After the commercial success of Darkman, director Sam Raimi found himself in a position to complete his Evil Dead trilogy. Using a script idea that was originally planned for Evil Dead II, he takes the action back to the middle ages in Army of Darkness. Shot on a budget of $13m, Army of Darkness proved to be a moderate success, taking just over $21m at the box office.
After being pulled through a time portal, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is transported back to 1300 where he is captured and imprisoned by King Arthur’s men. He is forced to battle a deadite, regain his weapons and proves himself to be a hero and is tasked with finding the Necronomicon, which is his only way back home.
Unlike the previous two instalments of the trilogy, Army of Darkness all but removes the horror elements and replaces them, rather bizarrely with an almost Monty-Python-esque humour. The ‘man out of time’ riff is played well, while the tribute to Ray Harryhausen’s work is neat, but sadly at the end of the day Army of Darkness is supposed to be the end of a trilogy, rather than an individual element and in this regard it fails.
The special effects, while neatly reminiscent of Harryhausen, look tired and weak, while many of the jokes and one-line retorts are vague interpretations of those used in Evil Dead II. In fact even Campbell seems to be hamming it up even more, which reduces his charm as the now iconic Ash. The rest of the supporting cast seem disinterested and confused in whether to play it straight, or join in on the unfolding parody disaster unfolding in front of them.
Much like Raimi’s other third part, Spider-Man 3, Army of Darkness is not a patch on the previous two films and leaves a rather sour taste in the audiences mouth, epsecially from a director as talented as Raimi. Half comedy, half fantasy and all a disappointment, Army of Darkness is a tragically mediocre end to a great trilogy.