It's hard not to feel there's something wrong when Army of Darkness
, the third entry in Sam Raimi's lively Evil Dead
series, opens with a 15 certificate. And indeed, this is not quite the non-stop rollercoaster of splat we're entitled to expect.
Like Evil Dead II, it opens with a digest-cum-remake of the original movie, taking geeky Ash (Bruce Campbell) back out to that cabin in the woods where he is beset by demons who do away with his girlfriend (blink and you'll miss Bridget Fonda). Blasted back in time to 12th century England, Ash finds himself still battling the Deadites and his own ineptitude in a quest to save the day and get back home.
Though it starts zippily, with Campbell's grimly funny clod of a hero commanding the screen, a sort of monotony sets in as magical events pile up. Ash is attacked by Lilliputian versions of himself, one of whom incubates in his stomach and grows out of his shoulder to be his evil twin. After being dismembered and buried, Evil Ash rises from the dead to command a zombie army and at least half the film is a big battle scene in which rotted warriors (nine mouldy extras in masks for every one Harryhausen-style impressive animated skeleton) besiege a cardboard castle. There are lots of action jokes, MAD Magazine-like marginal doodles and a few funny lines, but it lacks the authentic scares of The Evil Dead and the authentic sick comedy of Evil Dead II.
On the DVD: Army of Darkness may be the least of the trilogy, but Anchor Bay's super two-disc set is worthy of shelving beside their outstanding editions of the earlier films. Disc 1 contains the 81-minute US theatrical version in widescreen or fullscreen, plus the original "Planet of the Apes" ending, the trailer and a making-of featurette. Disc 2 has the 96-minute director's cut, with extra slapstick and a lively, irreverent commentary track from Raimi, Campbell and co-writer Ivan Raimi, plus yet more deleted scenes and some storyboards. The fact that the film exists in so many versions suggests that none of them satisfied everybody, but fans will want every scrap of Army in this one package. --Kim Newman
A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home.
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Richard Grove
Director: Sam Raimi
Manufacturer: Anchor Bay