Originally released in Spring, 1993, ARMY OF DARKNESS only lasted for a week and a half in theaters--not enough to creep into box-office success. After a few years in the back of the shelves, the film has attained "cult status" and had acquired a permanent spot in the books of popular culture. The "Boomstick" Dvd edition has both the 81 minute theatrical cut and the 96 minute director's cut in two discs, both anamorphically enhanced for HDTVs. Sam Raimi‘s "Army of Darkness" is one of the most brilliant, campy and awesome Horror-comedies that ever got into my personal collection.
The film picks up after the events of Evil Dead 2; Ash (Bruce Campbell) is a hapless house wares clerk is time-warped back to the Dark Ages (or Med-Evil times) by the power of the demonic book "Necronomicon". Now armed only with a ‘73 Oldsmobile, a chainsaw and a 12-gauge double-barreled S-mart shotgun, our knucklehead hero must battle vicious witches, ghouls, a diabolical doppelganger and the relentless hordes of the evil dead…
Raimi's mid-budget, 111 day production time "Army of Darkness" exudes pure fun entertainment. The film is absolutely hilarious, and is a successful blend of horror elements and satire. The screenplay is full of gems throughout and the dialogue has that very sharp wit. The film has also given birth to some of the most "iconic" scenes in cinema. The windmill scene, the bad-azz vs. good-azz sequence, the cemetery when bones abused Ash in a way that the "Three Stooges" would, acrobatic ghouls that throw punches like Sugar Ray Leonard--the list goes on and on.
Accompanied with Raimi's fantastic camerawork which is both inventive and nostalgic, with extreme close-ups and perspective shots that show the stunt-laden scenes, the film is clever and very sharp. The effects in the film is a combination of people in rubber suits, animatronic puppets and stop-motion animation that is definitely campy but none can deny that it fits the film's style--intentionally done with clever "cheesiness". A pathology professor even asked Raimi if he could use his skeletal shots for his lecture. The set designs and cinematography are also quite fitting to its atmosphere that almost looks like a comic book. (no wonder Raimi was so successful in Spider-man 1 and 2) The Matte paintings and studio sets are so campy that it adds to its own humorous genius.
The film is action-packed and full of stunts and explosions. The assault on the castle and the battle between science and magic is so much fun to watch. What is also so clever is that it effectively blends humorous dialogue and the action. While some films use dialogue and camp to delay a film's proceedings, this film definitely uses every bit of its nicely placed humor as character development. Now, the film does have its share of goofs in the screenplay when Ash went to retrieve the Necronomicon, but the film is just so much fun that you'll more than likely to not notice.
Bruce Campbell does an outstanding job as with the supporting cast. Campbell is very charismatic as our awkward hero and should be credited with certain unforgettable catch phrases such as "Give me some sugar, Baby.." and "Groovy". The dialogue is just brilliant, full of humorous one-liners delivered by Campbell. The guy is definitely the right actor for the job as he does show enough witty attitude to keep the audience entertained. The cast is definitely having fun with this film and I do think there were times that Sam Raimi probably let them loose to act as they wished. Of course, no film of this nature would be complete without a beautiful leading lady. Embeth Davidtz has that classic leading lady look and fit's the role of Sheila.
The director's cut has more than 15 minutes of additional footage. The extended cut has subtle bits of added action, dialogue and the famous (or infamous?) alternate apocalyptic ending. The additional scenes can be spotted because the scenes do have more grain than the others. I personally like the director's cut better although the theatrical cut may have more inherent "coolness" and faster-paced.
ARMY OF DARKNESS is one of those films that should be a part of any film fan's movie library.
The movie is just so much fun to watch. I f you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favor and give it a spin. The film is just loads of fun and has near-infinite replay value.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! [4 ½ Stars]
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