Army of Darkness is a 1992 American horror comedy film directed by Sam Raimi. It is the third installment of the Evil Dead franchise. The film was written by Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan, produced by Robert Tapert, and stars Bruce Campbell (also acting as co-producer) and Embeth Davidtz. Continuing from Evil Dead II, Ash Williams (Campbell) is trapped in the Middle Ages and battles the undead in his quest to return to the present.
The film was produced as part of a production deal with Universal Studios after the financial success of Darkman. Filming took place in California in 1991. Army of Darkness premiered on October 9, 1992 at the Sitges Film Festival, and was released in the United States on February 19, 1993. It grossed $11.503 million domestically and another $10 million outside the USA for a total worldwide gross of $21.5 million. Critical response was positive. Since its video release it has acquired a massive cult following, along with the other two films in the trilogy. The film was dedicated to Irvin Shapiro, who died during the film's production in 1989 on New Year's Day. The effects artist on the film was Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger from KNB Effects.
After being pulled through a time portal, Ash Williams lands in 1300 AD, where he is almost immediately captured by Lord Arthur's men, who suspect him to be an agent for Duke Henry, with whom Arthur is at war. He is enslaved along with the captured Henry, his gun and chainsaw confiscated, and is taken to a castle. Ash is thrown in a pit where he fights off a Deadite and regains his weapons from Arthur's Wise Man. After demanding Henry and his men be set free (as he knew Henry was innocent, and his persecution was simply a witch hunt) and killing a deadite in full view of everyone, Ash is celebrated as a hero. He also grows attracted to Sheila, the sister of one of Arthur's fallen knights.
According to the Wise Man, the only way Ash can return to his time is to retrieve the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, a book with magical powers. After bidding goodbye to Sheila, Ash starts his search for the Necronomicon. As he enters a haunted forest, an unseen force pursues Ash through the woods. Fleeing, he ducks into a windmill where he crashes into a mirror. The small reflections of Ash climb out from the shattered mirror and torment him. One of the reflections dives down Ash's throat and uses his body to become a life-sized clone of Ash and attack him, after which Ash kills and buries the clone.
When he arrives at the Necronomicon 's location, he finds three books instead of one. Ash eventually finds the real one and attempts to say the magic phrase that will allow him to remove the book safely – "Klaatu barada nikto". However, forgetting the last word, he tries to trick the book by mumbling and coughing the missing word. He then grabs the book from the cradle, and rushes back to the castle, while the dead rise from graves all around. During Ash's panicked ride back, his evil copy rises from his grave and unites the Deadites into the Army of Darkness.
Despite causing the predicament faced by the medieval soldiers, Ash initially demands to be returned to his own time. However, Sheila is captured by a Flying Deadite, and later transformed into a Deadite. Ash becomes determined to lead the humans against the army of the dead. Reluctantly, the people agree to join Ash. Using scientific knowledge from textbooks in the trunk of his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, and enlisting the help of Duke Henry, Ash successfully leads the medieval soldiers to victory over the Deadites and Evil Ash, saving Sheila and bringing peace between Arthur and Henry in the process. The Wise Men return him to his own time, giving him a potion to drink after reciting the magic phrase.
Back in the present, Ash recounts his story to a fellow employee at his job, working in housewares at a store called "S-Mart". As he talks to a girl who is interested in his story, a surviving deadite, allowed to come to the present due to Ash again forgetting the last word of the magic phrase, attacks the customers. Ash attacks and kills it using a Winchester rifle from the store's Sporting Goods department, finally ending the deadite threat.
The original ending, preferred by Raimi and Campbell themselves, in which Ash oversleeps in the cave and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic future, was restored to the film for the UK VHS release, which also had the S-Mart ending put in as a post-credit extra. This scene has been restored on the Army of Darkness: Director's Cut Region 3 DVD released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the "director's cut bootleg edition" DVD and the double-disc DVD, which also featured the S-Mart ending of the film. The S-Mart ending was shot for the American release; the studio wanted to end the film on a high note for the character of Ash. Raimi believed Ash to be more of a fool, which is why he liked to torture him so much in his films; Ash being a goof and drinking too much potion was in his character.