Amy’s Movie Review: “Army of Darkness”Posted on January 22, 2024
Stranger Things is a series that draws inspiration from classic movies—films showrunners and Durham natives, Matt and Ross Duffer, grew up loving.
The Museum of Durham History’s Stranger Times exhibit has partnered with the Carolina Theatre’s Retro Film Series to invite you to experience (or re-experience!) a few of these classic films with your family.
We asked MoDH volunteers to sit in on the movies, and write about the connections between the movies and the hit show. For Army of Darkness, we heard from Amy Chou, a Duke student and long-time Museum volunteer. Check out her website, where she reviews all sorts of movies and books. Thanks so much, Amy!
“By the time they reached middle school, the brothers had branched into comedies. Eventually, though, they began to develop a fascination with darker storytelling, which led them to the novels of Stephen King and classic horror cinema. The 1996 Wes Craven hit Scream, which carefully walked the line between horror and comedy as it referenced various genre landmarks, sparked in the Duffers a strong desire to revisit not only Craven’s earlier films, but also movies made by such visionaries as John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Sam Raimi.”
Stranger Things: The Official Behind-The-Scenes Companion (2018)
When people hear the genre “thriller/horror,” their minds may wonder about The Shining or Hereditary, which are chilling pieces of work that keep the audience up at night after watching them in the theaters. Somewhat different are thrillers like Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, which are part of the Evil Dead movie trilogy by Sam Raimi. Like the Duffer brothers, many people love the combination of comedy and horror, which involves comedic elements interspersed in horrifying and gory scenes.
Comedic horror movies are difficult to make because of the fine line between cheesy, cheap ideas and brilliant jokes. What is nice about Army of Darkness is that the film is full of cheesy jokes, yet they never seem bizarre or out of place. I never felt the need to seriously ask, “Why is Ash transported to 1300 AD, and how did that happen?” because the movie established itself as a lighthearted story. Even though Army of Darkness is more carefree and hilarious than John Carpenter’s The Thing, Wes Craven’s Scream, or Cronenberg’s The Fly and Videodrome, it still tackles horrifying themes such as dead spirits and evil forces. In addition, while Army of Darkness has more action and less gore than The Evil Dead, I saw a lot of resemblances between the two movies, including the classic swerving shot taken from the point of view of the demons chasing Ash. Finally, although the special effects in the film are not realistic, I found the “choppiness” of the skeleton figures to enhance the comedic elements in the movie.
Army of Darkness is an effective parody of epics such as the Iliad or the Odyssey. In Homeric epics, heroes like Achilles are taken very seriously and considered the pillars of strength and morality. On the other hand, Ash is arrogant, stupid, and reckless. He is excellent at fighting but has no other positive qualities besides that. What is great about the film is that even though the audience knows that we would hate to be around Ash in real life, we cannot help but cheer him on when he fights the army of the dead with style.
Thanks to the collaboration between the Museum of Durham History and the Carolina Theater, I had a great experience in the theater. Everyone around me laughed out loud and had a blast.