Army of Darkness, also titled Evil Dead III, is a 1992 comedy-horror film and is the third installment in The Evil Dead trilogy. The Evil Dead trilogy focuses on the protagonist, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams a manager of a store “S-Mart”, played by Bruce Campbell, who deals with “Deadites”, which are undead antagonists created by the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. The original series comprises The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992). Army of Darkness premiered in October of 1992, and was released in the United States in February of 1993, grossing $11.503 million domestically and another $10 million outside the USA for a total gross of $21.5 million. Thanks to video, the trilogy has developed a typical cult following. When researching this review, I came across a blog whose author claimed to have seen the films a combined 21,000 times. I was even more surprised that Bridget Fonda had a small part in the film briefly playing Ash’s girlfriend.
The film begins with Ash Williams and his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 lands in 1300 AD but is captured by a chap named Lord Arthur. Ash is taken prisoner, his gun and chainsaw confiscated, and is taken to a castle where he is thrown in a pit. While in the pit, he has to fight a Deadite and regains his weapons from Arthur’s “Wise Man.”
According to the Wise Man, the only way Ash can return to his time is to retrieve the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. When he arrives at the Necronomicon’s location, he finds three books instead of one and eventually finds the real one and attempts to say the magic phrase that will allow him to remove the book safely — “Klaatu barada nikto”. However, forgetting the last word, he tries to trick the book by mumbling/coughing the missing word and grabs the book from the cradle. An evil clone that was created en route to the site rises from his grave and unites the Deadites into the dreaded “Army of Darkness.”
Using science from the textbooks in the trunk of his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, Ash defeats the Deadites. After his victory, he makes a potion made from the Necronomicon that transports him back to his own time. At the end of the film, Ash is working at S-Mart telling a co-worker about his trip back in time, but then a female customer becomes possessed by a demon and starts wreaking havoc on the store, and Ash smokes the creature.
Shooting of Army of Darkness began in 1991, and it lasted for 100 days. The film was shot on the edge of the Mojave Desert, the cast and crew endured very hot conditions during the day and very cold temperatures at night. Most of the film took place at night and the filmmakers shot most of the film during the summer when the days were longest and the nights were the shortest.
The original ending, in which Ash oversleeps in the cave and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic future, was restored to the film for the UK VHS release, which also had the cinematic ending put in as a post credit extra. This scene has been restored on the “director’s cut bootleg edition” DVD and the double disk DVD, which also featured the cinematic version of the film.
Because of money issues, though Raimi and his crew freedom to shoot the movie the way they wanted, Universal Pictures took over post-production and was not happy with Raimi’s cut because the original ending was undesirable. A new ending was shot a month after Army of Darkness was made in a lumber store in Malibu over four nights. Then, two months after Army of Darkness was finished, a round of re-shoots began in Santa Monica and involved Ash in the windmill and the scenes with Bridget Fonda done for very little money. Raimi recalls, “Actually, I kind of like the fact that there are two endings, that in one alternate universe Bruce is screwed, and in another universe he’s some cheesy hero”.
The film apparently ran into rating problems as well. With the Motion Picture Association of America over the film’s rating of NC-17. Universal, however, wanted a PG-13 rating, so some cuts had to be made but was still stuck with an R rating.
As I said before this film has some of the best one-liners I’ve ever seen—making the clips very difficult to cut. This is a great movie if, and only if, you take it for what it is: a slapstick horror film. Anyone looking for some substance might as well keep on looking. The special effects are hardly special so what does this film offer? Simple: Bruce Campbell at his finest.