'Army of Darkness' Review: Hail to the King, Baby
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
When directors make sequels to hit movies they're often more than happy to repeat themselves. The follow-ups often keep the same characters, tone and story structure, and simply dress everything up in fancier packaging. While this sometimes leads to box office success, it can also result in sequels that feel creatively bankrupt.
Director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy makes it evident that he isn't a man who likes to repeat himself. The first film in the series, The Evil Dead, is pure horror, while Evil Dead 2 is more like a slapstick comedy with tons of gore. When it came time to make the final film in the trilogy, Army of Darkness, Raimi decided to craft a movie that mixes comedy, horror, action and fantasy into one amazing package.
After getting sucked through a portal at the end of Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness finds Ash, played by awesome cult icon Bruce Campbell, landing in the year 1300. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that the evil Deadites who plagued him in the first two films have come along for the ride. Not only does Ash have to save an ancient civilization from an army of the dead, but he also has to find a way to get back home to his normal life.
Army of Darkness feels like a completely different film than its predecessors, and not just because it's set in a different century. Raimi aims more for slapstick comedy than gut-wrenching gore this time around, and he also elevates the character of Ash into one hell of an iconic hero. Bruce Campbell owns every frame of this movie, delivering hilarious one-liners while chopping down monsters with a chainsaw strapped to his hand. It's a truly unforgettable performance, and one that helped make Campbell a legend.
With a budget of $11 million, Army of Darkness is by far the most expensive film in the trilogy. Raimi puts the money to good use by bringing some truly creative and innovative special effects to the screen. Ash fights his own evil double, deals with a group of tiny demons reminiscent of Gulliver's Travels, and takes on the titular army, which is composed of marching skeletons and other undead creatures. It's obvious that Raimi was inspired by the great Ray Harryhausen, who's known for his groundbreaking work in stop-motion animation. While some people might prefer the smoothness of CGI, I find the effects in Army of Darkness to be a wonderful throwback to Hollywood action spectacles of yore.
With its mixture of great effects, hilarious comedy, endlessly quotable dialogue and creative filmmaking, Army of Darkness is a can't-miss experience for horror fans. This is one cult classic that's more than deserving of the title.
- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of Universal)