Friday, 9 January 2009

This... is my boomstick!

No 372 - Army of Darkness
Director - Sam Raimi

An obvious choice for a quote title, but that line is really iconic - what else could I choose? Unfortunately I want to put my semi serious face on and talk about a couple of factors in this film that I find truly fascinating. However, I am essentially talking about a comedy. A comedy that stars Bruce Campbell none the less - so it will remain light hearted and fluffy as a deadite souffle....

In fact, let me begin with the fact that this is a comedy and not really a dark or black comedy, it is far more of a slapstick. Bruce Campbell's spectacular pratfalling abilities continue to take centre stage and his character has developed even more arrogance and seems to have become considerably more dense than he was in the past. Even the EVIL Dead seem to have lost the qualities that made them truly threatening and evil. There is only one real Evil Dead style killing, right at the start, complete with the requisite fountain of gushing blood. After that the risen and possessed corpses seem more interested in developing 3 stooges style attacks. Ash even manages to block a hand trying to poke out his eyes in stereotypical 3 stooges style...
It is an interesting progression to see the trilogy develop from an all out horror (that was one of the more famous faces of the video nasty scene) through being a blackly comic horror until this film where it is all out complete comedy - even including essentially muppet skeletons with silly voices and facial hair.

Whilst on the topic of the skeletons, I just want to mention how impressive Ray Harryhausen is. Despite being made 30 years prior to this, the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts could easily be replaced with the stop motion skeletons in the Army of Darkness without anyone really noticing. They are so similar in style it shows just how fantastic an animator he was.

Now... onwards to point 2. This film suffers from Ash's cult status in what I have decided to call "Captain Jack Sparrow Syndrome". When Sam Raimi made Evil Dead 2, the film Evil Dead had reached cult status - mainly from the video nasty debacle. However, Evil Dead 2 showcased Bruce Campbell's comedic chops and turned Ash into a truly iconic cult character. So, by the time Sam Raimi made Army of Darkness it was really the Ash/Bruce Campbell show. The film doesn't even try to disguise the fact - the title sequence being introduced as Bruce Campbell Vs Army of Darkness.
Throughout the film we're given a little bit of Ash's back story - introduced to Evil Ash and also given dozens of tiny manic Ashes which persecute him. It is the completely ridiculous promotion of a character that reminds me of the multiple Captain Jacks that appear throughout World's End, World's End also introduces elements of Captain Jack's back story. Rather than being the cult enigma within the film, Johnny Depp becomes the crux of the story which dampens the film as no body else can quite live up to his presence.
Luckily, the entire of Army of Darkness is as insane as Ash. Bruce Campbell plays the bad guy in the film and the plot and action is so overblown and ridiculous that the whole film feels like a fan celebration of a cult hero, rather than just a film company pandering to the fans.

Despite being given about 17 different versions of Ash, he has lost none of his awesomeness or excellence. In this film he has become possibly the most badass person ever. He manages to teach an entire army how to fight. He mixes his own gunpowder. He creates a robot arm. For you see.... whilst Ash may work in a supermarket he appears to have a firm knowledge of engineering, armoury, physics and chemistry as well as being a crack shot and ultimate warrior. I suppose it is only natural that Ash can make his own gunpowder because how else does he get his seemingly endless supply of shotgun shells, that is something that had been bugging me for a while whilst watching it, so it is nice to be able to feebly cobble together some form of haphazard explanation.
As well as being a total badass, it is good to see Bruce Campbell's superb acting chops. I decided to sit down and watch Sam Raimi's director's cut, so instead of Ash arriving back at S-Mart to tell the story, he over sleeps by 100 years and ends up in a ruined London. Which is a far more hilarious Planet of the Apes style ending and allows the film to have the fantastic I OVERSLEPT final line.

The final point I wish to make before wrapping up my little blog (I know I said 2 points - but I frequently lie on this blog so get used to it...). This film is the first of the Evil Dead trilogy to be a direct sequel and yet, what happens at the start of the film completely contradicts what happened at the end of Evil Dead 2. Which is rather confusing.....

Confusing and sad.....

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