There is a difference between showing promise and having potential. Army Of Darkness straddles the line as to which it’s trying to do, but ultimately fails at both.
Having already increasingly toyed with satire in the two previous Evil Dead films, Sam Raimi throws all of the illusion out the window and decides to simply have fun, being as ridiculous and self-aware as he can. Considering how over-the-top Evil Dead 2 became, it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea to take this next step, rather than re-hash the same formula and try to outdo it again.
Where the movie falls apart is when its moments of brilliance are overshadowed by a supposed
comedy that puts too much stock in its cookie-cutter story and anticlimactic final battle scene.
Parody only works when you do something with it. Instead, for the last half hour, Raimi seems to forget that he’s crafting a comedy and counts on poor one-liners and screaming, exploding puppet skeletons to keep the story moving. It doesn’t move, and, despite its short length, finishing the movie feels like a favour you owe Raimi and Bruce Campbell out of loyalty.
The project isn’t all lost, as there are the aforementioned moments of brilliance. Every so often, there’s a great joke, thanks to the drastic difference between modern-day Ash and the Medieval folk that surrounds him. Unfortunately, a great deal of the comedy is supposed to come from slapstick. It is no secret that Sam Raimi is a HUGE Three Stooges fan, and this becomes embarrassingly obvious during Army Of Darkness. Many of the shticks from this flick are lifted straight from Stooges routines. Once is respectful, maybe even funny, but it seems like every time Ash gets into it with someone, there’s an over-long series of eye-pokes and face-slaps.
The movie is not without some originality, like the delightful scene where Ash fights all the mini-Ashes, but overall, it’s more of an afterbirth following the twin wonders that were the Evil Dead movies.