Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MR Army of Darkness

Hey! What's that you got on your face?

I kinda put this series review on hold for a while... but it is finally time to dig in the 3rd and last entry of the Evil Dead series!

This one's a bit special to me since it's one of my all-time favorite flicks!
What did Sam Raimi turn this horror series into? Does Bruce Campbell still kick ass? Let's check it out~

Movie: Army of Darkness aka Evil Dead III, Medievil Dead or also Bruce Campbell vs. the Army of Darkness
Directed by Sam Raimi
Release date 1992-93
Genre Fantasy/slapstick comedy
Country USA
After the huge unexpected success of Evil Dead 2, a sequel was inevitable.
The follow-up would be continuing the adventure of Ashley Williams after the 2nd film's cliffhanger - an obvious move.

But first,
With that successful second episode, the original trio behind this series was finally able to make it into Hollywood.
Sam Raimi produced and wrote a couple of films. He appeared as an actor in some production and even directed the now cult original superhero/thriller Darkman in 1990.
Rob Tapert would launch several popular projects like the Hercules and Xena tv series during the 90s.
And the now cult Bruce Campbell became as popular as he is nowadays thanks to Evil Dead 2. He developed over the years a huge fandom, would star in hundreds of pictures, non-Hollywood-ysh mostly, including a ton of roles in science fiction B-movies or horror movies like the Maniac Cop series.

Bruce Campbell was now a part of the horror and slasher genre. You'd expect from another Evil Dead movie to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, right?
But Sam Raimi liked originality, that's the way the orginals surprised the audience afterall. So instead of proposing yet another gruesome horror movie (like Evil Dead 1) or a more comedic slasher (like Dead by Dawn) the 3rd movie went outside the cabin and into a whole new genre and direction.

Time Traveler

What's the story so far?

After the incident of the cabin (Evil Dead), where everybody died and Ash had to cut his own hands to get rid of the evil in himself (Dead by Dawn), a giant portal opened up in the sky (remember?).
Ash wasn't able to destroy the book of the dead, the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. And instead got sucked in the past along the book.

This epic tale opens up then with Ash falling from the sky in the 1300s, somewhere in England.
Ash finds himself trapped in a war between a certain Lord Arthur and a Duke Henry.
But worry not Evil Dead-fan, the Deadites tagged along for this story.
Soon a wiseman tells Ash he is the chosen one, the one who'll save the world from the evil Deadites. He must find back the book, destroy it before its too late and will be able to go back to his own time.

Long story short, Ash makes a big mistake, the problems get worse, the evil inside him comes out in the form of the coolest horror movie villain ever, Evil Ash, the so-called Army of Darkness rises...

Will Ash save the day once more? Will he get the girl, Sheila, as well? And more importantly, how does this story really ends???

Building The Deathcoaster

As you can see from all this, this last episode is nothing like the first movies.
But it was always the idea behind this conclusion. In fact much sooner in production, it was even supposed to already be the second part of Evil Dead 2, before a part of it became a remake of the first one.
Sam Raimi always wanted to take this series outside the cabin and even the forest.
When the budget was enough with the success of his series and other films (such as the already mentioned Darkman), he was finally able to make things bigger this time around.

And with the involvement of his brother Ivan Raimi, both co-wrote AoD has a big tribute and homage to the old classic epic movies.
As the original movies were tributes to the slasher/gore genre.

Only this one turned out more comedy and fantasy and less horror. Though the horror influence is still here.
But after Evil Dead 2, it looks like a natural evolution for the series. The main character Ash (and Bruce Campbell) went through so much in the past that he couldn't continue to be reactive and had to turn pro-active down the line. That's why all of this movie seems based around the fact that Ash is now a total badass - the reason why there's a background storyline about his past days as a S-Mart employee to establish his old normal live long gone by now.

Night Court

The Necronomicon takes us in the past (and changed his look for this final tale - though the other 2 looks make an appearance at some point in a graveyard) and Raimi moves the series into new horizons.

This time the genre's definitively fantasy. Returning composer Joseph LoDuca makes an exceptional score, very medieval and epic.

The movie in itself is a work of love from the crew, Raimi & co worked up a lot of references in the movie itself and based it around old classic tropes and themas.

Klaatu barada nikto, with this line Ash is supposed to sell away the book of the dead, but mispronounce it which results in the final act of the film. It was also the famous classic line from the 1951 scifi classic B-Movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. The movie in itself is a big tribute to classic adventure stories like Gulliver's Travel, Sinbad, etc..
Even more, Sam Raimi had a lot of stop motion work done for the final, the last act is very much inspired and done similarly to Jason and the Argonauts. Which was pretty unusual for the "modern" 90s.

End Titles

Finally I'd say a lot of love was put into this movie, and it really shows. There's so much fun, energy...all the lines sound perfect, the action is great and Bruce Campbell is at his best.

It's a movie made for fans before anything else.
And it was quite a success to much surprise, I'm sure most producers wouldn't had expected it by then.
It became the cult classic it is today because it's a work of love where the creative team had entire control over it.
Sure, some hip kids might say the stop motion animation isn't the greatest, but it wasn't back then too. It was made old school, like in Jason and the Argonauts for a reason. There's so much style in the way they interact with the living Bruce Campbell facing the practical effects Evil Ash! So many things are going on at the same time in the climax!

Overall, a great movie!

Bruce, and Ash, badass and at his finest!

His over-the-top lines.. The way this guy who butchered his own hand in the previous movie continue to move on be it by using a chainsaw in its place or making a mechanical fully animated hand in medieval times... The way nothing seem to be able to stop him, like a sort of anti-slasher (like the opposite of a Jason or Freddy)..

A whole cult for the series was born after this movie! Perhaps even more so than Evil Dead 2 (didn't most people check back the past 2 flicks because of AoD, honestly?)

Perhaps not as loved for horror-fans, but better directed and constructed as a film.

Raimi was even able to get Danny Elfman score a track, the big final confrontation theme, the March Of The Dead. (whom he had on Darkman - him again yeah)

This time it's more like 80% comedy and 20% horror, but as an horror fan I'm perfectly fine with this choice! It's really fun and shows how creative Sam Raimi was as a creator and director.

Over-the-top, perfect. Ash is an invicible deadite killer, monsters, demons and zombies better fear him and hope they never cross path with him!

Sidenote: On most releases, the movie feature an alternate ending. A darker and less optimistic one. I'm sure a sequel would follow it. And don't worry if you don't see it, it's not like an Evil Dead never remade/reshot details of the previous one.
(this time, actual scenes from ED2 were used in the prologue..but for copyrights reasons they couldn't keep the "Evil Dead" title, so they tweaked a bit of the previous one ending)

Final word? Watch it! Rewatch it! Buy it! Have it in your collection!

I give it:
 3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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