Army of Darkness [retro review]

rarmy“Gimme some sugar, baby.”

The Scoop: 1993 R, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz & Marcus Gilbert

Tagline: Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.

Summary Capsule: Shot back through time, The Chin battles female wiles, the evil dead, and three naughty books, with nothing more than a shotgun full of quips.

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Justin’s Rating: How come every time when I try to use the “Gimme some sugar, baby” line, I always get slapped?

Justin’s Review: I was at a friend’s Halloween party last year (this was the one where I went as an escaped mental patient and a bear of a guy kept hitting on me), and my friend had put Army of Darkness on the TV in the background, with the sound turned all the way down. Nice atmosphere for a spook fest: a maniac macho guy running around medieval England with a chainsaw and shotgun, mowing down the evil dead. Slightly bored, and trying to look as studly as possible, I began to quote AOD line-for-line, lip-synching the characters nearly perfect. Maybe I should have stopped doing that after a few minutes, because thereafter everyone else in the room started looking at me with a mixture of fear and awe.

To paraphrase Buffy, “My life is not like other people’s lives.”

But that’s fine, I suppose. Okay, so I’ve seen this awesome little cult film more than the doctor recommends. And maybe on some level, I’ve admired Ash (Bruce Campbell). He’s the epitome of what every guy wants to be — if we didn’t keep nourishing our sensitive, caring sides. Sure, Ash is a raging jerk and kind of dumb to boot, but how can you not hero worship a man who casually lops off his hand when it becomes infected with evil, duct tapes the wound, and then builds a contraption to hold a chainsaw on the stump? I don’t care what you say, this is the ultimate guy act. Ash takes his women saucy, he drops his enemies with aplomb, and he never stops growling out some of the most memorable lines in film history — so memorable, in fact, that they’ve been ripped off countless times since, especially in the Duke Nukem video games.

Like the original Star Wars trilogy, there’s always been a debate among hardcore fans as to which Evil Dead flick is the best. And while it might be considered more cool to elevate the admittedly classic Evil Dead 2 to top honors, Army of Darkness has always been numero uno in my patriotic heart. It might have little of the visceral horror of part 2, but c’mon! It’s got an evil twin! Evil books that bite and fly! Ash punches out King Arthur! There’s a skeleton army! And of course… the Deathmobile! No contest, case dismissed.

Because I’m not even going to stoop to doing a mere plot recap, you should be clued in to the fact that Army of Darkness is a must see for any cult aficionado. Heck, if you’re a living, breathing human that can walk, wobble, crawl or roll to a television, you have NO excuse not check out one of the wittiest and zaniest films of all time.  Drop whatever you’re doing — work, driving, changing a diaper, solving world hunger — and get thee to a video store, pronto!

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Kyle’s Rating: Not just pillow talk, baby.

Kyle’s Review: I saw this movie in the theaters before I truly knew what Evil Dead 1 or 2 were about, and on its own Army of Darkness still kicks ass.

Bruce Campbell isn’t a cult hero for nothing, he has the looks and the comic delivery to properly portray Ash, a time-lost doofus fated to encounter armies of the undead but managing to always mostly defeat the evil with his mechanical left hand and a perfectly delivered “Groovy.” Basically, in his fight against the Evil Dead, Ash is thrown back from modern times to medieval times, where he must forge an alliance with a terrified castle of knights and peasants to combat a walking army of skeletons and Evil Dead, while trying to find a way to get back to his own time. Along the way he replaces his chainsaw hand with a metal hand (just trust me), gets down with a medieval chick, and faces mini-clones and an evil offshoot of himself.

It’s plenty of destruction and swordplay, with quite a few anachronisms, including Ash’s time-lost car and gunpowder, to make everything a lot more exciting and booming. Macho fun for horror and humor fans alike.

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Kym’s Rating: Four out of four custom-made hand chainsaws

Kym’s Review: How can you not enjoy this movie? A guy loses his girlfriend, loses his right hand, and then gains a custom-made chainsaw in their place. Ash finds the fabled Necromonicon and, after making the classic movie blunder and having a demon incarnation read aloud, starts a chain reaction and gets sucked back into time. He then has to save the world from an army of the dead.

This movie is full of witty and funny moments (the little Ashs attacking Ash is hysterical). Ash is the epitome of manliness (and Bruce Campbell is quite the handsome man) and his exaggerated actions and way of talking is sure to have you rolling on the floor laughing. The part where he’s in the graveyard (“Klatu, Verata, Na….um, necktie, nickel?”) is the perfect example of what a man would really do in his situation. Do yourself a favor and rent this one.

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Nancy’s Rating: Wahoo! Times three!

Nancy’s Review: A beautiful film about love, triumph, and the power of the human spirit. And by all of those things, I clearly mean medieval zombie action.

I rented this while staying in a cabin in Maine one summer, when my friend and I had discovered a cool, hipster, indie, wowza movie store, the kind that every movie features with a clerk with a mohawk (that’s right, EVERY movie). We stocked up on seven weird movies, directly yanked from the ‘Weird Movies Here’ section (I heart Portland, Maine). Unfortunately, after Cannibal! The Musical (which is fantastic my friends!), my friend Kelly was a little worn out, so she went to bed, while I insisted on staying up to watch Army Of Darkness.

I had a horrible feeling that it was going to be one of those cult movies that I knew I was supposed to like but wouldn’t to the full extent that I was expected. That was a blatant falsity in every sense of the word. Watching it at one in the morning on an L-shaped couch, quietly suppressing intense giggles, as to not wake up the stupid sleepers, and drinking cranberry juice… weird how recalling where I was when I saw Army Of Darkness is like how most people recall where they were when JFK was shot. “I’ll never forget that I was drinking soda pop when I heard on the radio that Ash totally demolition derby-ed some punk ass zombies…”

Okay, so, like Justin said a plot recap is not necessary. Bruce Campbell has quite the chin, and that’s all you need know before renting this movie. The little you know, the better. Unfortunately, like all cult movies, I’m sure you all know about the deep zombie plot, the intense love story, and the chainsaw. I’m sorry for that, I truly am. Although I loved what was happening on my television screen, I can only imagine the rush and excitement of not knowing what was going to happen next, not even knowing what the expect, and slowly, slowly realizing … wowza… Bruce Campbell DOES have a fascinating chin.

Everyone appriciates this in their own special way. After seeing it the first time, I had to expose most people I know to it. One laughed at every witty pun and spaced out during zombie fights. Others drew comparisons to The O.C.:

“Oh my gosh! It’s just like when Ryan went to go live in a new town and no one accepted him, except this time it’s a whole different time period. Oh my gosh she’s throwing a rock at him! Just like how Marissa didn’t like Ryan at first but then she grew to loooove him! That old woman’s mean to Ash? Just! Like! How Marissa’s mom is mean to Ryan… except this old woman is possessed by The Evil Dead. Oh my gosh, that zombie is just like Seth Cohen!”

So love it any way you will, just rent it, and love it.

Man, talk about a SPLIT personality!  Ba-BOOM!

Man, talk about a SPLIT personality! Ba-BOOM!

Intermission!

  • Check out all the stuff in his trunk, including an issue of the magazine “Fangoria”
  • Ash hardly ever reloads his shotgun, yet fires off 45 shots in this film
  • The magic words Ash must use to claim the Book of the Dead are “Klaatu, Barada, Nikto”, the same words used to command the robot Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • Ted Raimi has multiple roles in the film, including the soldier wearing a mustache who tells Ash “You can count on my steel”, and the S-Mart store clerk at the end of the movie
  • Bridget Fonda in a cameo as (the third) Linda
  • The Three Stooges influence
  • Ash’s hair changes length over the course of the film
  • During the final battle a man in a T-shirt and modern shoes charges in with Henry’s army. (This has been identified as director Sam Raimi)
  • Skeletons are wearing helmets used in the American Civil War and in World War I.
  • This movie is somewhat unique in stating “Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness” in the opening titles instead of “starring in”
  • That beat-up Olds that goes through time with Ash belongs to director Sam Raimi. He included it in most of his early movies, each time more banged up than the last. The items in the trunk of the Olds are not product placements; they’re what Sam Raimi actually had in his trunk.
  • Director Sam Raimi shot two different endings. One ending has Ash battling a she-demon in a department store in the present. The alternative ending has Ash imbibing a secret potion that would make him sleep one century for each drop of the potion he drinks. He then goes to a cave to sleep. However, he drank one drop too many and wakes up to find a barren post-apocalyptic landscape. The final shot is Ash laughing madly in rage at a red sky. The Great Britain and Japan version showed the “potion” ending, and the version shown in U.S. theaters was the S-Mart ending.

Groovy Quotes

Ash: It’s a trick. Get an axe.

Ash: Shop smart, shop S-mart!

Ash: See this? THIS is my BOOM STICK! The 12-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart’s top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That’s right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about $109.95. It’s got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That’s right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

Ash: Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things: Jack and s**t… and Jack just left town.

Ash: First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. Blow.

Sheila: But what of all those sweet words you spoke in private?
Ash: Oh that’s just what we call pillow talk, baby, that’s all.

Ash: [to the Witch] Yo, she-bitch! Let’s go!

Ash: Groovy.

Ash: Gimme some sugar, baby.

Ash: Klaatu Barrada n… Necktie… Nickel… It’s an “N” word, it’s definitely an “N” word!

Arthur: Are all men from the future loud-mouthed braggarts?
Ash: Nope. Just me baby… Just me.

Demon Lady: I’ll swallow your soul!
Ash: Come get some.

Ash: Sure, I could have stayed in the past. I could have even been king. But in my own way, I am king. [he grabs girl] Hail to the king, baby.

Ash: Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun.

Ash: Maybe. Just maybe my boys can protect the book. Yeah, and maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

Ash: Now whoa whoa whoa right there spinach chin!

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13 Comments

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