We interrupt our regularly scheduled season reviews for a pre-Halloween post. On Monday, we looked at Shaun of the Dead largely because it is perfect for Halloween: it’s scary, but it’s also fun. These are two words that work well for Halloween in general. When I asked Roger if he knew Army of Darkness, he horrified me by telling he he did not.
Nope! Just me, baby! Just me!
To fully understand Army of Darkness, we must first go back to 1981 when a super-low budget horror movie was made; the very frightening Evil Dead. Made on a shoestring budget, it chronicled a group of friends going out to a cabin in the woods and finding The Necronomicon, wherein the dead are brought to life in very creepy stop-motion style. By 1987, Evil Dead II came out retaining some of the horror but now adding a layer of brilliant comedy (like after Ash cuts his own now-possessed hand off and he puts it under a buck held down by books; the top of which is A Farewell to Arms). There’s a bit of ret-conning of the original movie, but Ash, the chief protagonist of both (played by the wonderful Bruce Campbell) becomes the hero of the piece. Ash works in housewares in a Walmart style store called S-Mart; this is important later. When Evil Dead II ends, he has accidentally opened a portal and the demons are cast into it. But so is he, his shotgun, and his car. “How do you stop it?!” he screams as he finds himself falling through time.
Army of Darkness, (1992) opens with Ash chained up in the Middle Ages, suspected of being a spy. The moment he begins talking to his fellow captives, the comedy begins. Ash never seems to take the threats seriously until it’s too late. His constant quips add a level of hilarity to the movie that is hard to resist. “Gimme some sugar, baby!”, “Groovy”, and “Shop Smart… shop S-Mart! Ya got that?!” are just some classic lines of which I cannot do justice without you knowing the movie. (Believe me, when this movie first came out, I was playing the video game Quake 2 and it was possible to modify that game’s sounds, so anytime I got scored a victory on one of my friends, a quote from this movie would play! They often wanted to knock me out.)
The entire movie is hilarious but, like Shaun of the Dead, the end does peter out a bit, becoming a big battle between Deadites and humans which gets a bit tedious. It recovers for the final scene though. Depending on the ending you watch (there are two), it does add something fun even before ending. It’s fun to watch regardless as some of the skeletons move like Ray Harryhausen’s Skeletons of the Sinbad movies from the 70s.
The biggest draw of the movie is the comedy. The series shifted from the original days of horror to the end result, but it spawned a series on Starz called Ash Vs. The Evil Dead which maintained the over-the-top gore with the sarcasm of the lead character (still played by Campbell). While they were all gory, the gore is so over-the-top that it never feels real. It transcends anything believable and becomes something hilarious. The movie is rated R, primarily for violence and some language, but check IMDB’s “parents guide” to determine if it’s right for all members of the family.
For a great series, that ends on a gloriously camp movie, this is the way to go. Army of Darkness has a lot of high notes (like when Ash finds an eyeball in his shoulder that grows to a full grown version of himself, or when he’s attacked by dozens of Mini-Ash’s!) But the dialogue will be something you’ll quote for years to come. Hail to the King, baby! ML