Between Star Wars, Marvel, and DC, we’re living in the golden age of movie franchises. Usually, however, these movies require at least surface knowledge of what came before, like how Avengers: Endgame continues directly after Avengers: Infinity War with very little recap.
But 30 years ago, these rules were thrown out the window when a beloved horror series decided to shred the playbook and send their main character not only to a strange land, but a strange time. It’s unlike any other sequel, and it’s a delight to watch no matter how much context you have. Here’s why you should check it out before it leaves HBO Max.
Army of Darkness is a 1992 time travelling zombie comedy starring Bruce Campbell and written and directed by Sam Raimi. It’s the third movie of the Evil Dead series, but stands on its own. Basically, if the Evil Dead movies were the Thor movies, Army of Darkness would be Ragnarok: A tongue-in-cheek flick that magically transports its hero to another world with different rules.
Army of Darkness begins with a quick rundown on the story so far: Smart aleck and S-Mart employee Ash Williams got access to the Necronomicon, fought a bunch of zombies, had to chainsaw his own hand off, and was sucked into a time portal. We pick up with Ash as a slave in the 1300s, just like the previous installments clearly weren’t building to.
The majority of Army of Darkness relies on Campbell’s inimitable comedy chops, contrasting his 20th-century witticisms with medieval monsters and plots. The obstacles Ash faces are straight from classic “fish out of water” stories like Gulliver’s Travels or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. There are beautiful princesses and tiny lilliputian people but, because it’s an Evil Dead movie, there’s also lots of gore, practical effects, and zombies.
It’s interesting to compare the movie, which is generally maligned, with Raimi’s latest work, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. There’s travel to an unknown land, eyes popping up in unexpected places, a powerful book with a catch, a zombie version of the main character, and, of course, Bruce Campbell. In a way, Multiverse of Madness is the movie Army of Darkness had the potential, but not the budget, to be.
So whether you’re an Evil Dead fan prejudiced against this sequel or a Marvel fan new to Raimi’s style of filmmaking, Army of Darkness is required viewing, if only for Campbell’s delivery of the line “This is my boomstick!”
Army of Darkness is streaming on HBO Max until May 31, 2022.