His name's Ash (Bruce Campbell), and he's from the future, stuck in medieval times. He and his girlfriend (Bridget Fonda) took a trip to a remote cabin in the woods, where they found the Necronomicon: the Book of the Dead, which raised the forces of Darkness and after a bloody struggle for his soul, propelled Ash into the past. Now Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert) has taken him prisoner at his castle, believing him to be in league with his enemy, Duke Henry (Richard Grove), who he has also captured. Thrown into a pit with one of the Evil Dead, Ash surprises everyone by killing the demon held there, and makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he wants to go home. But that's easier said than done...
Written by the director Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan Raimi, Army of Darkness is a sequel to Evil Dead 2 in the same way that Evil Dead II is a sequel to The Evil Dead, in that it takes the recognisable elements of the previous instalment and fashions a whole new story around them. The opening five minutes is like a replay of part II, a high speed recap covering all the important points. Then the story develops into a cross between a Ray Harryhausen fantasy and Planet of the Apes, with Ash as the fish out of water battling against all and sundry to reach his destination.
The story wouldn't be half as good if Ash didn't truly believe himself to be superior to everyone he meets, despite his frequent lapses of judgement. Bruce Campbell couldn't have hoped for a better showcase for his talents than this, where he alternates between a "What the...?" expression of long suffering incredulity, and firing off quips and catchphrases that are seriously imitable: "This - is my boomstick!", "Shop smart, shop S-Mart!", "Gimme some sugar baby!", "Ooh, that's gotta hurt!", and of course, the immortal, "Groovy!"
Ash is not so much a heroic failure than a hero who fails, whether it's through his own arrogance or simple blunders, and it's this combination of indomitability and fallibility that makes him such a winning character. Faced with retrieving the Necronomicon to rid the world of the demons, Ash manages to forget the magic words that will save him, and accidentally unleashes the army of the title. True to Raimi's love of the Three Stooges, there is an abundance of violent slapstick, and it's great how petty the Evil Dead are - instead of killing Ash outright, they prefer to stick fingers up his nose and punch him in the bollocks.
The inventiveness of Part II gives way to a more conventional plotline this time around, and the final conflict with the skeleton hordes is filmed disappointingly straight, with little gore and an easing off on the wacky humour. Still, along the way there is the delight of seeing Ash fighting tiny, mischievous versions of himself, splitting in two to create an evil double, and converting his ever-reliable Oldsmobile into a tank. And another chance to see one of horror cinema's greatest champions is surely not something anyone would want to pass up - whatever doesn't destroy him makes him stronger. Music by Danny Elfman and Joseph LoDuca. There are a few different versions about, including two separate endings - which do you prefer?
Precociously talented American director with a penchant for horror/fantasy and inventive camerawork. Raimi made a huge impact with his debut film The Evil Dead at the tender age of 22, a gory, often breathtaking horror romp made on a tiny budget with a variety of friends from his hometown of Detroit. Follow-up Crimewave was a comic misfire, but Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness were supremely entertaining, while tragic superhero yarn Darkman was Raimi's first time wielding a big budget.
Raimi showed a more serious side with the baseball drama For Love of the Game, thriller A Simple Plan and supernatural chiller The Gift, before directing one of 2002's biggest grossing films, Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 was released in summer 2004, with Spider-Man 3 following two years later. He then returned to outright horror with the thrill ride Drag Me to Hell, and hit Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful after that. On the small screen, Raimi co-created American Gothic and the hugely popular Hercules and Xena series. Bruce Campbell usually pops up in his films, as does his trusty Oldsmobile car.