While Evil Dead attempted to be a serious horror film, and the sequel merged over into sillier thrills, Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (also known as Bruce Campbell vs. the Army of Darkness) capitalizes on pure schlock. It takes every element that was terrifying in the pokerfaced original and turns it into pure comedy. And what a brilliant decision, as Army of Darkness has since gained a cult classic status and an unbelievable following. Hilarious and unexpectedly adventurous, this horror/comedy is like Indiana Jones meets Sinbad in the three worlds of Gulliver.
S-Mart department store clerk Ash (Bruce Campbell) is being dragged to his death after getting transported through time to 1300 A.D. with his car and a shotgun. He narrates the events that led up to his capture by Lord Arthur, which include the battling of possessed demons from the first two movies Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. The Necronomicon, the book of the dead, is responsible for his arrival in medieval times, and he must seek it out once again to return him back to the present. Along the way he’ll have to unite Arthur and his nemesis Henry the Red (“well, hello Mr. Fancypants”) to defend a kingdom against an undead army of darkness.
Considering that the second film in the Evil Dead trilogy is actually a remake of the first, the events that are recapped at the opening of Army of Darkness hardly matter. The entirety of this film is directed in a humorous manner and for the first time is completely intentionally cheesy. Spotlighting on Ash’s signature bad one-line insults and quips, Army of Darkness never surrenders a chance to crack a joke.
Having lopped off his hand previously, Ash wields a chainsaw mounted on his bloody stump and at one point builds a mechanical metal hand before journeying in search of the Necronomicon. He also makes use of his legendary “boomstick” shotgun to frighten the primitive screw-head natives in a clash of time-disorienting cultures. The slapstick and gags that arise from his hilarious confrontations with medieval warriors and various possessed creatures are constant – he fights an army of mini-Ash’s like a sadistic Gulliver, duels an evil version of himself like an accelerated mutant version of Richard E. Grant in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, combats a pit witch like Luke Skywalker with Jabba’s Rancor (and escapes via his belt like a tongue-in-cheek Indiana Jones), and melees all sorts of skeleton warriors like Sinbad on crack.
Stop-motion animation, priceless makeup effects and dated CG account for much of the film’s splendid nonsense, and equally striking prosthetics, gunpowder-making training montages, and epic medieval battles account for the rest of this unpredictably swashbuckling horror-adventure. In his own way he’s still a king, as Ash recounts at the still-jesting conclusion, and in its own way Army of Darkness is the king of cult classic laugh-a-minute horror comedies.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)