army of darkness

The third cinematic installment of the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise was full of campy horror, classic one-liners, and gymnastically-gifted Deadites. Everyone’s favorite non-hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) has been pulled into a dimensional portal and tossed out into a medieval time period – along with his Oldsmobile, chainsaw, and gun. His only way home is to find the dreaded Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon.

Ash is quickly captured by Lord Arthur and taken to a castle to be thrown into a pit – they believe he is one of rival Duke Henry’s men. He is able to fight off a very limber Deadite when he is thrown his chainsaw, which ironically lands directly on his arm stump (remember, he had to cut off his own hand in ‘Evil Dead 2b,’ the previous film installment). One of the most classic lines in the movie is here when he shows the gun to the peasants saying, “This is my boomstick!” Ash spends the entire movie on a quest to find the Necronomicon, which will allow him to return home. He ventures into a cemetery to find the book, where he is chased by the familiar evil presence/camera-running-along-the-ground, and he seeks refuge in a windmill. In here, a broken mirror allows smaller versions of Ash to materialize and attack him, reminiscent of ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ One of the mini-Ashes jumps into his mouth, causing a duplicate of himself to grow from his shoulder. A hilarious scene of slapstick follows where he fights with and consequently kills the other Ash, otherwise known as Bad Ash.

The Wiseman, who appears to be Merlin, has told Ash three words to recite when he found the Necronomicon so it could be released. And what happens? Yep, that’s right – he forgets the words. Cue the Deadites, an “Army of the Dead.” They want the Necronomicon, too. An epic battle ensues, complete with a marching skeleton band. The Deadites storm the castle. A bit technologically advanced, the peasants have fashioned Ash a new mechanical hand, and also help him to modify his Oldsmobile to use in battle. They defeat the Deadites sand Ash is safely transported back home.

The film is directed by Sam Raimi (and written by Sam along with his older brother Ivan Raimi), who also directed the first two ‘Evil Dead’ movies. He is known for a creative visual style of directing, as can be seen in some of his other work including ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘The Gift,’ among others. Campbell was a childhood friend of Raimi’s, which explains his repetitive casting by the director in his various movies. During a chat with the SyFy Channel, Raimi shared a funny personal account about the duo: they were on a conference call when Campbell broke off to yell something along the lines of, “Hey you kids – get off my lawn!” If I could picture anyone being the funniest grumpy old guy, it would be Bruce, for sure.

Dark humor, fun effects, and Oldsmobiles flying through the air all make for fun times. Campbell’s physical comedy rounds out the success of the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise. His cocky, overconfident, and daffy portrayal of Ash absolutely carries the movie – I couldn’t see anyone else in that role. If you like your demons able to flip like an Olympian gymnast and your skeletons to act like they were the rotted corpses of The Three Stooges come back to life, then you’re definitely in the right place.

Is there any realistic gravitas to the movie, you might ask?  Well, it’s not terribly reality-based for a man to be catapulted into another dimension where Deadites not only exist but are common knowledge. It would not be easy to relate to having a chainsaw in the place of your hand, although with medical advances these days, the mechanical hand isn’t too far-fetched. If you’re here looking for “realism,” there’s simply not much to relate to in this film, friend.

The tale of a man on a quest for an important object is pretty common. Movies like the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ and ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ among many, many others, all have plot lines centered around someone searching for a specific item. Ash is doing a highly twisted version of just that: his search is for the Necronomicon, a book bound in human flesh, inked in blood, and containing various incantations, rites, and passages. Ash only wants to get back home and resume his job in sporting goods at his local S-Mart. Is it too much to ask?

Raimi’s inventiveness with visual effects is outstanding. Just a few to be mentioned are the mini versions of Ash in the windmill, when Ash is in the pit fighting the Deadites, the scene where Ash is sucked into the fake Necronomicon, and the end battle with the Deadites. The movie was produced with a passion for the series that shows in the finished product. Fans were more than satisfied.

If you haven’t seen this movie, get to finding it on a streaming site or buying yourself a copy on DVD, Blu-Ray, or even VHS if you’re feeling particularly retro. You will soon be quoting the script with the best of them. Until next time, shoppers, don’t forget to “Shop smart – Shop S-Mart!”