Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #366
Also known as The Medieval Dead
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: October 9, 1992 (world premiere)
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $11,500,000 (USA)
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Sam Raimi
Producer: Robert Tapert
Screenplay: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman
Visual Effects: William Mesa, Pete Kleinow (stop motion)
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Score: Danny Elfman (themes), Joseph LoDuca
Editing: Bob Murawski, Sam Raimi (as R.O.C. Sandstorm)
Studios: Dino De Laurentiis Communications, Renaissance Pictures
Distributors: Universal Pictures, Dino De Laurentiis Communications
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove, Timothy Patrick Quill, Michael Earl Reid, Bridget Fonda, Patricia Tallman, Ted Raimi, Deke Anderson, Bruce Thomas, Bill Moseley
Cameos: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, William Lustig, Sam Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 as itself
Suggested Audio Candy
Joseph DoLuca “Army of Darkness”
“My name is Ash and I am a slave. Close as I can figure, the year is thirteen hundred A.D and I’m being dragged to my death. It wasn’t always like this, I had a real life, once. A job”
I can no longer make excuses for the fact that, over 350 appraisals down the line, I still haven’t spared a single adjective for Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. Much as I would love to report that its due to mere oversight or a convoluted schedule, I am afraid I shall have to come clean on the reason it has taken until now to pluck up the courage to tackle such a firm fan favorite. The Evil Dead has a particularly rabid following and they would likely begin their demonic incantations before I so much as uttered the word “meh!” Right now, in real-time I might add, I feel an odd jabbing sensation in my chest which, one would assume, is down to their disenchantment with my indifference towards their cherished darling. In my defense, John Boorman’s Excalibur and Paul Verhoeven’s Flesh & Blood were both fine movies and Army of Darkness is no slouch either. However, swords and sandals just don’t yank my chain.
Jason X was a whole heap of irreverent fun but that didn’t stop me feeling a little embittered by New Line Cinema’s decision to shoot him into space for a lunch date with the Cenobites. I’m a stickler for that cabin in the woods and the moment when Ash crash landed, followed by his battered Oldsmobile, in 1300 AD England, I knew full well that change was afoot. It took five years for Raimi to round-up his skeletal troops in an attempt to give our hero the send-off nobody was expecting and, I have to be honest, I was some way back in the crowd of gawking onlookers once it finally materialized. The medieval theme just doesn’t cut it with me; Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings may well have been magnificent, but after ten hours of watching Frodo and chums traipsing about Middle Earth in the search of that elusive piece of costume jewelry, I was primed to destroy the next hobbit that dared to live his dream. Now I had to deal with Ash going all vintage on us. Ye Gods be cruel!
“We can take these Deadites, we can take ’em! With science”
Thankfully, for all my petulance, I’m no knucklehead. Personal quibbles aside, Army of Darkness is more quotable than nigh-on any other film from its epoch, contains more undead scallywags than you could shake a broadsword at, and remains very much in the spirit of its predecessors. My anguish subsided in 2013 with Fede Alvarez’ triumphant reboot garnering deserved universal praise, when Raimi and Campbell revealed that this was never intended to close their trilogy and, instead, was more of a spin-off than anything else. Suddenly the black clouds began to disperse and I was no longer required to wag the finger furiously in their direction for robbing me of my birthright. I gave Ash’s historical horror/comedy the time of day once more and, when I did, not a damn thing had changed. Much as that will sound like a simmering insult, I can assure you that it is the precise opposite.
I bloody well knew it. Army of Darkness rocked that armor back in 1992 and twenty years later it still looks good in gauntlets. Our hero is the chief reason for the successful transition as Ash may well be a freshwater fish in the dust but he has lost none of the swagger which made him so iconic in the first place. The Chin affords him additional strength; a marvelously elongated head tail which women want to kiss and men secretly also want to pucker up for. This time he has a larger audience to play to, more minds to mould, women to bed, Deadites to shred, and he grabs the opportunity with his one good hand and milks the adulation for all it is worth. This is Bruce Campbell’s film, first and foremost, Raimi just provides him his stage and populates it accordingly. The director is more than aware of its exclusive strengths and plays to every last one of them, minus the excessive splatter which has become the series’ trademark.
“Maybe. Just maybe my boys can protect the book. Yeah, and maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot”
The very first rule of thumb which he adheres to is to ensure that our weathered hero isn’t afforded breathing space. Suffering is part of the fun and Ash spent the lion’s share of his time before, particularly during Evil Dead II, being mishandled and on the opposing end of rough justice. We need to know that Earth’s divine savior can take a hit, otherwise what point is the chiseled jaw? Mercifully, within five minutes of setting foot on this hallowed ground, he is thrown to the wolves in the most unceremonious manner and left to fend for himself. The punishment doesn’t end there and with a much more workable $13m kitty at his disposal, Raimi places him in all manner of precarious situations. That possessed hand may have been disposed of but the sickness soon spreads and an Evil Ash doppelgänger is born, on the very same neck à la that dyslexic blue monster from Sesame Street. Evidently, Sam had also been watching Tibor Takács’ The Gate as a small army of tiny terrors, each bearing the chin, are thrown about his ankles as an added distraction from getting his grubby paws on that cursed book.
Evil Dead II set the comedic wheels in motion and could never be accused of possessing a poker face. However, it was still unerringly faithful to its roots and, as much as I wish to gripe about the medieval locale, Army of Darkness largely repeats the feat. Attempting not to snicker frequently is a lost cause as once Raimi located our funny bones he had no intention of relinquishing his tickling stick. There are a plethora of instances where I laughed out loud and, when you consider that is my second favorite pastime (second only to something Ash can no longer facilitate with his right hand), I’d be downright mean to put a downer on the shenanigans. If you can’t beat ’em, join em; isn’t that how the age-old saying goes? It may have taken twenty years but those pesky Deadites wore me down in the end, somewhat inevitably.
“Buckle up Bonehead. ‘Cause you’re goin’ for a ride!”
It’s hard not to love a film which busts out the stop motion skeletons and Army of Darkness appeals to the Sinbad in all of us the moment ‘dem bones start shaking. If that isn’t enough then how about winged skull bats and menstrual hell wenches which make Linda Blair on her period resemble Dakota Fanning in pigtails and pop socks? I trust you’ve grasped my point by now? How could I possibly act without chivalry when Ash needs me most? Has he not done his time twice already? Of course he has, he is Ash after all, the most treasured of commodities and the one man you bank on in a bar room brawl. We owe it to ourselves, and him, to cherish this movie despite the crimes against cabins in the woods it has been charged with. It is my duty to the Grueheads to raise my boomstick aloft and hail to the king alongside my own army of darkness. Anything less just wouldn’t be groovy.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: What kind of braggart would negate to shoehorn a random blood geyser into a film bearing The Evil Dead mantle? Not this one. However, the commercial success of Darkman encouraged Raimi to pitch Army of Darkness to a far wider audience, thus the grue is fleetingly observed and the impetus placed more on outlandish special effects courtesy of Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, and Robert Kurtzman, and more slapstick pratfall than you can wiggle your boomstick at. A little more of the red stuff wouldn’t have gone amiss but beggars can’t be choosers. If they could then they would no longer be beggars.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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