Well hello Mr. Fancy Pants!
Army of Darkness holds a very special place in my heart and the hearts of a lot of horror movie fans; not for how scary or horrifying it is but for how fun and acceptable it was at the time it came out. So despite being incredibly busy I really wanted to take some time out to do this review right and look at just how awesome this movie really is.
There is SO much going on here. It’s a classic poster style that will be immediately familiar to movie fans. Think Frank Frazetta style images or the original Star Wars posters and National Lampoon’s Vacation posters and you’re on the right track.
Here in the AOD poster we see a lot of the same features. The heroically muscular main figure and the incredibly seductive woman surrounded by adversity yet seeming to face it with a wild sense of bravado. It’s over-the-top and incredibly fun.
Army of Darkness follows up on the events at the end of Evil Dead 2 in which Ash forced the evil into another dimension by opening up a portal using the Necronomicon (with help.)
Getting us up to speed with a bit of a flashback recap of the previous movie was a big sign that this movie was expected to attract a lot of people who hadn’t seen part 2 and would be confused by the premise. (Having Bridget Fonda in a cameo as Linda was pretty sweet as she had previously auditioned to be in a Raimi film and was a big fan of Evil Dead 2.)
This movie holds a very special place in my heart. I was a typical awkward teen and was sort of an outsider without a lot of friends. When I finally got with the program and started making friends they were outsiders too, but very cool people in my eyes. My friends Kurt and Matt were the most amazing people. They liked strange music I’d never heard before like the Misfits and Iron Maiden. They were into fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta and we shared a love of horror story telling. I’d gotten into reading via Steven King because of my mother’s reading habits and I was sort of a classic movie buff meaning I was well into Alfred Hitchcock which lead to classic shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Twilight Zone.
Horror and gore were still sort of outsider “weirdo” things in my school; they still are really. So being an outsider I was attracted to the other outsiders who were, actually, incredibly decent people. They were fun and interesting, well-read, and curious. They helped each other out and were for the most part some of the brightest people I’d ever met.
So I went to the premier of AOD by myself one night, surprised to find a packed theater. I’d been the first person to see the preview for the movie on MTV a few weeks before and was wicked excited to see the movie. Waiting in the dark a group of guys walked in and down to the front and I recognized on of them as Matt, the twin brother of my best friend Kurt. I yelled some vague slur at him by name and let him be a bit confused by who he know was in the theater and calling him out. But the movie was starting and it was go time.
The movie ended up being sort of popular at my school and as a result I found it easier to relate to people. I was able to talk about that and then move on to other things, made more friends, felt a BIT more confident and it was awesome. Army of Darkness didn’t save my high school life. I had to do that for myself. But it definitely helped.
The Acid Trip
One scene that badly aped a similar shorter scene in Evil Dead 2 is the windmill scene. Ash is attacked by a group of duplicates spawned from images of him from a shattered mirror. This same thing happened in the Evil Dead 2, when his reflection came alive and grabbed him leading to a disorienting sequence where we were unsure if Ash were simply crazy or not. Here, instead of one reflection we have a whole slew of them going at poor Ash like Lilliputians. One of them gets into him and grows a full-sized double who becomes the lead antagonist of the movie.
The whole scene, much like it’s original in ED2, really feels like something of an acid trip, a disoriented, twisting look at the various sides of the character’s personality; the good? the bad? and how they battle each other for control of his mind and body.
Truth be told, as much as I love this movie, it’s just not as good as Evil Dead 2. This is mostly because most of the gags are recycled from Evil Dead 2 and really only work here because we’ve already seen them applied in a more horrifying setting in that movie. Without Evil Dead 2 as the set up, Army of Darkness just doesn’t work as well.
Take Ash getting his robotic hand as an example. It’s just a reworking of the chainsaw scene in Evil Dead 2. It was funny and badass in Evil Dead 2 but in AOD it’s just funny.
There were a lot of Three-Stooges-inspired gags in Evil Dead 2 which played well with the audience. That level of comedy got ramped up in AOD to the point that it detracted from the movie. Parts of the movie feel more like a childrens’ cartoon like when bad Ash makes a steam whistle sound with his head which pops open in the final battle. Or when Ash’s face gets stretched as he tries to take the first copy of the Necronomicon. He shakes his head back into shape like a cartoon character. There’s Ash literally doing Three Stooges sight gags a moment later with skeleton hands poking him in the face and bird song a la Loony Tunes playing.
One odd thing that always jumped out at me was the title sequence in the opening of the movie where it says “Bruce Campbell vs the Army of Darkness.” Shouldn’t that be Ash? Yet it plays really nicely to the fans’ expectations and feelings. We love Bruce just as much as his character. The two are so intertwined you might as well have Shatner vs the Gorn instead of Kirk vs the Gorn. Incidentally one scene in AOD was shot in the same place where Kirk fought the Gorn. Can you spot it?
Surprisingly the movie garnered an NC-17 rating and had to be fought down to an R. This really surprises me as it’s so campy and cartoony by today’s standards. One of the things that makes the movie seem more audience-friendly to me is the fact that the blood and guts are so unrealistic and seem so toned down in this movie.
Favorite Lines: (It’s Amazing all these one-liners fit into a single movie.)
Ash: Easy chief.
Ash: Well hello Mr. Fancy Pants.
Ash: I got news for you pal.
Ash: You ain’t leading but two things right now, Jack and Shit, and Jack left town.
Ash: Who wants some? huh?!
Ash: This, is my BOOM stick!
Ash: Shop smart. Shop S-Mart.
Ash: First you want to kill me, now you want to kiss me. Blow.
Ash: Yo! She bitch! Let’s go!
Ash: Give me some sugar baby.
Ash: Hail to the king baby.
Ash: Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.
Ash: Come get some.
Ash: Now, whoa whoa whoa spinach chin!
Sheila: You found me beautiful once.
Ash: Yeah but you got reeeeeel ugly.
Ash: Maybe, just maybe my boys can protect the book. Yeah and maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.
Ash: Buckle up bonehead cause you’re going for a ride.
Ash: Name’s Ash. Housewares.
And of course the original, now alternate ending deemed too dark by the studio.