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The Evil Dead movies

Part 3: Army of Darkness

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2013-04-04


Over the last few years Hollywood has become remake crazy, and it seems as if one of the more popular types of movies to be remade are horror films. One of the movies that's in the process of being remade for good or ill is The Evil Dead.

What would become a trilogy of movies began with The Evil Dead in 1981, continued with Evil Dead II in 1987 and was completed with Army of Darkness in 1993. While The Evil Dead was for the most part a straight horror movie and Evil Dead II a crazy mix of comedy and horror, Army of Darkness was a comedy with a bit of action and a few elements of horror thrown in for good measure.

Army of Darkness was a movie that came along at the perfect time for me. I first saw it on VHS as a teen and its mix of comedy, humor and downright goofiness totally clicked with my sensibilities back then. In fact, I only sought out and saw Evil Dead II then watched The Evil Dead again for the first time in years after seeing Army of Darkness.

Army of Darkness begins right where Evil Dead II ends; Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself transported back in time to the 14th century where he's seen as a prophesied hero that will destroy the evil forces that are plaguing that time. Ash, along with his car, chainsaw and shotgun that were also accidentally magically sent back the centuries, are seen as a sort of savior by the locals. But he doesn't want to have anything to do with the natives and just wants to go home.

To get back to the 20th century Ash must retrieve the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the book of the dead from a graveyard. But when he messes up a magical incantation he's supposed to speak before taking the book and accidentally unleashes the deadite army of darkness, it's up to Ash to stop the army before it takes over the world. (In fact the on-screen title of the film is really Bruce Campbell vs Army of Darkness.)

Compared to The Evil Dead and even Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness feels like a much bigger, though not quite epic, action-comedy with Ash constantly spouting t-shirt slogan ready catch-phrases like “groovy,” “hail to the king” and “gimme some sugar, baby.” In any other movie lines like that would come off as a dumb joke, but in the goofy Three Stooges/Looney Tunes inspired Evil Dead universe this works. It makes the Ash character like some sort of reluctant comic book hero who's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

While most horror movies constantly go for the scare – and become less and less watchable with each outing since after the first time know the twists and turns – the goofy sense of humor that permeates all the Evil Dead films separates those movies from almost every other horror flick. And I think because of all the humor and action and horror is why we're still talking about the Army of Darkness and the other two Evil Dead movies 30+ years after the first one was released.

And this is precisely what worries me most about the Evil Dead remake due in theaters April 12. From the look of the trailers and marketing materials that's been released from that movie, the simply titled Evil Dead is horror first, terror second and humor not at all. Which, to me anyways, makes Evil Dead look like just another 21st century horror remake like The Hills Have Eyes or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that might make a splash at the box office one week but will all but be forgotten a month or two later.

After Army of Darkness, Evil Dead franchise director Sam Raimi would go onto direct the Spider-Man trilogy of films and would become a prolific producer of TV and movies along with co-Evil Dead franchise producer Robert G. Tapert. Star Bruce Campbell would spend the years after the Evil Dead trilogy as a working actor who bounced around between various TV and film roles. Recently, though, Campbell has found success co-starring in the long-running TV series Burn Notice. Grade: A-.

Army of Darkness is available on home video and digital download. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.

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