Army of Darkness (1992) – Sam Raimi

Can I start of by saying: All Hail Bruce Campbell? Campbell for President? Ok, I’ll stop.

Back in 1981, Sam Raimi created one of the all time greatest horror movies of all time, ever: The Evil Dead. It was the ultimate 80’s B-horror movie. It cost less than $400,000 to make, and it showed. On paper, this movie had everything working against it. Script, acting, budget, set, you name it. But somehow, Raimi pulled it together to make a scary, funny, bloody masterpiece. The first sequel, Evil Dead 2, plays up some of the goofy slapstick stuff from the first one a little bit. But ED2 keeps the format that worked in the first one. In his 1992 installment Army of Darkness, the story picks up where EDII left off- with Ash being transported back the middle ages by the demons. Don’t worry, he’s still got his chainsaw and his ‘boomstick’ (his double-barrel 12-guague) and a box full of shells (conveniently, his car got sucked in to the portal with him and there’s ammo in the trunk).

I know, I’ll probably piss a lot of people off when I say this, because I know lots of you love this movie, but I think Army of Darkness, takes a big step down from the first two films in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but it just doesn’t have the charm of the original, let alone the gore or the scares. AOD takes the campy, silliness to another level and this takes away from any possible scariness. The movie doesn’t even really feel like a horror movie. It feels more like an action adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great movie, and a lot of fun, but to me, it doesn’t even come close to the original. Also its budget was $13 million. Think about that.

Ok, so we’ve got Bruce Campbell, (Ash) getting sucked into a giant demon portal in the end of the second movie. At this point, he has chopped off his own hand because it became possessed by a demon, and he has rigged a chainsaw to his stump for chopping up zombies. He falls from the sky and lands in a medieval city and is quickly recognized to be the chosen one who was prophesized to save the city from the “deadites” (the demons that have been killing all his friends for the past 2 movies). A wiseman tells Ash that he must retrieve the Necronomicon (book of the dead) and that it contains a spell that can send Ash back to his own time. When Ash gets the book he accidentally awakens the army of the dead and they attack the city to get the book back.

One of the deadites gets into Ash’s mouth and grows inside him and then he eventually splits in half (like cell division from bio class) into a good and an evil Ash. Evil ash becomes the leader of the Army of the Dead. When Ash’s newly found girlfriend gets kidnapped by the evil army, Ash decides to stay and help defeat the monsters before getting sent home. He helps the medieval warriors train and rig up modern-style weapons to defeat the deadites and get his girlfriend back.

The first two movies were simple. I’m stuck in a cabin with my friends and a bunch of demons and everyone is getting possessed and trying to eat me. There were cool creepy voices and sound effects and the blood and guts factor was fantastic. AoD gets too big and they get away from the stuff that we loved about the first two movies. Sure there are skeletons and explosions and the finest claymation monsters money could buy, but it just didn’t quite have the appeal of the first movie. I know, it’s not fair to just compare this to the original, but I can’t really help it. In general, I get the sense that Raimi purposely toned down the blood and guts to appeal to a wider audience.

Let’s talk about what I liked. Of course, Bruce Campbell makes this movie. If he weren’t in it, it would probably have sucked some serious demon balls. Campbell is the ultimate leading man for a movie like this. He can be funny and serious at the same time. The scenes where he’s fighting his evil self are some of my favorites. And he delivers the lines about boomsticks and about shopping at S-Mart so in such a serious way, you almost forget that he’s yelling this stuff at a crowd of medieval farmers and they have no idea what he’s talking about. Raimi also keeps the campy “camera chasing you through the woods” thing that was used pretty heavily in the first movies.

Overall, the movie is good, but it’s not scary. It’s funny; it’s entertaining, but it’s not scary. And it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. It won’t get a good score here but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. Just make sure you see the other two first. In general, I think it is too self-aware and you can tell that some of it was a little forced.

  1. Is it scary: 2- It’s not really the kind of movie that scares you. The silliness takes over and there’s no room for scares. Even the suspenseful parts are punctuated by goofy noises and slapstick fighting.
  2. Originality: 5- I guess there are some new features to this one, but it just took a lot from the original movies.
  3. Blood: 3- This was one of the biggest disappointments of this film. The first two were so bloody and nasty. In this one, most of the time, he’s killing skeletons so no blood at all. It was almost like he intentionally toned it down.
  4. Believability: 3–It was intentionally goofy and unbelievable. It’s supposed to be over the top.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 4- Some parts of the setting are a little creepy, but it’s hard to divorce yourself from Campbell’s antics enough to get yourself scared.  Nothing too fancy with the camera work other than the chasing through the woods stuff that I mentioned.

Final Score: 17/50

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The Evil Dead (1980) – Sam Raimi


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This is the Cult Classic that inspired 2 sequels 6 video games, a few dozen comic books and and upcoming remake (big surprise there). Enter the legendary (and my perennial write-in candidate for all presidential ballots) Bruce Campbell as Ash- the reluctant hero. He and a group of friends are visiting a remote cabin in the woods when they accidentally awaken some demonic spirits. The spirits begin to take over the bodies of the group and one-by-one they become zombified monsters. Not only is this movie thoroughly scary, funny, and soaked in gallons of zombie guts and blood, it helps you tackle the real-world issues:  “Is it socially acceptable to hack your friends into little pieces with a chainsaw if they’ve turned into zombies?” And “If you just chopped off your zombie girlfriend’s head with a shovel her body lands on you and starts humping you, do you let her finish?”

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At first, you can’t tell if this movie is intended to be scary or funny. It’s certainly campy, but it’s hard to tell if that’s intentional or if this movie is just a victim of it’s age. The late 70’s/ early 80’s was a special time for horror. It was the puberty of modern horror. All the good modern horror movies are directly stolen from these films.  Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Shining, American Werewolf in London to name a few- I don’t mean to name-drop, just making a point. It was a special time and this movie came right when this movement was coming to a head.

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It’s almost like this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it horror? Is it comedy? Or is it possible that by some happy accident, it actually pulled off both? This movie is simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, self-aware, and completely a victim of it’s own microscopic budget but it still works so well. The lighting and camera work are shoddy at best but that makes everything dark and kind of hard to see so you’re scared. And just when you’re about to roll your eyes at the delightfully terrible dialogue, you realize you can’t look away  because another scantily clad co-ed has just changed into a flesh-eating monster and she’s spewing blood across the room. And –Wait, did she just get raped by the forest? What?

You heard me.

So now I think I’ve got it. This movie isn’t a victim of anything. It actually takes advantage of all the campyness, the sound effects, the horrible and simultaneously incredible 70’s synth-horror music, the ever-present mist in the background and it actually works. Somehow, Raimi has taken all these 70’s horror cliches and put them in a blender, mixed in a few extra squirts of blood, some awesomely-lame special effects, and the worlds greatest leading man, and he’s come up with the perfect 80’s horror movie.

It’s so bad that its good. But it’s really just really fucking good.

  1. Is it scary: 8. It brings together all the great elements of classic horror and while it is funny, it’s definitely still scary as shit.
  2. Originality: 6. It brings a lot of tried-and-true horror elements to the table. Granted Raimi handles them as well as anyone before him, but there’s not anything really new here. I don’t think that was the point. The Evil Dead a tribute to these films.
  3. Blood: 10- This thing had gallons of blood spraying across the screen for the entire movie. It was banned in several countries when it first came out. Thats the mark of a good horror movie.
  4. Believability: 5- It wasn’t supposed to be believable-it was poking fun at the shitty movies that had come before it but that doesn’t mean i can dole out free points. Scream did the Same thing in the 90’s after the slasher genre had grown up.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7. Delightfully low budget camera work and a creepy dilapidated cabin in the middle of nowhere. Nothing fancy, just nuts and bolts, balls to the wall horror.

Final Score: 36/50

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