In “Ghost World,” Thora Birch said it best: “After about five minutes of this movie, you’re gonna wish you had 10 beers.”
If it’s the ultra-campy Army of Darkness, better make that 20.
OK, cult film fans, before you storm my bedroom with your period-accurate samurai swords aimed at my throat, let me explain: I’m a fan of camp. “Harold and Maude” has a permanent spot on my Top 10 Best Movies Ever Made. I’ve made it a personal goal to see every horribly overacted and overdubbed Godzilla movie; hell, I even own the VHS tapes of “Godzilla Vs. Megalon,” “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” and “King Kong Vs. Godzilla.” So believe me when I say that there’s plenty to enjoy about “Army of Darkness” (most of it involving oh-so-dreamy Bruce Campbell, who rips into Ash like a man possessed by a spritely, comic demon who’s seen one too many Seagal movies).
I’m just saying it’s a movie best enjoyed under the heavy, heavy influence of alcohol.
Consider the trippy plot: Discount store automaton Ash (Campbell), hero of “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II,” ends up in 1300 A.D., where the locals believe him to be the warrior able to seek out Necronomicon, a book that possesses the power to vanquish the evil forces tormenting the medieval land. In theory it sounds like an acid trip; in practice, it’s so much more. Lunacy abounds. Ash forgets the incantation to unlock the book and instead awakens legions of evil soldiers. His blunder also creates a bigger problem: a counterpart, Evil Ash, and legions of very nimble, pissed-off skeletons. Oh, and there’s the matter of all the tiny raving-mad Ashes.
So, yes, Sam Raimi’s “Army of Darkness” is unabashedly campy. The lines are so bad they pass bad and sail right into good again. (The movie’s final line is priceless.) It’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by way of “Three Stooges” with a little “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” thrown in for good measure. But the reason it works is because Raimi doesn’t skimp on the special effects (which, for 1992, are surprisingly good) or take his movie too seriously. Enter Campbell, who wrote the book (literally; it’s available at Amazon.com) on being a charming cult hero. He’s got the dashing good looks of a do-gooder and a physique capable of action stunts, but it’s his comic timing that really rocks. Campbell makes the dialogue — which could have been pulled for “Writing Action Scripts for Dummies” — into sharp, side-of-the-mouth one-liners. He’s James Dean in chainmail; he doesn’t sweat so much as ooze coollness.
And somehow, I think he’d want you to watch his movie while drinking. He’d probably mock you if you didn’t.