, the characters are rather simple and generic horror characters. The acting is kind of weak, a little bad sometimes, though it’s not a huge weight on the movie. Bruce Campbell is the lead here as Ash Williams and he’s actually pretty good. He’s not at all the Ash we all know and love (with the chainsaw on his hand and the boomstick in the other), here he’s just a normal guy and he does well reacting and changing to everything that he sees and experiences throughout the movie.

Sam Rami’s direction is the reason why this movie really works as well as it does. This movie has a really low budget for a horror movie at $350-400K, and you can feel that throughout. With that however, Rami used some very creative techniques to achieve what he set out to do, and the results are rather impressive. The practical effects and makeup really work and a lot of them are still impressive today. Some of them look dated now but considering the budget and the time, you can look past that easily. The use of camera movements (especially the famous POV shots from an unseen demon force) are creative and are memorable, even if some of them are done for budget reasons. It is a very bloody and gory movie, if you don’t like that kind of movie, you probably won’t be staying with this movie for very long. There is blood absolutely everywhere and it goes everywhere. There are also some genuinely unnerving scenes. I didn’t personally find the movie scary but I will say that generally you’re more likely to be disturbed than scared. That tree scene for example is still very hard to watch.

The Evil Dead is a very effective horror movie that still is a classic today. Yes it is cheesy and dated at times but that’s to be expected from a horror movies from the early 80s. Ultimately its Sam Raimi’s direction that makes such a familiar horror concept (even in 1981) and a really low budget work so well. All the practical effects are impressive even to this day and its one thrilling and slightly disturbing horror movie. The Evil Dead ever since its release has established itself as one of the most iconic and important horror films of all time.