When last we saw Ash Williams in “Evil Dead II,” he was at the butt hole end of a massive portal to hell and could do nothing but hope and pray for the best. In spite of battling the demonic menace in his deserted cabin in the woods for the second time, he unfortunately could only hope the demonic menace within this wormhole would display mercy on him. Or at least let its guard down long enough to allow Ash an escape. Little did he know he’d land in 1300 AD among a culture of people desperately in need of a savior. What “Army of Darkness” accomplishes is turning Ash Williams in to a bonafide caricature of an action hero whose entire exposition is based around one-liners and clever retorts. In the meantime Bruce Campbell displays his potential to be an actual action star, even though most of what he accomplishes in the film is played purely for laughs. Who says we can’t have a comedic action star in the states? I think with enough pull Campbell may have been the American Jackie Chan sans the flips and amazing stunts.
Ash is once again thrust in to a situation he wants no part of, but has to endure for the sake of his own personal goal. When confused for an enemy of King Arthur, Ash shows that he has more than enough experience battling the deadites, and incidentally must now lead the ancient people against a growing army of deadites. As we’ve seen in these movies, the deadites are more than capable of more than one method involving possession, and they display in spades. The reflection we saw in “Evil Dead 2″ of Ash comes back this time and takes residence in Ash’s body splitting him in to a good and evil version. Saving money, and allowing Campbell to flex his skills, director Sam Raimi just makes Campbell the bad guy and sicks Deadite Ash on human Ash in the middle of his struggles to find the necronomicon that can send him back home once and for all. Ash embraces the superhero mold, doling out every single action hero cliche he can to win over the women, in the end, and Campbell delivers every goofy one-liner with a conviction that sells it well. It not only sells it well, it makes Campbell look like a bonafide hard ass capable of taking on all forms of evil, because hey, maybe we need a egomaniacal jackass to take on the demonic entities that lurk in the darkness.
No more virgins. Not to mention this time around his shotgun and makeshift replacement hand become an extension of Ash. They’re his boom stick and his mini-chainsaw, both of which are capable of doling out damage whenever he beckons them. “Army of Darkness” works in being a spooky and entertaining darkly comedic horror movie that pits the focus on Ash Williams even more this time, and gives us more reasons to enjoy watching his adventures. Ash is a man who keeps stumbling in to the throes of demonic entities, and just his luck, the deadites want him gone since they can’t quite swallow his soul. It’s a wonderful bit of accidental fate that plays out in “Army of Darkness.” Once the story has ended, we know Ash has many more confrontations ahead of him, and we want to see where he ends up next. Sam Raimi follows up his continuing adventures of accidental horror hero Ash with a modestly budgeted but brutally funny and entertaining third go around that shows the character Bruce Campbell perfected at his best, while Raimi alludes to possibilities with the character we’d sadly only see in comic books and video games.