Aug. 27, 2008
Army of Darkness (1992)
Grade: 73/100

Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Ian Abercrombie

What it's about. Theoretically a sequel to The Evil Dead, although it mostly stands on its own. The prior film(s) only provide the excuse for comic manly man Ash (Bruce Campbell) to be sent back in time to the Middle Ages in England. There, he becomes the leader of a fortress whose knights prepare for battle against an army of evil skeletons. He also gets the girl, hottie Sheila (Embeth Davidtz).

Marcus Gilbert and Richard Grove play noblemen, and Ian Abercrombie is the Merlin-style old wise man. Bridget Fonda, alas, shows up only briefly as Campbell's ill-fated girlfriend. Cambpell has better luck with Sheila.

How others will see it. I once received an email from a man who was irate at this movie. He saw it in the theaters, and expected it to be an extreme horror film. Instead, of course, it was a comedy despite its violent action scenes. Nonetheless, most horror adherents who actually possess a sense of humor should recognize the superiority of the film over the likes of Saw III.

I was surprised, though, that the user ratings were essentially the same for men and women. Perhaps the title was enough to discourage those who would prefer to see a romantic comedy instead. Unsurprisingly, however, the imdb user ratings steadily decrease with age, from 8.4 among the under 18 set to 6.9 among those 45 and up.

How I felt about it. Older folk, then, might notice the film's occasional laziness during action scenes. Sometimes, the skeletons seem rather rigid (more like a set than an actor) right before they are destroyed by a special effect. The tone also becomes too silly at times, such as the Evil Ash dancing and singing "Goody Two Shoes" in a high pitched voice while (comparatively) Good Ash just stands there in disbelief.

As it is a comedy, we can tolerate the illogic of Campbell able to defeat one-on-one (and even two-on-one) numerous deadites. Since it's all in good fun.

The film is dominated by Campbell's character, and it is worth evaluating whether or not he is a hero. After all, his inability to say the work Niktu unleashes the deadites to begin with, and he wants only to return home until Sheila is kidnapped by a flying ghoul. But then we wouldn't get to see Campbell's shotgun and chainsaw in action, which is the whole point of the film besides Campbell's amusing mock testosterone.

As for the point of the climactic battle between the evil dead and the Medieval armies, we are told it concerns the possession of the book of the dead. But it's really about Sheila's soul, controlled by the demons until they are vanquished. Meanwhile, Campbell is the hero out of a video game, a man who true motivation for fearlessly fighting the demons is the rush of annihilating them.