For the first time in nine years, a new Sam Raimi the film is released in theaters. And for the first time in 15 years, it’s a superhero movie: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The film marks Raimi’s return to his roots as he brings a little bit of horror to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the tale of a brave man (Benedict Cumberbatch) who faces evil versions of himself as he travels the classics through time and space.
This is the story template that Raimi has explored before; this is essentially a 1992s premise Dark army, where an ordinary guy turned reluctant warrior named Ash (Bruce Campbell) is sucked through a portal to the 13th century. His only chance to return home lies in the search for the Necronomicon, the so-called «Book of the Dead». Ash obtains the book, but in the process creates an evil doppelgänger of himself that raises an army of darkness to attack Ash and his allies.
Most of Raimi’s fans like Dark armybut also consider him a pale shadow of his predecessor, evil dead 2. With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Bringing Raimi back to talking about culture, I think it’s time to confess my personal feelings about it: Dark army by far the best Evil Dead movie. Far!
Before I explain why, I admit that evil dead 2 has one distinct advantage over Dark army. It came out first, so it can claim to be the most innovative film in the horror comedy world. Original Evil Dead since 1981 has been a much simpler splatter film, albeit made with more creativity than the average grindhouse. evil dead 2 combines truly terrible fears – a man cutting off his hand – with a truly loud laugh – the severed hand becomes possessed and torments its former owner, even giving him the middle finger at one point.
evil dead 2 also a great showcase of Bruce Campbell, Raimi’s childhood best friend and long time protagonist. The scene where Campbell’s hand becomes infected with unholy evil and then attacks him is a marvel of physical comedy:
During evil dead 2, Ash Campbell transforms from being a nice guy to a real zombie-fighting badass with a makeshift chainsaw arm and a collection of catchphrases. (“Great!” he exclaims as he constructs his unique chainsaw and shotgun pendant.) As this detail suggests, evil dead 2 also much more violent than Dark army. It was originally released to theaters without an R rating after the MPAA refused to give the film an R rating. (When you make a horror movie with geysers of blood and a guy vivisecting his girlfriend’s head right in the middle, that’s usually what happens.)
But Dark army still rated R for «violence and horror» and contains more than its fair share of dismemberment, head trauma, mangled limbs, and horrific monsters. The undead are decapitated, boiled, buried alive and cut into pieces with a huge spinning blade. Dark army can’t be as transgressive as Evil Dead II, but this is not a children’s film.
More important, Dark army represents a significant expansion of Raimi’s vision and ambition from Evil Dead 2: Army of DarknessThe budget was about four times what evil dead 2‘s, which gives Raimi leeway for much larger and more complex sets. These include a battle at the bottom of a water pit, Ash fighting a group of tiny evil doppelgangers, and then a full fight scene between Ash and an army of angry skeletons, animated by a fun mix of stop-motion animation, hands-on puppets and animatronics. Dark army bigger and slicker than evil dead 2 in almost every way.
Some evil dead 2 purists complain that Ash’s character becomes too obnoxious in Dark army; that he goes from being a witty hero to a total jerk without any explanation or motivation. And it is true; in Dark army, Ash constantly insults everyone around him. This is how he greets Duke Henry the Red:
After Ash climbs out of a pit full of «dead people», he begins to use profanity in which he calls people of the 13th century «primitive morons», while explaining the concept of his «boomstick».
In other words, complaining about Ash becoming an asshole. Dark army completely accurate. But I would say Ash’s transformation is necessary for Dark armysuccess, not evidence of his inferiority.
The main reason for this has to do with Raimi’s unique approach to horror. In a standard zombie movie, the audience cheers for the survival of the human protagonists. AT Evil Dead In the film, the audience cheers for Bruce Campbell, who suffers at the hands of the Evil Dead – and, by extension, at the hands of Raimi himself.
In a 2015 interview associated with the release Ash vs Evil Dead Series, narrated by Raimi Entertainment Weekly that hurting Bruce Campbell onscreen «gives me great pleasure». He added:
In this life, we must respond to those things that bring us bliss, and for me this is exactly that. So I think that torturing Bruce is very cool, productive, in the spirit of unity with the universe. And people love to watch him suffer… I think their amusement is proportional to the amount of suffering Bruce causes, and now Bruce understands that. From time to time I hit him with a stick to give him a little push for his own good and get him the performance we want. And the kids appreciate it.
Although the term would not be invented more than 20 years after evil dead 2, it could be argued that Sam Raimi was the real inventor of «torture porn». True, his horror films are less graphic and far more overtly comedic than things like Hostel or Saw. But by Raimi’s own admission, his audience should enjoy watching poor Ash suffer.
So Dark army works better than evil dead 2 because Ash is an jerk, and because it’s much more fun to watch a pompous bully get beaten up than to see an innocent victim endure such abuse. AT evil dead 2You can’t help but feel sad for Ash as his hand turns to him and he’s forced to butcher his girlfriend like a piece of beef. AT Dark armyAsh is such a jester that he almost deserves what happens to him, and that’s why having sadistic laughter at him is much more enjoyable.
In one key scene, all Ash has to remember to prevent the apocalypse is three simple words. And he can’t even do it right.
As for the complaints that Ash’s transformation from champion to chump is unmotivated and breaks the continuity of the series, I say: What continuity? Everyone Evil Dead takes what it wants from the previous ones and discards the rest. evil dead 2 is part of a remake Evil Dead and the continuation of the part. It reproduces the first movie with fewer characters, and then changes the specifics of what the Necronomicon is called and exactly how it works. There is as much continuity between these films as there is between Batman and Robin and Batman Begins.
You can see Dark army like repetition evil dead 2as this significantly expands the possibilities of Raimi. Three puppets –meets the cinema spray atmosphere. And of course if you like evil dead 2 you could argue that this dilutes his energy a bit. I prefer to see Dark army as an improvement. For me, this is a film where Raimi perfects the combination of horror and comedy in a film that is truly scary. and a really fun, starring character you love to see tormented. And with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness pitting Strange against evil versions of himself, Dark army may soon become an even more important film in Raimi’s career.