The Evil Dead III (Army of Darkness) is a strange mixture of horror and comedy which again sees director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell re-united with the deadites for some more fun. Hardcore fans of the originals may have initially heard alarm bells ringing as they noticed the 15 certificate. Not undue cause for concern, the film is definitely leaning more towards comedy but it still includes some great deadites and gory scenes.
The story picks up where part two left off, with Ash spinning into a large vortex and landing in medieval times. After Ash has proved himself and his killing abilities, the people there take him to be the fulfillment of the prophesy in the Book of the Dead, and appeal to him to save them from the evil hordes. He reluctantly accepts and is soon off on another dangerous adventure, of course when he finds the book he recites the spell wrong and awakens the army of the dead. The deadites want the book back and inevitably march on the castle in which he is staying prompting a final showdown.
The film has a variety of side stories including a romance for Ash, an evil version of himself leading the deadite army and an A-Team style preparation scene where he teaches the medieval men some modern combat techniques. Campbell plays it for laughs, he is once more skating on the edge of sanity and remains deeply cynical throughout. His acting is very over the top but suits the character perfectly, the level of manic he acheives at times is astounding and his facial muscles are constantly in overdrive producing stranger and stranger expressions.
The story rattles along to a satisfying concluding twist for our unlucky hero. Some of the scenes are really funny, the windmill scene in particular is hilarious as mini versions of Ash try to dispose of him. The film is played much more for laughs, the haunting and potentially malevolent atmosphere which was created in the first two films is lacking here. Raimi´s direction is good as always, the medieval world is brought to life, but this is not the medieval world of history, it is a world of winged demons and cackling skeletons who covet life.
I must admit to being disappointed with this film, I liked part two so much that this was too different for me. The only real link between the films is the character of Ash. This film must have had a far larger budget but much of it is spent on the end battle between skeletons and Ash´s men. The skeletons were rubbish, they looked too friendly and this spoiled the end a bit for me, even if they had looked dangerous like the ones in Jason and the Argonauts it might have been better. The skeletons are also assigned with daft voices and although obviously an attempt to increase the humour this really only served to kill the horror.
Our chainsaw armed, shotgun wielding, madman of a hero stumbles his way through the film but never faces anything as frightening as in the preceeding films. This film would work well as a stand alone comedy but as part of the Evil Dead series it can only disappoint. The running time is a short 86 minutes and in keeping with its prequels the film flies by very quickly, a horror comedy brought to life by the physical and mental humour of the leading man and the skill of the director. It is funny, exciting and highly original but it isn´t scary, more comedy than horror.