Thursday, 28 November 2013

Army of Darkness (1992)

I remember very clearly when I saw this film on the shelves at my local videoshop all those years ago. The films poster/art cover looked a bit scruffy, there was only one lone copy and I recall thinking to myself what tacky cheesy B-movie guff it looked like. It kinda looked like a grotty seedy rip off of 'Willow'.

Following straight on from 'Evil Dead II' we now find Ash in medieval times, an age of knights and Kings...for some reason. Yep Ash crash lands in 1300 AD which I'm guessing is in our past? Not an alternative dimension or anything I presume? Not overly sure about that one as it clearly isn't the rolling hills of merry olde England, although the King or Lord is called Arthur but that's not the King Arthur, so perhaps an alternate Arthur or maybe just a less heard about Arthur. The time period isn't accurate either or even close but maybe I'm just delving a little too deep here.

Of course the main reason why the land looks as it does is probably down to the fact Raimi and co couldn't afford to actually go to England and film there...if its suppose to be medieval England that is. This leads me to my first tiny issue I have with this film, the era/setting and visual effects used. I do like the setting ideas and the dark middle ages type approach but it also does tend to invite the cheapness to shine through on occasion. The reason for this I think is because some of the film is in daylight and it just doesn't look as it should, its not dark obviously, not eerie or creepy...its errr daylight. It highlights the joins in the special effects as it were.

The other issue I had with the film was the fact it looked too cheap in places for me. We all know the film/franchise is suppose to be a low budget schlocky affair but over the course of the three films the budget got better and so should the effects to a degree. You look at 'Evil Dead II' and its cheesy as fuck, but the effects still have a great look about them in that classic 80's tradition, looks both good and bad at the same time. This film at times does look really really cheap, maybe a bit too cheap. The skeleton hordes at the end are just extras in basic costumes with plastic skeleton bits stuck on them, really didn't like that. A sequence where Ash is fighting skeleton warriors, the skeletons are clearly just being thrown at him one by one by crew members...actually it is a deliberately hilarious little moment.

Some of the effects are a sheer joy to watch, use of classic stop motion animation on some of the skeletons and a bit on Ash look terrific. Its just a shame all the skeletons couldn't be stop motion, a big stop motion battle at the end. Like the previous film effects are covered by every trick in the book, some glorious makeup jobs, masks and prosthetics alongside some ultra hammy bluescreen work on the mini Ash creations. Loved Evil Ash's design and makeup job, really top notch work there, when Ash splits in two is a brilliant sequence as we see the crazed delirious Ash running wildly through the misty moonlit night, loved the sets for most night scenes and the odd deadites we saw had that classic Raimi look about them, nice.

In this film Ash has also completely converted into a fully fledged iconic fantasy hero with his chainsaw hand and shotgun. The character has the look of a comic book character and is totally different to previous incarnations in the last two films. This is bolstered by the snappy dialog, quickfire quips, plenty of hero posing with the shotgun, a bit more muscle on show and the classic damsel in distress to save. I do like this aspect very much but at the same time I felt it got a little bit out of hand at times much like the overall comedy aspect.

'Gimme some sugar, baby'

There are moments where I really wince because its just too goofy, when Ash is getting some Three Stooges treatment from the skeletal hands coming up from their graves is one such example. Another is when Ash has two heads and we get more Three Stooges tomfoolery, was that really needed? Also there are odd bits of dialog from the bad guys which have been edited in and are just too silly for me, that and some really hokey skeleton prop moments...yikes!

Another discussion builder is the two ending sequences, which do you prefer? Myself I'm not sure, I liked the apocalyptic ending but I don't really get how that is suppose to have happened. Its a bit of a Tim Burton 'Planet of the Apes' ending that one, makes no real sense. So I guess I must go with the cornball ending where Ash becomes or continues on as a one liner spewing, shotgun wielding demon/deadite slayer. I think that ending does fit more inline with the character and plot. All those cool one liners do feel very much like a precursor to 'Bubba Ho-Tep' if you ask me.

'Hail to the king, baby'

I tend to think of this film as a twisted Harryhausen flick, a dark surreal vision of his work, just a different spin. It is an oddity indeed, its not really horror, not scary at all, its outright fantasy really, much like 'Krull' 'The Beastmaster' or 'The Princess Bride'. The film is such a drastic move away from the original concepts of the first two films its quite unusual. I do like the film very much, its a great little dark bizarre fairytale of sorts but I just don't think it fits in with the Evil Dead franchise really, its so different from the first two. Great to get away from the cabin location of course, the grim medieval setting is fine and the dark humour is fine...I just feel a bit more gore, a little less slapstick and maybe a touch more jumpy in the horror department and it would have been perfect.