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Army of Darkness—Sam Raimi—1993

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Once Upon a Time in the Middle Ages

This movie gets better every time I see it, so maybe after a few more screenings it will seem like Raimi’s masterpiece. I know that I didn’t care for it much when viewing it after the first two Evil Dead films. But now, watching it independently, it was like seeing it with fresh eyes. Army of Darkness, like many cult films, is more like a friend than a ordinary work of art. You interact with this kind of movie more the way you do with a person, out loud; you laugh gregariously, talk to the characters and fellow viewers, cheer the action, and swoon with the ending. The preceding two films in the trilogy had a similar vibe, but they were so chock full of terror that stunned silence punctuated by screams was the rhythm of my reactions. The logical gaffes, of which there are dozens, are actually positives in this film for this very reason. For instance, when Ash is down in the pit with the first Deadite we see, he escapes by Indiana Jonesing the chain with his belt. Not just impossible—all Action films are filled with impossible action—but this goes beyond that into a realm of comic absurdity. It’s like the film speaking to you, making a joke directly to you outside of the diegesis; you, in turn, are compelled to respond. The shotgun is another good example. It’s not that he never reloads his double barrell, it’s that sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t, indeterminate of the number of shots fired. No one in the audience could miss it—Raimi couldn’t have missed it, and it was absolutely hilarious.

Aesthetically, the cinematography stood out as the primary draw of this film. Bill Pope worked on The Matrix series, Freaks & Geeks, and a few other Raimi films, but this is by far his best work. The lighting in many scenes outdoes Raimi’s fine atmosphere in the first two Evil Deads. Absolutely gorgeous.

Klatuu barada *cough grumble mumble*

The only real issue with the film is a problem with pacing during the final battle; it goes on for about ten minutes too long, which is sad in such a short movie. It’s remedied by one of the great fantasy endings. Frivolous, wonderful beauty—Army of Darkness is great adventure in style and charm.

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