So how exactly is “Army of Darkness” the black sheep of the original franchise? For starters, the film largely departs from the oppressive and claustrophobic cabin in the woods setting of the first two movies and opts for something grander in scale, a mystical version of 1300 A.D.
Throughout the previous “Evil Dead” movies, Ash is never given a moment of peace. Here, we follow him on his “fish out of water” journey to survive the wrath of the Deadite army and search for the only thing that can transport him back home: the cursed book of the dead, the Necronomicon. Even though “Evil Dead II” was the sequel that elevated the franchise to camp horror status, “Army of Darkness” dials the absurdity of the series to 11. Ash’s various antics in this fantasy medieval setting aren’t just campy, they’re downright cartoonish.
The juxtaposition between the juvenile, humorous moments of slapstick comedy and an arresting, gothic atmosphere is a joy to watch unfold. It might not be Raimi’s scariest film, but he successfully demonstrates in “Army of Darkness” that both horror and comedic elements can be used in harmony to elevate one another.
Of course, it helps that Raimi’s muse whom he built this entire trilogy off of is one of the best physical actors in the game. Bruce Campbell’s performance in “Army of Darkness” is a career-best, somehow authentically embodying a strong, capable action hero and a bumbling doofus in equal measure. The Ash Williams we fondly remember in pop culture, with his “boomstick,” chainsaw arm, and colorful personality is fully imagined here even more so than all other “Evil Dead” entries before it.