Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Army of Darkness

Army of Darkness

As the movie opens and we watch Ash’s feet walk across the bleak sands of… some sandy place, let us consider this:

Why is this movie called “Army of Darkness?”

There is an army, yes, but it’s not peopled entirely by shadows. And more importantly, the title is sort of confusing. How many people have, over the years, stumbled across “Army of Darkness” and thought, “Wow, there’s a lot of exposition in the first few minutes. I wonder if this is a sequel of some sort…?”

Though I suppose “Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness” is kind of a mouthful of a title.

Ash helpfully provides some exposition, which is coupled with footage that is sometimes from “Evil Dead II,” and sometimes is not. Confusingly, Ash’s girlfriend is played by an actress who did not appear in part I or II. She gets three quick scenes, showing her at Ash’s work (S-Mart), then showing her as she and Ash pull up to the cabin, and then showing her getting attacked by the evil that smashed through the window and took Linda in part II, but not part I.

Ash fails to mention that he cabin-crashed, and that four other people eventually showed up and are now quite dead.

He does mention that his hand went bad, and that he lopped it off at the wrist.

Ash states that he figures it’s around 1300 AD, though how he comes to this conclusion is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he was a history major?

After the “Previously, on ‘The Evil Dead II’” section of the movie, we’re taken back to where Ash falls from the sky.

In contrast to what happened at the end of II, this time around Ash falls, he talks to a knight, and the knight decides to consult with a wise man. The wise man states right off that he figures Ash is the one written of in the Necronomicon – Ash is the man who will fall from the sky and save them all.

Ash’s not-friend, the knight, decides otherwise and declares, “To the pit with him.”

So, did the filmmakers just, like, forget how “Evil Dead II” ended? That sublime ironic ending where Ash is pretty much doomed to a fate of leadership?

At any rate we’re back where we came in, with Ash chained to a bunch of other fellows who are described as “Henry’s men,” and he and his fellow chain-mates are taken to a nearby castle.

In the castle courtyard, Sheila, a peasant girl, asks Arthur, the knight who decided that a man with a chainsaw attached to his arm was working in tandem with a rival kingdom and that he should be thrown into a pit, what happened to her brother.

He’s dead.

Sheila takes this out on Ash, via the time-honored method of spitting in his face.

Ash learns that the man chained directly behind him is the Henry the Red. Arthur accuses Henry of waging war on his people. Henry says Arthur started it. Both of them lament the fact that they are at war with a great evil.

And then Arthur has one of Henry’s men thrown into “The Pit,” which is a giant hole in a ground with a steal covering over it to keep the evil in.

Everyone watches him go in. Then they wait around for a bit. Then a geyser of blood much larger than would come out of a single human being comes spewing up from the pit.

Another one of Henry’s men tries to run, and gets an arrow in the back for his troubles. On the bright side, he doesn’t end up as a blood geyser. Life is all about the small victories.

Ash gets tossed into the pit next. A demon pops up and attacks him, but he fights back and seems to be doing okay. So Arthur looks over at a couple of his men and says, “Spikes.”

What a guy.

Spikes start closing in on Ash and the demon. Or rather, depending on the shot, the spikes are closing in, or moving away, or at some indeterminate distance.

There’s a continuity problem or twelve. That’s what I’m driving at.

The wise man suddenly runs to the edge of the pit and tosses Ash’s chainsaw down to him. Ash fires it up and dispatches the demon.

Ash races around the bottom of the pit, trying to find a way out. Another demon appears, and he attempts to fend it off while he makes his escape.

Eventually he pulls off his belt and lashes it around the slowly rising chain that’s being used to move the spiky walls in on him.

Only… uh… why not just grab the chain? For that matter, the spikes are nicely sized and would make for an awesome ladder.

Though I guess I should cut poor Ash some slack. The man hasn’t slept for two days and has watched anywhere from four to eight people die at the hands of beings from another dimension. He’s gotta be feeling some stress.

Either way, he gets out of the pit, and punches Arthur in the face. Then he eats a baby.

(Okay, he totally doesn’t eat a baby. But this would be the most memorable film ever if he did.)

Ash follows up the face-punching with a lot of crazy, “You want some of this?”-style talk.

He tells Henry the Red and his men to get on their horses and go. Too bad for the guy with the arrow in his back. All he had to do was wait three more minutes and he would have been home free. So perhaps running wasn’t the best plan after all.

Setting the men free angers Arthur, who pulls out his sword and gets ready to face Ash mano-y-mano. Only is seems that Ash has gotten his shotgun back. He uses the gun to blast Arthur’s sword in half, and then goes off on a rant about his “Boomstick.”

I think he’s talking about the gun.

At the end of his speech, an angry evil creature crawls out of the pit behind Ash, and Ash puts him down with the Boomstick. It should be stated that the pit creature executes a pretty spectacular flip when it’s hit. Perhaps it was a gymnast before it joined the Army of Darkness.

Ash concludes the scene by asking how he gets home.

He begins the by throwing a little verbal abuse Sheila’s way. He follows that up by chatting with the wise man. The conversation goes, roughly:

Wise Man: We need the Necronomicon to send you home.

Ash: You don’t need the book. Just send me back.

Horrible Hag in the Corner: Now I shall kill everyone in the room.

Ash: No you don’t. Through a combination of kicks to the face that shotgun blasts that in no way dismember you, I shall render you dead. Again.

Horrible Hag in the Corner: Where, exactly, are you getting all that ammo?

The hag dies.

Wise Man: Now will you quest after the book?

Ash: Okay, but I’m going to need to make myself a new hand out of steel and various rods and pins and such, even though there’s no way this kind of technology is possible in this century, and also, I have not demonstrated I’m remotely smart enough to create such a thing.

The Cast: Awesome. Can we get back to the plot now?

Sheila goes to visit Ash in his chambers, where he dishes out a little more verbal abuse. She slaps him. They kiss. Fade out.

Understandable that he’s feeling a little lonesome, I guess. His girlfriend has been dead for nearly two days.

The next morning, Ash heads out to find the book. The wise man gives him some very specific words to remember, which he must recite when he encounters the book. Given what we know of Ash, I think we all see how this is going to end.

Ash rides off, eventually realizing that he’s being followed by an Evil Point-of-View shot. Despite the fact that it’s the middle of the day, which is when the evil slept during the second movie.

Ash runs to a windmill, and hides inside the comfy apartment tucked in it. All goes well until nightfall, when Ash looks over his shoulder, sees himself, and goes racing towards… a mirror. Which he runs into. And shatters.

Naturally, the evil is able to use this by creating several miniature Ash-creatures, who torment Ash through the use of small pointy objects.

Eventually, all the little Ash-creatures tie Ash down and force him to eat one of his tiny counterparts, which seems like a bad idea from the get-go, and only gets worse, as a full-sized Ash then proceeds to grow from Ash’s body.

Interestingly, several small Ash-beings survive the encounter with the full-size Ash. One wonders what becomes of them? Do they rent themselves out for evil puppet shows?

Bad Ash separates himself from our so-called hero, and proceeds to beat Ash up. This goes on until Ash pulls out his shotgun and shoots his doppelganger in the face.

Ash buries the only child he will ever conceive, after first chopping him up with his chainsaw.

He then heads out to the graveyard where The Book of the Dead is. At night. Brilliant.

When he gets there, he discovers that there are three books. So, without reciting the words, he tries to pick up the first book, which contains a vortex inside itself that Ash must fight his way out of.

After AGAIN not saying the words he was instructed to say, Ash tries to pick up the second book, which starts flying around, attacking Ash.

Eventually, the book gives up, and Ash finally remembers that he has words to recite. But not which words. So he fakes it, and picks up the book, and the ground starts shaking. Not his best moment.

On the other hand, what was Ash’s best moment up to this point?

Ash heads out of the graveyard, after being mauled by a bunch of skeletal arms.

Lightning strikes the grave of Bad Ash, and Bad Ash returns to life, looking like he’s managed to rot quite a bit over the last couple of hours.

Ash heads back to the castle and hands over The Book of the Dead. The wise man grills him about whether or not Ash said the words correctly, and Ash says, you know… mostly.

The wise man states that the dead will come for the book, which didn’t happen in part I or II. At all. Pretty much they just wanted to kill people, not pick up some reading material.

At any rate, Ash is told they can still send him back, but pretty much everyone at the castle is gonna die. Then Sheila says she knows he’ll help them, because she clearly knows nothing about our friend Ash.

Moments later, a winged creature of evil zips over the castle wall, grabs Sheila, and flies off with her.

Why? No idea. Let’s go with “dramatic tension” and leave it at that.

Back at the graveyard, the dead are digging each other up and making an evil army. Sheila is handed off to Evil Ash. There is kissing. It’s worse than when she was kissing Ash, but not by much.

At the castle, everyone is freaking right out. A scout states that the army of the dead is two days away. Which makes no sense. Ash got back from the graveyard in the middle of the night, and it’s still dark now. Maybe he meant two hours?

Ash fires off his gun, and makes a speech, and people decide to stand behind him.

This allows the film to throw another montage at us, which includes moments like Ash making gunpowder using Chemistry 101 books that he had in his trunk.

I guess Ash and his various friends planned on doing a little studying up in their cabin in the woods… four days ago.

We also get to see Ash train a bunch of people in the use of pikes. When did Ash learn to use a pike? And why didn’t he use these pike skills any time in the last week?

Night falls. The so-called Army of Darkness shows up. Fighting ensues. Along with one of life’s very few chances to see a large puppet ride a horse.

The dead eventually fight their way into the castle, and everyone tries their very best to protect the book.

And here comes Ash. He’s converted his car into some sort of… thing. How to describe it? Imagine if you stuck helicopter blades over the front of a 1970s muscle car. And then you drove it through a bunch of skeletons?

Picture that. That’s what happens.

Ash sees Sheila standing in front of his rather tricked-out car, and hits the brakes. His vehicle crashes and explodes in a rather spectacular manner.

Sheila, fully dead-ed out, attacks Ash, and Ash gets to physically attack her this time, instead of verbally.

Henry the Red and his men come racing over the hill. Since they have not been trained by Ash, they probably stand a chance of survival.

Ash and Evil Ash both fight their way up through the castle, trading swordplay and quips. Uppercuts and upper hands trade back and forth.

Finally, Ash manages to secure the book, and secure Evil Ash a ride on a catapult with a heavy explosive.

Evil Ash blows up real good, and the Evil Army takes off. If they come back to fight another day, we never find out.

(You know, there are some excellent questions here which need answers. Ash is leaving in his wake two fake Necronomicons, a partial Army of the Dead, and several miniature versions of himself. Short of throwing cyanide in the local water supply, he could not have messed up his job any more than he has.)

Among the dead and newly re-dead on the ground, Arthur’s army and Henry’s army embrace. Surely they will be best friends forever after this day.

The next day, the wise man gives Ash a potion, and tells him to drink it and recite some words “exactly” to return to his own time. Once again, Ash does not write these words down.

Ash has learned nothing in the last week.

Back in the present day, Ash is at S-Mart, having almost said all the words correctly. But his story about how he could have been king seems to have a certain appeal, as a co-worker is pretty much ready to throw herself at him…

Until the lights get all flicker-y and one of the customers turns into a hideous she-beast.

Ash grabs a gun and starts shooting the creature over and over and over again, in a variety of exciting and impractical ways. Eventually, the beast dies.

Ash concludes the movie by making out with his co-worker, although it’s perfectly clear that the man could use some alone time after losing his first girlfriend to evil demonic forces and his second to time travel.

And thus ends the saga of Ash, one week, many dead bodies, and several continuity issues after it began.

1 comment:

  1. Originally titled "Mediaeval Dead", but someone at Universal thought no one would know what "mediaeval" means... so it became "Army Of Darkness". I think Raimi should title the next film "Navy Of Darkness" or "Marines Of Darkness" or "National Guard Of Darkness".

    - Bill