Tuesday, October 04, 2016
Army of Darkness
Directed and co-edited by Sam Raimi and written by Sam and Ivan Raimi, Army of Darkness is the third and final film of the Evil Dead trilogy in which Ash Williams has found himself in the Middle Ages where he helps a kingdom fight the undead. The film showcases a man from the 20th Century dealing with different surroundings as he does whatever it takes to return home as well as kill the undead anyway he can. Also starring Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie, Ted Raimi, and Richard Grove. Army of Darkness is a sprawling yet whimsical film from Sam Raimi.
Set in 1300 A.D. in medieval England, the film revolves around a man in Ash Williams who had been sent to that world through a time portal as he faces off against the evil dead and helps King Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) fight in the hopes he can go home. It’s a film with a simple premise where it picks up where events from the previous leaves off as Ash is considered a prophet that can save the kingdom from the evil dead. The film’s screenplay by Sam and Ivan Raimi play into Ash’s bafflement in his surroundings but is also aware of what is happening where he is tasked by the wise man (Ian Abercrombie) to get the Book of the Dead yet Ash would deal with all sorts of craziness where the leader of the evil dead would form as an evil version of Ash.
Sam Raimi’s direction is definitely ambitious in terms of the period he chooses to set the film as it’s bigger and has a lot more happening in terms of what Ash is dealing with. Shot in soundstages in Hollywood with some scenes shot in the Californian deserts and mountain, the film plays into a sense of a period where Ash is out of place but also a world that is quite primitive and full of conflict. Raimi’s usage of the wide and medium shots establish a lot of the locations in Ash’s surroundings but also in some of the visuals where Ash would often get himself into trouble either by his own means or things beyond his control. The usage of close-ups would play into some of the humor that include a hilarious sequence in which Ash battles the mini-Ashes who try to kill him as it would then lead to a moment where a second Ash would grow into his body to become his nemesis.
The film also has Raimi play into the world of medieval times where it is played for laughs in some respects while it would have this climax that mixes old-school medieval battles with some 20th Century aesthetics courtesy of Ash. There are these moments that are quite comical but also very dark as it play to what is at stake. Even as Ash has to contend with the demons and those that have become possessed where he is aware of the importance of this book that could bring hope to this land and maybe he wouldn’t have to deal with all of that shit ever again. Overall, Raimi creates a thrilling and wild film about a 20th Century man fighting the evil dead in medieval times.
Cinematographer Bill Pope does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography with the usage of natural and bright colors for the scenes set in the day to the usage of fire and other stylish lights for the scenes set at night. Editors Bob Murawski and Sam Raimi do amazing work with the editing with its usage of stylish montages, jump-cuts, and other stylish cuts to play into the suspense and humor as well as in some of the moments of terror. Production designer Anton Tremblay, with set decorator Michele Poulik and art director Aram Allan, does fantastic work with the look of the castle as well as a few of its interiors as well as the look of the graveyard where the book is found. Costume designer Ida Gearon does nice work with the look of the armor many of the knights wear as well as the clothes that the women wear.
The makeup work of Howard Berger, Camille Calvet, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, and Gregory Nicotero is great as it doesn‘t just play more into the look of the skeleton army but also the look of the evil dead as well as the evil Ash in his decayed form. Visual effects supervisor William Mesa does brilliant work with the visual effects from the usage of stop-motion animation for the skeletons as well as the way the ghosts and creatures look like during the battle scene. Sound designers Lance Brown and Alan Howarth do superb work with the sound from the way the demons sound as they‘re about to possess someone to the layers of sound mixes in the battle scenes. The film’s music by Joseph LoDuca, with themes by Danny Elfman, is terrific for its orchestral bombast that is filled with sumptuous string and percussion arrangements with Elfman providing the music for the battle march.
The casting by Ira Belgrade is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Angela Featherstone as a woman Ash meets at the place he works at in the 20th Century, Patricia Tallman as the possessed witch, Timothy Patrick Quill as a blacksmith that likes Ash, Bridget Fonda in a cameo appearance as Ash’s old girlfriend Linda, and Ted Raimi in a trio of performances as a cowardly knight, a villager, and a co-worker of Ash in the 20th Century. Richard Grove is terrific as Duke Henry the Red as an adversary of Lord Arthur who is accused of causing trouble only to be aided by Ash. Ian Abercrombie is superb as the wise man as a variation of Merlin who sees as Ash as the prophet that would help him while giving Ash specific instructions of how to stop the evil dead.
Marcus Gilbert is excellent as Lord Arthur as a variation of King Arthur who is unsure about Ash until he realizes that Ash is the one that he needs to battle the evil dead. Embeth Davidtz is amazing as Sheila as the sister of a deceased knight who isn’t keen on Ash at first but falls for him where she is baffled by his own custom as Davidtz gets a chance to be very funny when her character becomes possessed. Finally, there’s Bruce Campbell in an incredible performance as Ash Williams and the evil version of Ash where Campbell brings that smarmy sense of fun into his role in the former as well as a weight of melancholy while also camping it up a bit as the evil Ash that includes some moments where he gets to chew the scene for all it’s worth.
Army of Darkness is a remarkable film from Sam Raimi that features a sensational performance from Bruce Campbell. Featuring some dazzling visual effects, a killer climax, and lots of humor, it’s a film that manages to be more than just a horror-comedy but also a film where it’s about killing the evil dead. In the end, Army of Darkness is a marvelous film from Sam Raimi.
Sam Raimi Films: (It’s Murder!) - (Clockwork) - (Within the Woods) - The Evil Dead - (Crimewave) - Evil Dead II - (Darkman) - (The Quick and the Dead) - (A Simple Plan) - (For Love of the Game) - (The Gift (2000 film)) - Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 - (Drag Me to Hell) - (Oz the Great and Powerful)
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