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The 1980s. The golden age of pop music and B movies. When the three Johns (John Matrix, John Rambo, and John McClane) redefined what it means to be a badass action hero. When Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi gave us the Evil Dead movies. The 1980s were awesome, and many of its then-overlooked gems have become cult classics since then. Such is the case with one of, if not the, greatest horror comedies of all time, Army of Darkness.
Being the third episode of the Evil Dead trilogy, it's not automatically obvious that this movie is a horror comedy. The first Evil Dead movie was anything but a comedy; it was taken seriously. Dead seriously... Then the second movie shifted gears and became much more comedic, turning Ash into a cowardly goofball and making fun of his futile efforts to defeat the deadites. Then at the end of Evil Dead 2 he was sent back in time into the middle ages along with his car, his chainsaw, and his shotgun, and you just knew that if there would ever be an Evil Dead 3, they would throw all remaining seriousness right out the window. That's exactly what they did, and boy are we grateful!
The movie's title was already quite humorous, as instead of "Bruce Campbell IN Army of Darkness" the movie was called "Bruce Campbell VERSUS Army of Darkness". The premise is really simple. Ash meets a bunch of knights and peasants, as well as a wiseman who tells him that the only way he can be sent back to his time is with the help of the Necronomicon, which is hidden in a graveyard that the knights are too scared to approach. So Ash goes to get the book for them but things don't quite go according to plan, mostly because Ash is a fucking idiot who can't memorize three simple words. Then the Army of Darkness is unleashed and Ash and the knights must fight them all in order to survive. Pretty simple plot, but the execution makes it into an awesome movie experience.
First thing's first: Bruce Campbell is awesome in this movie. Quite possibly his best performance ever. The facial expressions he makes and the way he delivers his lines is nothing short of priceless. Also, as an added bonus we get to see him play the bad guy as one of the deadites takes his shape, which leads to a hilarious showdown between "goody-two-shoes Ash" and "bad Ash". Needless to say, he shines in both roles. I'm not sure this movie would have worked out so well without him.
However, this movie works not because of Bruce Campbell alone, but because of Bruce Campbell and all the insanely funny moments in the movie. The humor is hilarious throughout the entire movie. Right from the opening scenes, during which the knights try to execute Ash after they mistakenly think he's working with their enemies. The brief conversation between Ash and Henry the Red is priceless, as is the knights' reaction to all the twentieth century shit that Ash brought with him to their time. The deadites are quite entertaining as well. There's a scene in this movie where a skeleton is playing a bone flute, which is priceless. Bad Ash gives the deadites a speech near the end which can only be described as "the best motivational speech ever" (seriously, Aragorn and President Thomas J. Whitmore should have taken lessons from this guy). Early in the movie Ash has a Luke Skywalker moment which is absurd enough to make you fall out of the chair laughing (you'll know it when you see it; and if you don't understand the Luke Skywalker reference of the scene, or worse, you don't even know who Luke Skywalker is, well, then you're probably too young for this website). And then there's the siege at the end. A well choreographed climactic battle between the deadites and the knights, who are now armed with Ash's twentieth century science. It gives the movie a bit of a steampunk feeling actually, and yet it works beautifully, it doesn't ruin the medieval atmosphere one bit.
One thing to note is that the movie has two different endings. The original ending was deemed too depressing by the studio and/or the producers so they had Sam Raimi do a different ending which kind of turns Ash into a goofy Duke Nukem. This is not such a bad thing (especially considering how much Duke Nukem 3D "borrowed" from this movie), I like this "badass ending" quite bit. In fact, I think I prefer this one. The original ending, which is heavily preferred by Bruce Campbell himself, is quite different and goes with the well established idiocy of Ash and takes it to a whole new level, giving us a hilarious ending that could have set up a potential fourth Evil Dead movie in a very unique setting. The DVD release of this movie features the full original movie with this original ending. This version comes with a number of scenes that were cut from the theatrical release due to the length, and to be honest the movie is much better with these scenes included. Most of them involve the siege at the end, mainly serving to make the battle more epic, and it works very well, it really feels like a worthwhile climax to the entire trilogy. The badass ending is also available on the DVD as an extra, it's worth to check it out, even if you prefer the original ending. Also, it's worth listening to the commentary, conducted by Bruce Campbell himself, joined by Sam and Ivan Raimi.
So in conclusion, Army of Darkness is one of the greatest horror comedies of all time, full of hilarious dark humor. It's a tremendously entertaining film, go see it if you haven't done so already. Also, feel free to discuss the movie (list your favorite scenes and/or Ash one-liners, etc.) at our facebook page. Until next time, good evening!
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