Whereas the second installment of Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" series was little more than a stylish remake of his original low budget gore-fest showcasing a director of great promise, "Army of Darkness" ventured further into almost Pythonesque territory. In 1985 Raimi had worked with the Coen Brothers on "Crimewave", which shares this film's violent slapstick, but eight years later he was showing none of the maturity he would bring to bear on "A Simple Plan" and "The Gift".
Thrown into a time-travelling vortex, Ash (Bruce Campbell, the Jim Carrey of action heroes) finds himself dumped in the 13th century where Arthurian knights take him up. The only way to return to the present is to retrieve the Ancient Book of the Dead (aka The Necronomicon). In so doing he accidentally unleashes a hoard of skeletons led by his evil double. Using his uncanny awareness of 20th century technology, Ash must save the day.
Much fun is made of Ash's anachronistic dialogue ("Shop smart. Shop S-Mart," he tells a medieval crowd curious about his shotgun) and there are plenty of bulbous-eyed beasties, but slack editing means many a cartoon visual falls flat.
There was a time, especially in the 80s, when a film produced by Dino De Laurentiis', promised pure fantasy (and frequently a box office disaster. Remember "Tai-Pan" or "Dune"?). For 'fantasy' read 'nonsense' and this film is no exception. Nonsense is no bad thing, but here it's poorly executed and from Raimi we've come to expect something better.