Thursday, February 18, 2016
Franchises: The Evil Dead. Army of Darkness (1992)
There are a number of movies that I feel you have to see at exactly the right time in order to become a part of their cult followings and, unfortunately, the Evil Dead series is one where I missed my opportunity. If I had seen any of these movies when I was in my early to mid-teens, I'm sure I would have eaten them up like everyone else but, by the time I got to them when I was 21 and 22, I had seen so many other movies and had become so jaded that they didn't leave a big impact. The original Evil Dead I found to be overrated and had nothing to recommend it except for the gore and the creative camerawork and editing, which only go so far; Evil Dead II, while being much more entertaining to me and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch, burned me out with its relentless, manic energy; and Army of Darkness, while still being entertaining and having the most impressive scope of the series, also didn't endear itself to me to where it became a movie I wanted to watch again and again and again. Like the other films, I can appreciate it for Sam Raimi's ingenuity, Bruce Campbell's performance, the energy, and the mixture of horror and slapstick humor, but, again, the film doesn't have me up off the couch, jumping and cheering, or dancing wildly. I can understand why it's become a cult classic for so many people but, by the time I got around to it, its impact was lost on me.
Like Evil Dead II, the lead-in to this movie from the previous one contradicts what you saw before. It does have a more concrete attachment to the previous film, to the point where it feels like the first Evil Dead doesn't count at all given Ash's story of going to the cabin with only Lisa, but it still doesn't mesh with the previous film's ending. Here, instead of being hailed as a hero like he was at the end of Evil Dead II after he killed a Deadite upon being dropped into Medieval times, Ash is taken prisoner as soon as he arrives, is almost executed, and is only hailed as a hero once he kills a Deadite while trying to escape said execution. So, what was the reason for reworking things this time? It obviously wasn't rights issues since some footage from Evil Dead II is used during the prologue (if that stuff is also a recreation like some of the other material, then it's uncanny). Apparently, it was due to Universal not wanting to make that big of a connection to the two previous films so it could stand on its own and also because it seems like they weren't allowed to use the actual Evil Dead title, which included calling it The Medieval Dead as Raimi originally wanted. I also read on IMDB that the original script had Ash first being hailed as a hero (although him shooting down the flying Deadite was ignored there) and then suspected of being one of Duke Henry's men by Lord Arthur, who was also skeptical of the idea that Ash could be the prophesized hero since, according to the prophecy, he wouldn't be bleeding. But, for whatever reason, that was changed when shooting began. So, I don't have a straight answer to this question, but it makes wonder if Raimi did it just because he had done it on the last one. That's another issue I have with this series: it's so difficult to transition from one film to the next, something that should be very, very simple. (I'm kind of surprised Raimi didn't do the same thing with his Spider-Man movies.) Normally, I can overlook little things like that but with these movies, even though the situation here isn't as maddening as the one in the previous film, it really gets to me.
When it comes to the score, this is the best and most memorable this series has to offer. Not only do you have Joseph LoDuca coming back yet again but you also have Danny Elfman, who'd done the score for Darkman and would work with Raimi several more times down the road, contributing the March of the Dead that plays over the opening title and during the third act. It's a very grand, sweeping piece that also has a sense of doom and menace and gives the film a feeling of size and scope that the previous ones couldn't begin to have. LoDuca's music also has a sense of grandeur that dwarfs what he did for the previous films and he also takes advantage of the medieval setting and the more adventurous tone, particularly in his piece for when Ash uses that vehicle, known as the "Deathcoaster," to mow down the Army of the Dead and when he fights off the monsters in the pit at the beginning (in some of these pieces, it sounds like Elfman's style rubbed off on him). In addition, he doesn't lose sight of the funny stuff, as in the really silly, mischievous music that he uses for the scene with the mini-Ashes, and he even manages to come up with some fairly foreboding music for the scene where Ash finds the graveyard containing the Necronomicon. One track from this film's score that I've heard far too much, though, is "Building the Deathcoaster." It seems like a lot of internet reviewers, particularly Noah Antwiler of the Spoony Experiment, love to use that piece for montages. Spoony, who I watched constantly back then, used it in his reviews of the Johnny Mnemonic PC-game, MicroCosm, and his first two videos on the comics that the Ultimate Warrior, and as a result, I ended being able to hum that tune long before I saw the movie! It's not a bad piece of music at all but I've really gotten tired of hearing it so much, to the point where I think there needs to be an intervention for people using it.