Army of Darkness

(Sam Raimi, USA, 1993)


Army of Darkness is the third film in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series which began in 1982. The trilogy shows how quickly and completely the horror genre has changed in that period: from the gut churning gore of the first film, to the beautifully poised terror and absurdity of the second, to the outright comedy of the third. Raimi is one of the greatest stylists of his generation, along with the Coen brothers, but here he coasts along, having fun with the material and his regular star Bruce Campbell.

It is regulation behaviour for a critic to evoke the anarchic cartoons of Tex Avery or the off-beat modernism of Jerry Lewis when discussing Raimi, but Army of Darkness is closer to the spirit of The Three Stooges or even Mel Brooks.

Relocating Campbell and the nasty, invisible spirits who are his nemesis back in medieval times, the film is a riot of corny postures and camp lines. The last vestiges of horror become excuses for pure burlesque, as Raimi erects a monument to rank silliness.

Army of Darkness came and went so fast in Australian cinemas that most local reviewers failed to even record its existence. The afterlife of video, laserdisc and DVD is the place where Raimi’s films truly come into their own, for their visual and aural gags are often so intricate that the slow motion, freeze-frame and rewind buttons must be used to savour (and sometimes to comprehend) the laughs.

Note the existence of two available versions of the film, both prepared by Raimi: the ‘softer’ one, and a more downbeat ‘special edition’ including an extra ten minutes and a different ending.

MORE Raimi: For Love of the Game, The Gift, A Simple Plan, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, The Quick and the Dead

© Adrian Martin October 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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