It’s been over twenty years since Sam Raimi released the third and, at the time, final film of his Evil Dead trilogy titled Army of Darkness. Following the events of the first two Evil Dead movies, Sam Raimi had been planning for a third instalment even before he began working on his broody superhero film Darkman. Whilst rumours circulate that his 2013 remake will lead to another rebooted trilogy, the original 1992 film caused Evil Dead fandom to grow to frenzied cult status as we saw the now iconic Bruce Campbell returning to the role of Ash Williams – and fighting the undead once more.
In the final scenes of Evil Dead II, in an attempt to put the demons he has raised to rest, Ash opened a wormhole to another realm and is seemingly dragged into it. Whilst the two prequels revolved around the cabin in the woods where Ash discovers an ancient Sumerian text, Army Of Darkness follows what happens after Ash is sucked into a hellish portal (along with his Oldsmobile 88) and is transported back to the year 1300.
Equipped with a chainsaw for a hand, his trusty ‘boom stick’ and an arsenal of dry wit, Ash is confronted by the men of Lord Arthur, a 14th century medieval leader who is at war with Duke Henry the Red. Accused of being one of Duke Henry’s agents due to his strange, 20th century garb, Ash is captured, stripped of his weapons and is subsequently forced to prove himself by killing a deadite, leading the simple folk to see him as a hero. Welcomed into their kingdom, Ash is told by a Wise Man that he can return to his own time if he retrieves the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis; the evil, ancient book that possesses supernatural powers and, as you may recall from previous experience, raises the dead and turns people into demons. Between falling in love with the lovely Sheila (Embeth Davidtz) and venturing through a haunted forest to retrieve the cursed text, Ash accidentally raises an entire army of the dead by mispronouncing the incantation, leading Arthur’s men into a ghoulish battle with the deceased.
The third sequel is by far the weakest and least terrifying of the trilogy but instead chooses to amplify its sense of tongue-in-cheek fun, ghostly mischief and incidentally hilarious one-liners. Bruce Campbell is every part the droll hero in this time-slip comedy horror with plenty of action bravado and self-effacing humour. With more of the traditional and highly inventive gore and splatter effects that epitomise the series ( though at a lesser and much camper extent) Army of Darkness is certainly not the scary story you would expect as a follow-up to the first two films but is fun and schlocky in its own right, albeit in a B-Movie, Grindhouse sort of way.
Plenty of comic books and fan-fiction have been born off the back of Army of Darkness and it’s easy to see why. This final instalment cements Ash Williams as a great horror character and somewhat reinvents the ‘cursed manuscript’ genre that Raimi created and re-used for two whole movies. Whilst giving a dark edge to what is essentially an action film rather than an outright horror, Army of Darkness is chaotic and totally crazy in a literal sense.
Super fans of this 1992 cult hit should definitely re-visit Army of Darkness soon though, as plans have also been proposed for an Army of Darkness 2 to which Bruce Campbell has confirmed he will be playing a much older Ash. Groovy!
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