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.
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.