Third movies are tricky, even when filmmakers have a trilogy planned from the start. As it stands, I have yet to see a third superhero film that was anything less than dreadful. Spider-man III and X3 , I’m looking at you!
Unfortunately, it is no less difficult with the third film in a horror series (though oddly enough, the 4th is usually a better one in the series), and it’s usually after a great second film. Most do not appreciated Saw III, everyone hates Child’s Play 3 (even the director), and need I even mention reactions to Halloween III? So, when a filmmaker nails a third act as Sam Raimi does with Army of Darkness, it's worth noting.
By the beginning of AoD, Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) has already had a rough couple of days. On the first day of his vacation, his sister, girlfriend and two other friends all become possessed by Kandarian demons who can only be stopped through total bodily dismemberment. I’ve heard worse Spring Break stories. After barely surviving that, he had to cut off his own hand, deal with more possessed people and summon the inner strength to become the baddest-ass force for good in horror film history
After “defeating” the evil in the present, Ash was sucked back in time to medieval England, which looks an awful lot like California. Cavalcade Fun Fact: England, medieval or otherwise, has never had deserts! Ash is tasked with defeating the Deadites, including an evil version of himself, in the past in order to return to the future. It’s a good thing he had a chainsaw attached to his right arm and his trademark “Boomstick.”
One cannot undervalue the skill of Sam Raimi as a director. After showing what he could do with a budget on Darkman , Raimi was able to command just a little bit more money to bring a “big” budget Evil Dead to the big screen. All of Sam’s trademarks are present: “Sam-O-Cam,” “Ram-O-Cam,” excessive amounts of blood, and, of course, entirely too many Three Stooges references. To be honest, AoD does suffer in comparison to the earlier films. Where Evil Dead was “the ultimate experience in grueling terror,” and Evil Dead 2 is one of the greatest horror-comedies produced, AoD is really just a comedy. Granted, a comedy with chainsaws, but still, the movie is not neither scary nor particularly gross. This is not necessarily a complaint, but for those that enjoyed the horror elements of the previous two films, AoD could be viewed as quite a departure in tone. However, this drawback is more than excused since it allowed an even bigger, crazier performance by our hero.
Despite his every effort, most of us recognize that Bruce Campbell is Ash. Well, he would be if he were put in that situation…and exposed to gamma radiation. More than any other role, Campbell is identified as Ash with no small part due to his performance in AoD. Playing not only Ash, but also Evil Ash, Campbell makes almost every line of dialogue quotable with his trademark sarcasm and over-the-top awesomeness.
I highly recommend watching the first two Evil Deads so you can get the full effect of Campbell and Raimi’s development of the character and mythology, but AoD is one of those sequels that can truly stand on its own. Which is impressive for any third act in a trilogy.