Monday, December 29, 2008

Army of Darkness (USA, 1992)

Oh woe is the evil called Hollywood. So much creativity has died in its shadow—given a chance, it seems that the favorite pastime of those that pull the strings in Tinsel Town is to suck the imaginative talent out of the brains of the truly inspired and replace it with spam. Director Sam Rami is a good example of this: Long before he got stuck in Marvel's increasingly inconsequential Spiderman franchise, he actually displayed a seemingly endless and exuberant creative vision... But then, nothing good lasts forever.
As an unknown low-budget horror filmmaker from the state of Michigan, Rami initially caused some big waves amongst horror fans (and attentive critics) with a flick entitled The Evil Dead (1981/trailer), a brilliant, supper-low-budget gore masterpiece that featured trees that rape and mashed-corn ooze and a lot of humor and carnage and some of the best camera work ever to be seen in the sordid movie theaters where the film initially ran. By the time he decided, for reasons unknown, to become a "serious" filmmaker and Hollywood-game-player with A Simple Plan (1998) and the embarrassingly crappy (gag, puke) For the Love of the Game (1999), Rami had done a whole slew of imaginatively fun and surprising films—namely: Crimewave (1985/trailer), a uniquely weird comedy (written by the Coen Brothers) with a few second-rate and forgotten names (Bryon James and Louie Lasser, for example); Evil Dead II (1987/trailer), which was less a sequel than an inspired and bloodily hilarious remake; Darkman (1990/trailer), a fun but relatively inconsequential filmic comic book; The Quick & The Dead (1995/ trailer), a star-studded and campy homage to Spaghetti Westerns; and, three years prior to the last-mentioned film, Army of Darkness (1992/trailer), the third installment of his Evil Dead trilogy and an unabashed horror slapstick and paean of love to an uncountable number of popular films and film genres.
Army of Darkness more-or-less takes up where Evil Dead II ends. (Due to legal reasons, however, the prologue shown consists of re-shot footage instead of re-edited original scenes.) In short, having successfully defended himself against the evil dead in a back-woods log cabin, ordinary-Joe Ash (Bruce Campbell, in what should have been a career-making turn1) gets vortexed back through time and stuck in some Pre-Medieval demon-plagued desert that looks surprisingly like Californian dry-lands. With the help of a chainsaw and his "boom-stick," a magical shotgun that never needs reloading, Ash moves up the corporate ladder from hated slave to prophesized savior, but in his clumsy search for a way to return to his own time he inadvertently raises the army of darkness—imagine the skeletons of Jason and the Argonauts (1963/trailer) times a couple of thousand—which, led by his resurrected evil alter-ego, now threatens to destroy the realm. A coward at heart, Ash couldn't give a flying fuck, but when the "Deadites"—the evil dead to those of us in the know—steal Sheila, the gal putting the sugar in his coffee (a young and, for most of the film, attractive Embeth Davidtz), he has a change of heart and takes up the sword and steam-powered Oldsmobile to help fight the battle...
Badly marketed by Universal pictures as a stand-alone feature when it was originally released and hampered by both the general masses' inability to appreciate unbridled uniqueness as well as the humorless inflexibility of the horror-film fans of the time, Army of Darkness inexplicitly tanked at the box office when originally released. To say that time has been good to the film is wrong: The film was already excellent when it was released, time has simply enabled it to stand on its own two feet and not promptly be seen as a horror film that didn't happen. For, despite the expectations of the Evil Dead fans back then, Army of Darkness was not a horror film, but an inane, over-the-top farce that resolutely (but lovingly) takes the piss out of every film convention the filmmakers ever saw and liked. Viewed stoned or straight, this flick continually blows the viewer away with a non-stop stream of hilarious scenes and dialog and entertaining special effects, and despite the monsters and gore remains oddly innocent and guileless.
Most current DVDs of Army of Darkness include two endings: The campier S-Mart ending of the theatrical release in which Ash proves himself the man to fight Deadites even in the 20th Century, and the originally filmed but replaced ending of Ash awakening 100 years too late to a war-destroyed world. Regardless of the ending one chooses to watch, Army of Darkness—along with the first two installments of the series—is without a doubt an un-arguable must-see for any fan of "trash" films.

1OK, it did help cement his reputation amongst genre enthusiasts, and it can hardly be said that he hasn’t had a viable career since then, but damn, the way he steals the film should have opened more doors than it obviously did at the time.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...