Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dead Watch: Army of Darkness (1992)



The first time I saw Army of Darkness (1992) it was mostly context free.  My brother had seen Evil Dead 2, liked it, and said "oh, that Army of Darkness movie is the sequel.  Cool."  And that was all I knew.  And with all the knowledge I had about Evil Dead 2 stemming from the cardboard VHS tape cover and the name, I had assumed it was yet another monster-horror-straight-to-VHS movie of the era, and those weren't my thing.

But then some family friends came into town with their daughter who was in, like, 8th grade, and I was a senior in high school and I was told "take Amanda to a movie" because the adults wanted to talk and pretty clearly Amanda and I had nothing to say to each other.  So we drove over to the cineplex to see what was showing.  I don't recall if she had any opinion as to what we should see, and it's not too likely I cared if she did or not (I was 17 or 18).  Thus, I bought tickets for Army of Darkness, because it was showing and the dude on the poster had a chainsaw and was fighting skeletons or something, which seemed a good sign to me, at least.

For the run time of the movie, I laughed like a lunatic in a half-full theater populated with people who seemed pretty sure I was watching the wrong movie.  They were there to see a serious action-horror movie, and that seemed to be how they were taking it until, I'm not sure - maybe the "tiny Ashes" scene?

I loved every last minute of it.  But I also knew - this was not going to be a movie for everyone.

Shortly afterward, I wound up in college.  On my new dorm floor, I ran into some fellows I'd known from my first high school (I moved from Austin to Houston summer before my sophomore year in high school, hi Mike and JAL!), and - given the relationship I'd had with these guys the first go-round, in about thirty seconds of conversation, we learned we'd all seen and loved Army of Darkness.   I don't even know how it then spread around my floor Freshmen year, but pretty quickly everyone had seen it.  And at Halloween, UT had a showing of Evil Dead 2, which, clever me, I brought a date to see.  I'm pretty sure my enthusiasm about the movie didn't help, but my follow up of making her watch The House on Haunted Hill (the original, Vincent Price version) more or less killed any chances there.  All for the best, as Jamie has been a fan of much of Raimi's work and quietly just ignores most of the rest of my vintage horror thing.

Anyway, I'm in no way objective about Army of Darkness.  I don't know how you could be.  In the way of a pre-internet things-that-worked-for-a-small-audience, the fans are quietly cultish but give knowing nods.  Some of my greatest pleasure in the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (two movies I still think do superheroing better than most of the last 15 years of superhero movies) is when you can see him deploy some of those same directing tricks you know from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness (the Dr. Octopus' arms come alive scene is just classic Raimi).

And as much as I like the Three Stooges pastiches, the wicked good camera work and editing, the melding of horror, comedy and cheese...  Man.  Who can you not like Bruce Campbell?  The man is a national treasure.


5 comments:

Paul Toohey said...

What did Amanda think of Army of Darkness?

Between this and the forthcoming Ash VS The Evil Dead I recommend watching some of the other films the group that made Evil Dead made. A really creative group of people got together and made those movies, and a couple of other more obscure pieces of cinema.

Ryan Steans said...

You know, she knew I took the movie a certain way, and all I remember was that when the parents asked how she liked it, she did that "it was oookkaaaaaaaaayyyy...?" thing that made it clear it was not her selection but she didn't want to be rude.

Stuart Ward said...

When I met my current IRL BFF and we were establishing each other's geek cred, one of us asked "Have you seen Army of Darkness?" The one being asked was apparently offended at the VERY NOTION that they would not be familiar with this SEMINAL CLASSIC of pop literature.

This story has now surpassed inside joke into urban legend, and is referenced any time one of us asks the other if he knows about something we obviously already knew about, I MEAN COME ON!! Even though we can't remember which of us asked the other and which was offended.

Stuart Ward said...

Still wish they'd called it "Medieval Dead" though. What a great almost-title.

Ryan Steans said...

I don't really know what was up with where I lived, or who went to my school or whatever - but when I moved from Austin to Spring, TX, the kinds of stuff people were into was so far afield from whatever it was I was into, I got the wrong impression that I was more or less alone in all this stuff. Sure, we'd go downtown to catch a movie at one of two arthouse cinemas once in a while, but I ended up apologizing a lot on the way home (see: Naked Lunch). Stuff like "Army of Darkness" was just not on the table. So I was totally delighted to -1- run into JAL and Michael, with whom I'd nerded out when we were 15 (they also showed me 'Halloween' and a few other movies for the first time), and -2- to find a dorm floor full of people who saw the movie and said "yeah, this movie is a GREAT idea". But I take your side. I think that guy just assumed you hadn't seen the movie. How DARE he?