Army of Darkness

Year 1992

Bruce Campbell as  Ashley "Ash" Williams  
Embeth Davidtz as Sheila
Ian Abercrombie   as  Duke Henry the Red  
Director - Sam Raimi
Screenwriters - Sam Raimi  
  - Ivan Raimi  

Show of hands. How many people saw Army of Darkness when it was first released in theaters? Hrm. Very few. How many have heard it quoted? Wow. Nearly everyone.

That last part is why this movie is on the At Least Once list. Not because it's a great movie, not because it's a masterpiece. It's on the list because it's one of Bruce Campbell's best roles and it's quoted or referred to a lot.

This movie is also known as Evil Dead 3. It's the third movie in a series that began with Evil Dead which had Bruce Campbell starring as Ash. Evil Dead and especially Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn managed to combine horror and humor in a new effective way. They were sort of 1980's versions of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein only gorier and scarier and with more imaginative special effects. (Not better executed, mind you, just more imaginative.)

Evil Dead 2 ends with Ash being sucked into a time whirlwind that sends him back to the Middle Ages where he dispatches a flying demon. Army of Darkness begins with Ash being sucked into a time whirlwind back to the Middle Ages along with his car. No demon dispatching at this point.

Ash is immediately captured and thrown into a pit to battle a demon where he wins the fight with some help from his "boom stick" or shotgun if you're not a primitive screwhead. Then starts the quest to get the book that probably contains the spell to send him back to his own time. But, Ash messes that up, unleashes Deadites, and must help defeat them before the book can be used. It's pretty typical fare in the plot department.

It's the details that will get you. For example, before Ash is thrown into the pit, a peasant goes first. By his screams, you can tell that the peasant suffered a horrible fate. Then, about five seconds later, a long shot of the pit shows the blood spilled by the poor victim. Well, it's a geyser of gallons of blood that shoots about twenty feet into the air. Gross? Yes. Funny? Yes. Memorable? Yes.

Then there's Rami's use of a camera that hovers about a foot off of the ground. It's a point of view camera that shows how the monster is moving through the forest (I mean through the forest as in splitting trees lengthwise as it goes) as it chases Ash in one scene. The buzzing sound that accompanies the view does send a shiver up your spine.

Where did this buzzing wind come from? Evil Dead 2. What's its purpose? To look and sound frightening. Is it ever seen or heard from again? Nope. But since this a campy comedy-horror movie, this sort of nonsense is forgivable. Better than just "forgivable" it's the sort of stuff that makes this movie worth watching.

Some other goofy scenes? In a cemetery, just as the skeletons are being reanimated and forcing their way to the surface, Ash finds himself tripped and sprawled. What then follows is a Three Stooges worthy exchange between skeleton fingers and Ash's eyes, nose, and mouth.

How about Bad Ash, the leader of the Deadites, trying to tell his troops to, "Sally forth!"? The Bad Ash is, for reasons never revealed, partially decomposed. He can't say "forth" without his jaw coming loose.

If you begin a sentence with, "In all seriousness..." then you're not talking about this movie. Ash decides to build himself a working metal hand to replace the one that was lost. It takes him about a day in a blacksmith's shop. Of course the blacksmith has tools that wouldn't be available until a couple of hundred years after the Middle Ages. But, in this movie they belong.

Or Ash reaching into the trunk of the car that came through the portal with him and pulling out a Chemistry 101 book. (It says so, right on the cover!) From this he makes gun powder and converts his car from a gas powered to a steam powered a little over a day. (That's my disbelief like a lute suspended.)

There are plenty of other diamonds throughout. But just as often, the dialog steals the scenes. And the dialog is, more often than not, quips and one-liners delivered as only an over the top Bruce Campbell can send it. As I've mentioned on other web pages, Bruce Campbell can't act. But like Swan in My Favorite Year, he can be a movie star. In this movie, that's what he is - a star.

I can't imagine anyone but Bruce Campbell, shouting with gusto, "That's gotta hurt!"

Here're some other gems.

Ash: Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

Duke Henry: I am Henry the Red. Duke of Shale, Lord of the Northlands and leader of its peoples.
Ash: Well hello, Mister Fancypants. Well I've got news for you, pal. You ain't leadin' but two things right now - Jack and s**t. And Jack left town.

Ash: Yo! She-bitch! Let's go!
Lord Arthur: Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?
Ash: Nope. Just me baby...just me.

Old Woman: I'll swallow your soul.
Ash: Come get some.

Sheila: I may be bad, but I feel...good.

Sheila: You found me beautiful once.
Ash: Honey, you got real ugly.

Ash: Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun.

(a skeletal) Evil Ash: I got a bone to pick with you.

Ash: I'll squash you so hard you'll have to look down to look up!

Demon: Who the hell are you?
Ash: Ash. Housewares.

Then there's the set-up for Ash having to recite the magic words of protection, "Klaatu, barada nikto." He can't remember them so he tries to fake his way through. He gets out, "Klaatu" and "barada" but can't remember "nikto". So, he coughs instead of saying the last word. When later questioned about whether he said them, he whines, "Look, maybe I didn't say every single, little, tiny syllable. No. But basically I said them. Yeah."

There are two endings for the movie. The one that was shown in theaters is the one in which Ash returns to S-Mart, kills a demon in the store, does an Elvis/Chuck Connors impersonation, and gets the girl. The second alternate ending has Ash going to our post-apocalyptic future. It's less entertaining, but would've been a good segue into a sequel.

This movie does have a few scares and grotesque creatures. It's adult with some of its humor. There's a bit of nudity in the background in one scene. The special effects, although better than those in the first Evil Dead movies, are still weak in many places. But, it's not a movie that expects the special effects to hold you, so they're not that much of a detriment.

If you're a guy, you've got to see it at least once. You'll be glad you did.

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