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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Army of Darkness (1992) Sam Raimi

Neatly reshooting a few minutes of footage so as to both introduce film three and help us not notice how a direct sequel ignores completely how the film it's a sequel to ended. We now find that as expected from Evil Dead II, Ash is sent back to 1300 AD but everything else changes, including his girlfriend, now played by Bridget Fonda. Rather than immediately demonstrating hiss superior firepower he gets to be a slave first, so that he can prove himself in the pit and be recognised as the Promised One.

Before long he escapes, beats up some zombies with the chainsaw attached to his wrist, kills a possessed witch with a shotgun, gets himself a cool metal mechanical hand, heads out on a journey to retrieve the Necronomicon from a haunted graveyard, but ends up instead in some sort of nightmare where he fights miniature versions of himself, an evil twin and flying books with teeth. When he fumbles the recitation of the necessary incantantion to obtain the book, he inadvertently resurrects an army of the dead skeletons. In the process he provides us with many memorable lines, again many of which make no sense.

In other words this doesn't make sense. It doesn't pretend to make sense. It's pure, undistilled fun and it doesn't have any high fallutin' airs and graces about being anything else. In many ways it's exactly what Sam Raimi had been working towards for his entire career, finally having the finance, the cast and the industry recognition to be able to do it. It's not even a horror film: it's an action comedy, sword and sorcery film, tribute to everything from the Three Stooges to martial arts films to war epics to the entire Ray Harryhausen era of stop motion animation.

The sheer range of the influences does make this somewhat unique and finding them is half the fun. It really does play like a sinbad movie as made by Larry, Moe and Curly, but with more than a nod to the masks and effects of eighties horror. And yes, there's The Day the Earth Stood Still and Xena, Warrior Princess, National Lampoon's Animal House and even The A-Team. It's all complete utter nonsese that somehow remains awesome fun, probably because of the unique factor and the fact that everyone involved, not least Bruce Campbell himself, was obviously having the most fun imaginable. This wasn't work, it was being paid to have fun and it means that Army of Darkness is at once by far the worst in the trilogy but the most quotable, the most imitable and the biggest riot. Give me some sugar, baby!

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