johnlink ranks ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)

After watching the first two EVIL DEAD films back in February, here is the third installment (finally). All it took to end up in the Blu Ray player was Liz’s suggestion that we watch something which does not take itself too seriously. If ARMY OF DARKNESS doesn’t fit that bill, I don’t know what does.

I watched ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) on 8.12.12. It was probably my tenth viewing of the film, and first in seven(ish) years. It is important to note that this article considers the 96 minute Director’s Cut of the film, and not the 81 minute theatrical release.

For those not lucky enough to have had this movie in your past, ARMY OF DARKNESS concerns Ash (Bruce Campbell) from the EVIL DEAD films, being warped into the medieval times. He must retrieve the book of the dead and defeat the titular army before he can go home. In the meantime, he says witty things.

When this movie starts, Ash is a changed man. No longer the timid college boy, he has been transformed into a hardened action junkie by the events that occurred in the woods during EVIL DEAD 2. Is this too convenient? Absolutely. Not even a question. From a less playful movie this sort of character jump would annoy the hell out of me. In ARMY OF DARKNESS it becomes somehow endearing.

This is a tough movie to consider for a ranking, mostly because the entertainment value is the only thing this film cares about. The script is secondary, the acting tertiary, and most everything else (costuming, continuity) is rarely given much thought at all.

Sure, Director Sam Raimi pays homage to several other films. Words from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (klaatu, barada, nikto) are the words Ash must say when retrieving the book of the dead. The WOLF MAN is suggested by a scene which has Ash(s) howling at the moon. But more than anything, Raimi pays homage to the EVIL DEAD films. Sometimes this is because the same monsters are pursuing Ash as did in those films. Sometimes it’s just to do the wacky Raimi POV shot as an arrow (or a pitchfork) finds a victim. To be sure, there are some nicely filmed moments in this, such as the continuous zooms as Ash fixes himself a new hand. In the Director’s Cut, this is offset by some old grainy footage being used within the narrative. Previously, only the windmill scene had been poorly shot. In the Director’s Cut, most of the new footage looks substantially weaker.

I also miss some of the lines omitted by the Director’s cut. In the theatrical release after blowing off his evil twin’s head, Ash says “Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the gun.” In the longer version he simply says “I’m not that good.” I also really dislike the Director Cut’s bleak ending. Not finishing the film in S Mart is drastically less fun. But since this is the version I watched, it is the version I will consider in my scores below. Having seen this again (for maybe the third time) as the Director’s Cut, I can say it is one of the few films for which I would prefer to go back to the Theatrical Release.

But, back to the movie at large, the acting is terrible. Like all time bad. Campbell keeps this from going into the super low score all by himself, though it’s not like he’s Olivier here. He’s just so enduringly witty that one can’t help but call his performance great. But everyone else? Horrible. Embeth Davidtz is just brutal as the leading lady, though the script doesn’t help her cause. Once she is turned into a villain, she is not quite as bad.

The special effects should annoy me, but they fall into the ‘so-bad-its-good’ category. Some particularly hilarious fights have dummy skeletons being thrown at Ash as he pretends to struggle and fight them off. High comedy.

The script is highly quotable. So many great and memorable lines throughout. Has such a silly movie ever provided so much into pop culture? “This is my boomstick.” “Shop smart, shop S Mart.” “Gimme some sugar baby.” They are all here, and they all still make me laugh.

Again, this is a hard movie to rank. On the one hand, it is highly entertaining and fully sets out to do what it wants to do. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel like a more unified vision, better behind the scenes work, a bigger budget, and better acting could all have worked to make this a classic. Instead, it has to settle for being a benchmark action/comedy film. It resides in its genre, and goes no further.

But me? I’d watch it at the drop of a hat anytime someone wanted.



The negative bonus point is for the all around weak production value. Some people find that charming. Maybe I’m missing the point. But I find the silly costumes and contemporaneous look hurt this film rather than help it.



~ by johnlink00 on August 13, 2012.

5 Responses to “johnlink ranks ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)”

  1. I recently did a tribute to Bruce and will have sort of disagree with you here. If you are expecting a Federico Fellini film here you are right, the acting is garbage, the plot as thin as a porno done on the cheap. But the film is in my opinion a lot of fun. It is not going to do any heavy lifting but everything does not have to.

  2. Actually, I fully agree with you: I love Bruce and I really enjoy this movie!

    So the way I do the rankings is that I look at a film in several categories. FILM would be the Fellini factor, MOVIE is pure enjoyment and ACTING and WRITING are self explanatory. It is absolutely possible for an ‘entertaining’ film to be so good at what it does to heighten the FILM score (PRINCESS BRIDE is my go to example for this.)

    I really, really enjoy ARMY OF DARKNESS. In fact, I’d probably give the theatrical cut a perfect 10 in the area of entertainment. But for me, some of the poor production quality hurts my overall appreciation of what it does. Heck, I bet Raimi wishes he had more money when he did this movie.

    Anyway, here’s a link to how I look at the different categories.

    • My bad–I should have checked you system before shooting my mouth off. It is good to hear that others appreciate Bruce C., I took a look at his IMDB list of appearances and it is more impressive than many give him credit for. I don’t have regular tv but I friend of mine turned me on to burn notice which I watch through netflix and he is perfect for that role–in fact it is the only reason I watch the sho!

  3. […] AOD link here Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreTumblrDiggRedditStumbleUponLinkedInPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  4. […] “On the one hand, it is highly entertaining and fully sets out to do what it wants to do. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel like a more unified vision, better behind the scenes work, a bigger budget, and better acting could all have worked to make this a classic.” – johnlinkmovies […]

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