“For God’s sake…how do you stop it?!” And now we come to the (former) concluding chapter in the Evil Dead trilogy. Originally titled Evil Dead III, or The Medieval Dead, rights issues and a change of studios forced Sam Raimi and friends to choose a completely different name for their movie, one they used to full effect in the movie itself as “Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness” (a 23-year foreshadowing of Ash vs. Evil Dead).
Picking up where Evil Dead II left off, Bruce Campbell returns as Ash, this time in the year 1300 A.D., as he learns that he is the one the Necronomicon spoke of: the hero prophesied to fall from the heavens and deliver them from the terrors of the Deadites. And like all prophesied heroes, Ash is reluctant to fill this role, focusing only on getting himself back to his own time. But not before he builds himself a bionic hand and beds at least one of the “primitives”. Because he’s groovy that way!
While the first movie was straight-up horror with some comedic elements, and the second movie upped the comedic ante, this third entry is a full-blown comedy with some horror elements. There are silly characters, goofy close-ups, and cartoonish sound effects to keep you laughing from beginning to end. And somehow it works. Never has a horror franchise gone from one end of the spectrum to the other with so much success, and it’s all owed to the creative devotion of Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and that other guy.
Bruce Campbell is at the top of his game in this entry. He oozes charisma even when he’s being a total jerk to the primitive people he feels are beneath him. And even though the rising of the army of the dead is entirely his fault 100%, you still feel sympathy for this guy and want him to succeed. It’s a testament to how much everyone believed in this project. No matter how good or bad an idea may seem on paper, these guys just know how to make it work.
Army of Darkness is the only big budget entry in the Evil Dead franchise, and while it was a box office failure at the time of release, it’s still got a huge fanbase 23 years on, proving once again that box office doesn’t determine quality. And while some may prefer the Director’s Cut’s darker twist ending, I’ve always had a soft spot for a happy ending, especially for someone who’s suffered as much as Ash. Hail to the king, baby!
5 out of 5