Army of Darkness (1992)

Rating: A-

Dir: Sam Raimi
Star: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie

Heresy! Am I really saying this is the best film in the series? Well, yes, even though it doesn’t even really qualify as a horror film at all. It’s more of an action-comedy where the villains happen to be dead. And here’s some more heresy: I prefer the ending that brings Ash back to the modern era, to fight one last Deadite, than Raimi’s more downbeat one. It may be more in keeping with the general theme of the trilogy – best summarized as “Let’s put Ash through hell” – but by the end here, he’s won his spurs as a fully-fledged hero, and deserves a suiitably-heroic ending. Here, he’s pushed back to the year 1300, and his attempts to return awaken the army of the dead; after some squirming, he finally stays to defend the locals, using a combination of technology and good, old-fashioned clobberin’.

As in part two, there’s a good chunk where Campbell is the only man on screen, albeit with Evil Ash, or the mini-Ashes, and once more, these are arguably the highlights of the film. However, the rest of the film is hardly less entertaining. While Ash may be at his most courageous, he still has his faults and foibles, and a total lack of patience for the middle-agers, or “primitive screwheads”, as he disparagingly calls them. It’d be very easy for this to come off as arrogant, but thanks to the efforts of director and star, the results are extremely endearing. Indeed, the entire film is one big, goofy pleasure, and taken as such, can only be admired. While horror fans may speak disparagingly of this, it’s clear Raimi’s heart was far more in it than the arboreal sex-crimes of the original.