Saturday, October 13, 2012

Halloween Holocaust: Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992)

Today's movie, like Ghosts of Mars, is another action-comedy-horror hybrid. Playing like a cracked collaboration between The Three Stooges and Ray Harryhausen, and shot with (at times) almost Wellsian technical audacity, Army of Darkness certainly shares much of the DNA of its predecessors, and contains some sequences which are as inspired as anything in those movies. However, it (for me at least) fails to maintain the same seemingly consistent, breakneck pace of these former films and, as a result, comes across as frankly much less memorable, in the grand scheme of things.

Leaving the cosy, confines of the cabin from the first two movies, we find Ash (Sir Bruce of Campbell), as we left him at the end of the previous installment, marooned in the Dark Ages; a stranger in a strange land. Sort of a variation on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, the film is essentially more of an action adventure affair than an overt horror one. Also, the emphasis on slapstick humour, that was becoming especially prevalent in Evil Dead II, seems to have been heightened even further here. All of this is fine, and is certainly an admirable attempt to do something different for the second sequel, as opposed to taking the lazy option and merely retreading the same old path. However, whilst the film is, for the most part, admittedly entertaining, something about it doesn't quite hang together for me.   

I'm perhaps somewhat biased (aren't we all?) as, to be honest, I've never been a huge fan of the whole sword and sorcery, hack and slash thing (not that I'm averse to them by any means). But to be blunt about it, most of them make my eyes glaze over once the fighting starts, and this is pretty much my main problem with Army of Darkness. Furthermore, I'd say the attempt to focus more on plot than crazed set-pieces also somewhat contributes to the lethargic pace, mainly because the characters (apart from Ash/Bruce of course) seem so blatantly flat, and therefore evanescent. It goes without saying, but your mileage may well vary.        

Don't get me wrong though, when it's good, it's bloody great, and there are some sequences, like the whole bit with Ash fighting off a bunch of tiny doppelgangers, that are worth watching the film for alone. Two main endings exist for the film, a tragi-comic one, and a more upbeat one. I won't go into specifics just in case you haven't seen either, but both round the film off quite nicely, each in their own way. Apparently, Raimi himself likes the fact there are two polarised conclusions to his film, seeing them as essentially set in alternate universes from each other, and this is certainly an interesting way to look at it.    

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