Sunday, April 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Army of Darkness (1992) ***

R, 81 min.
Director: Sam Saimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove, Timothy Patrick Quill, Michael Earl Reid, Bridget Fonda, Patricia Tallman, Theodore Raimi

“Army of Darkness” is the third of Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” series, and probably the least significant of the entire series. In it he pretty much abandons any semblance of genuine horror for a sort of homage to the mythical adventure films that made visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen famous. Like the classic B-pictures “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”, and even “Clash of the Titans”—released the very same year as Sam Raimi’s original “The Evil Dead”—“Army of Darkness” is basically a sword and sandal picture where the hero from the “Evil Dead” films fights the denizens of Hell in an ancient time.

Transported back to the 1300s at the end of “Evil Dead II” along with the beast that tried to enter that world, Ash wields his chainsaw arm and his boomstick against hoards of skeleton armies lead by an evil version of himself. By this point, Bruce Campbell has crafted the character of Ash into an icon of campy one-liners and attitude. Raimi goes all out with visual trickery and a great deal of stop-motion animation to pit Ash against, not just an undead version of himself, but miniature versions of himself, flying demons, dummy copies of the Book of the Dead, which sent him on this adventure, and even a second head for a while.

This movie is really just for the fun of it. It doesn’t add much to the “Evil Dead” canon or mythology as it takes the action away from that famous cabin in the woods. Campbell proves himself to be the star he should’ve been, however. Why he never put together more successful franchises, I don’t know. He’s a great comedian and action hero. He’s had a little more success of late, but he will always be known as Ash from the “Evil Dead” trilogy. He embraces that lifelong role with graciousness. I just wish we could’ve seen more of his adventures as Ash, as opposed to this “new vision” of “Evil Dead” that’s in theaters now.

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