31 Days of Horror: Film #31 ARMY OF DARKNESS
It sucks that after doing a month-long horror countdown, the final entry ends up being posted more than a day late. I was stuck elsewhere and it just couldn’t be helped. Sorry about that.
Movie #31 was always going to be Army of Darkness. I spaced out the Evil Dead trilogy in October with the intention of watching Army of Darkness directly before the premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Army of Darkness is the lightest entry in the Evil Dead trilogy. The first film is a nasty horror movie. The second film is a horror comedy. Army of Darkness is a medieval fantasy with horror elements and a goofy sense of humor. It's complete lunacy and I love it. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a ‘horror film’ exactly, but it’s the end of the Evil Dead trilogy, so it qualifies for this countdown, at least.
In Army of Darkness, idiot hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) is transported back to medieval times and is treated as a prophesied hero, one who has come to deliver the people from the clutches of evil. Ash decides to help out, but he ends up making everything much, much worse.
The medieval comedy is a concept that film often returns to but rarely gets right. For every Army of Darkness and Monty Python’s Holy Grail there is a Black Knight and a Your Highness. I’m not really sure what the attraction is. Army of Darkness thankfully skirts much of the culture clash comedy, instead letting the film work on the merits of its hero and villains. Ash may call the knights and peasants a bunch of “primitive screwheads” but that says more about him than it does about them.
I love this film. It’s hilarious, every other line in the script is quotable, Sam Raimi’s visual style has rarely been so hyper and magnetic, and Bruce Campbell is at his very best. Army of Darkness had a big influence on me about ten or fifteen years ago when I was just beginning to write longer stories and mess around with genre. The film's sense of humor crept into a lot of the stuff I was writing at the time. Now it’s a more indirect influence, like how I appreciate the hero that’s something of a moron, and the kind of “anything goes” approach to entertaining an audience.
Others loved Army of Darkness, too. For years after its 1993 release, fans have been clamoring for more. Raimi and Campbell alternated between giving fans hope, killing that hope, and just shrugging their shoulders like they didn’t know what was going on. I think, after a while, that both Campbell and Raimi grew tired of the idea of another Evil Dead film.
Then came the news that we weren’t getting Evil Dead 4 (or Army of Darkness 2?), but rather a TV series called Ash vs. Evil Dead. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that news made me giddy with excitement. Bruce returns to the lead role, Raimi’s on board as a producer (and directed the first episode), and the trailers all seemed to suggest it was going to be just what we were all hoping for.
The show premiered on Halloween night. Was it worth the wait?
Yes. Holy shit, yes. Ash vs. Evil Dead is both hilarious and creepy, with plenty of the series’ trademark gore and monster effects. The plot is surprising and yet it feels comfortably familiar, like, I hadn’t expected them to go in this direction, but it makes perfect sense now. And it’s just fantastic to see Campbell back as Ash again. The first episode is one of the most entertaining hours of television I’ve watched in a long time. I cannot wait for more.
If you’re a fan of Army of Darkness or any of the other films in the Evil Dead series, you gotta check out the new show. It’s on Starz, so that means not everyone’s going to be able to watch it right away. I’ve already seen the first episode twice. I’ll watch it again when I snatch the Season 1 Blu-ray. For a fan like me, it’s been a long wait, but the new series really delivers the goods.
. . . And so that ends my 31 Days of Horror! If I do this again next year (big if!), I’m going to schedule the movies and reveal the schedule in September, that way you might be able to watch the movies on the same day and join in on the discussion afterwards. That’d be cool. But until then! Stay groovy.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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