Three Random Tips For Writing Comedy Horror

Well, I thought that I’d talk about the comedy horror genre today – this is mostly because, at the time of writing, I’ve been dabbling with it a bit. So, I thought that I’d offer a few random tips for writing in this awesome genre 🙂

1) The two genres are more similar than you think: One of the reasons why comedy horror is such an interesting genre is because although horror and comedy might seem like completely opposite things, they’re a lot more similar than you think.

They both involve evoking strong emotions in the reader, they both involve suspense (eg: the set-up to a joke, or the ominous silence before something horrible happens), they both involve a certain amount of larger-than-life drama, they both rely on contrasting different things for dramatic effect, they both rely on more subtle moments (whether amusing or ominous) to keep the reader’s interest between more spectacular moments etc…

In essence, many of the underlying techniques used in the horror genre can be used for comedy, and vice versa. So, if you know a bit about one genre then it isn’t too difficult to add elements of the other genre to it. Still, it is worth looking at things in both genres in order to get a sense of how each one does things differently.

2) Character reactions: If you want to give a scene of horror more of a comedic tone, one way to do this is through how the characters react to the events of your story.

In a traditional horror story, the horrific scenes are horrific because of the way that the characters react to them. It doesn’t matter how vile the monster is, how grisly a description is or how unsettling the ghosts are… it isn’t scary until the characters react to it. In a typical horror story, they might react with mute shock, they might scream, they might try to fight for their lives or they might flee in abject terror. This reaction of horror is one of the things that makes horror stories horror stories.

So, to add some comedy to your horror story, just have your characters react in an unexpected or mildly “unrealistic” way. For example, if a traditional Dracula-style vampire suddenly lurches from the shadows and a character finds this amusing or makes a sarcastic remark about Halloween costumes, then this makes the audience consider how silly a 19th century vampire appearing in the present day would be.

3) Gruesomeness: You can add comedy to scenes of gory horror in a number of different ways.

The first is to focus more on the horrific events (eg: a physical description of what is happening) that are happening rather than on their gory consequence (eg: injuries, blood etc..). This allows you to add macabre slapstick comedy and/or farce to your story without grossing your audience out too much. So, this approach is better for slightly “lighter” or “sillier” comedy stories.

A slightly more sophisticated approach than this is to only include gore in moments where it would be amusing for it to appear. For example, the scene in the classic sci-fi horror movie “Alien” where the alien creature bursts out of a character’s chest is a gruesome, horrific scene. If it was bloodless, it wouldn’t have the same dramatic impact. So, if you were to write a scene in a comedy horror story that was inspired by this one, you might start by having a character complain of indigestion before including a gory scene of something exploding out of their chest.

The other approach is to go completely over-the-top with your gory descriptions, but to make the surrounding descriptions comedic through the use of amusing metaphors, similes and other such things. After all, there are a well-known set of metaphors and terms that “serious” horror writers use to describe gruesome moments, so by using completely different and/or slightly absurd ones, you can add some macabre comedy to these scenes.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Mini Review: “Ghoul School 3D” (V 2.3) (WAD For “Heretic”/ “GZDoom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, with Halloween approaching, I thought that I’d take a look at a wonderfully ghoulish “Doom II”Heretic” WAD from 2017. Yes, you heard me correctly – “Heretic“. I think that this may well be a first for this blog.

I am, of course, talking about a WAD from the creator of “Project Einherjar“, “Strange Aeons“, “Nerves Of Steel” and “Derceto” called “Ghoul School 3D“.

As usual, I used the ZDoom source port whilst playing this WAD (since “Heretic” uses the same engine as “Doom”). [EDIT (10/5/19): The WAD is intended to be played with GZDoom. I’ve also just updated the review title to reflect this].

Plus, since I write these reviews quite far in advance, it’s possible that this WAD may have been updated in between the time I prepared this review and posted it (the version I played was version 2.3).

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Ghoul School 3D”:

“Ghoul School 3D” is a large two-episode WAD (with each episode being one level spread seamlessly over several maps) that is a FPS-style remake of an old NES game called “Ghoul School”.

The story of episode one is that you play as a high school student called Spike, whose school has been overrun with ghouls, zombies and ghosts. Not only that, his crush Samantha has gone missing too! In the second episode, the school has been overrun with eyeball monsters due to the Necronomicon developing polyps…

Yes, seriously!

One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it has personality! Not only does it have a wonderfully cheesy “1980s movie”-style atmosphere, it also features a variety of quirky and inventive weapons. There’s also a lot of humourous dialogue and (on a couple of occasions) voice-acting too.

Yes, even though it is a “Heretic” WAD, it includes “Strife“-style text dialogue trees (which you need to use to find mission objectives).

These dialogue trees also include most of the game’s comedy too 🙂

Although I initially worried that this WAD would consist of maze-like corridor-based style level design, it actually contains a surprising variety of different areas.

Such as this area. Hold on, is that a … Gremlin… on the door 🙂

Interestingly, the second episode re-uses some familiar locations – but with a variety of changes. This feeling of “familiar, but different” is really cool and it helps to add some depth to the game’s “world”.

In addition to this, despite the “retro” style, this is a WAD that actually requires jumping to be enabled. Fortunately though, there’s relatively little in the way of first-person platforming though.

Emphasis on “relatively”.

The level is fairly non-linear, with the school serving as a hub area that you revisit between exploring other areas. In the first episode, this area is populated by students, teachers and endlessly-respawning monsters.

Well, it is meant to be an invasion of the undead. So, this might explain it…

I’m in two minds about the respawning monsters – on the one hand, they keep the tension up and help to keep this area interesting. On the other hand, if you spend too long in a room, expect the entrance to be blocked by a crowd of them when you try to leave. In the second episode, this is less of an issue though.

Interestingly, several new areas of this hub level are also available to explore during the second episode – including a large sports stadium, a basketball court, several outdoor areas and an extra classroom or two.

And, yes, the ghouls and the eyeball mutants duke it out in the stadium too.

If you haven’t guessed from my mention of a hub area, this WAD is probably more close to “Hexen” than “Heretic” in terms of gameplay. And, yes, that means *groan* puzzles.

Dammit, I have to think as well…

Although there aren’t a gigantic number of puzzles, there are more than you would expect. Whilst some of the first episode’s puzzles are challenging but solvable (eg: the bookcase tower puzzle, the teleporting monster puzzle and the “sacrifices” puzzle) because of small clues nearby, I got completely and utterly stuck on at least two occasions and was forced to resort to using cheats.

In the second episode, I was forced to use cheats again – both to solve a puzzle (how on earth are you meant to get into the rat warren?) and because the sheer number of simultaneous fire effects in one large map slowed my framerate to below one (and, yes, I’m using an older computer. But, well, this is a mod for a game from 1994!). This then caused the game to get stuck in an unwinnable state (because a teleporter wouldn’t activate), which necessitated further use of cheat codes.

If you’re using an older computer, then this screenshot is a pretty accurate representation of the framerate during this map from episode 2.

I also solved at least one puzzle (eg: what to do with the red orb in the first episode) by accident too. Likewise, if you use the “raven logo” item in the first episode anywhere other than in one very specific area in the first episode, then you can easily end up permanently stuck too.

Yes, it’s the coolest power-up in the game, but don’t even think about using it frivolously….

Plus, a few parts of the game require you to use the school’s intercom system to open new areas. Although this sounds fairly easy, the intercom machine in one location has other machines nearby (which do nothing when you use them). So, finding it for the first time can be a matter of trial and error.

And, yes, you can mess around with the intercom too.

Likewise, you can find “Zelda”-style locked chests throughout the level that can be opened with golden keys that are hidden in various locations. Although I didn’t get to open every box, they usually just give you extra health, ammo and/or weapons.

In terms of the new monsters, they’re really cool. In addition to several varieties of ghoul, there are also zombies, burning zombies, zombie soldiers, eyeball mutants, fiery flying monsters, giant skulls, rats, tesla coils, ghosts, bosses etc.. too. Seriously, there’s a really cool variety of monsters here.

I guess you could say that this WAD is ghoulishly fun…

A wild MISSINGNO appeared!

Some monsters also have weapon-specific vulnerabilities. For example, the WAD’s “lost soul”-style ghosts take more damage from fire, lasers and water. The water-based vulnerability also applies to the burning zombies too (although they can be killed with other weapons, if you want to waste ammo), and it’s a really cool gameplay feature.

It isn’t a Super Soaker, it’s a reverse flamethrower!

As for the new weapons, they’re really good too. Although some of them re-use sprites from various other 1990s FPS games, they fit into the game’s setting really well and are fairly satisfying to use. They include a baseball bat, a Super Soaker filled with holy water, a rivet gun, a spray can flamethrower, a magic-based attack and a badass laser gun.

It may look boring, but just wait until you fire it….

In terms of music and sound design, this WAD is really good too 🙂 In addition to some interesting “vintage horror”-style theremin music in one area, one cool feature is that one of the bosses actually has voice-acting, and it is hilarious. I can’t remember the exact wording, but he says something like “Nothing can destroy me… except death” when you kill him. Likewise, Spike will also occasionally say stuff when you pick up weapons and upon death.

All in all, if you’ve got a copy of “Heretic”, then “Ghoul School 3D” is worth checking out. It’s filled with atmosphere, personality, action and humour. The level design is really good too. However, the puzzles can be frustrating at times and one segment of episode two is pretty much unplayable on older computers – so, expect to get stuck or use cheat codes a few times.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four. Because, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, this WAD has personality, humour, creativity and style. It may have been released in 2017, but I wish that this WAD had been around during the 1990s.

Today’s Art (18th August 2018)

Well, I’m still in the mood for making digitally-edited paintings set in abandoned shopping centres. Interestingly, I actually had the idea for this painting much earlier in the series (since it’s kind of an obvious one), but didn’t get round to making it until now for some reason.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“The Solitary Zombie” By C. A. Brown

Short Story: “Grim” By C. A. Brown

The trick is not to flinch. He’s used to people flinching. After all, his job is to catch people by surprise. If the bony bastard could smile, then I’d bet that he has a permanent grin on his face. Or he would if he hadn’t tangled with the wrong person.

But, I’d twigged that he was following me. It isn’t that he cares too much about stealth. After all, he can only be seen by the person he’s going to meet. But, I would bet anything that he enjoys the thrill of surprising people. Unfortunately, there isn’t really that much research data to go on. People don’t exactly submit reports. Still, when I saw a reflection of a scythe in the window and heard rustling robes in the crowd behind me, I knew that the Grim Reaper was near.

Instinctively, I ducked into a tiled alleyway. It was more out of embarrassment than anything else. Sure, the kind of people who still go to run-down semi-abandoned shopping centres are probably used to seeing random people having conversations with people they cannot see, but I didn’t want to test that theory. Not only that, I wanted him to think that I was running.

After walking past a few abandoned cardboard boxes, I ducked behind a spindly plant and waited. For a minute or so, I wondered if I was imagining the whole thing. Strange as it sounds, that scared me more than the idea that I was being hounded by the oldest being in the universe. Sure, no-one would have known. I was careful about that. But, it would just be embarrassing.

So, when I heard a quiet rattling sound behind me and a solemn voice saying: ‘Over here.‘ I actually let out a sigh of relief. Nothing but silence greeted me in reply.

Remembering not to flinch, I slowly got up and turned around. He was taller than I’d expected. Don’t ask me why, but I’d expected a hunched sack of bones. He stood at least six foot tall and, if there had been any meat on those bones, I’d have said that he’d been working out. Then again, people probably run all of the time. It’s probably a good workout.

Nonchalantly, I said: ‘Hey there.

Silently, he stretched a bony hand towards me. Putting a businesslike smile on my face, I shook it firmly. Surprisingly, it was warm. The emotionless hollows in his skull just stared at me. Keeping the smile on my face, I said: ‘So, are you up for a game of chess?

A rattling rasp of derision filled the alleyway. ‘Chess. It is always chess. Years ago, people asked me to play so many different games. But everyone I meet these days wants to play this… chess. If I ever meet the soul that invented that infernal game….

Ah, I’ve got just the thing for you. Follow me.‘ Keeping a stiff upper lip, I walked out of the alleyway and into the crowd. As I heard the tapping footsteps behind me, I looked at the people around me. All of them seemed to be going about their everyday lives, oblivious to the monster in their midst. I felt nothing but jealousy. In that moment, I’d gladly swap places with even the roughest hooligans or the most miserable suits that passed me by.

Finally, the sound of bleeping, trilling and tingling filled the air. A riot of neon and screens flashed at me. We’d reached the amusement arcade. Taking a deep breath, I strode over to the “HOUSE OF THE UNDEAD” machine. Normally, I’d be annoyed by the skiving schoolboys who were hogging the machine, but I was glad for the delay.

With cheers and shouts, they pointed the red plastic guns at the screen and blasted away at the 3D monsters and zombies with practiced ease. I’d expected Grim to be patient. After all, he has all of the time in the world.

But, a second later, his dark robes swept past me and he stood in front of the screen. He must have made himself visible, because the two players suddenly froze with fright. In a low voice, he hissed: ‘Shouldn’t you be sss…studying?

They fled in terror. I almost collapsed with laughter. I hadn’t planned to, but it was just a reflex. Once I caught my breath, I rifled through my pockets and muttered: ‘Damn it. You haven’t got any 20p coins, have you?

I saw a… coin machine… over there.‘ He levelled a bony finger at a squat little machine opposite us. Grumbling to myself, I wandered over to it and fed a few quid into it. When I returned with a paper cup full of coins, Grim rubbed his hands with glee. Sighing, I fed a couple into the machine and picked up the plastic gun.

He was better at it than I’d expected. Ok, he hadn’t realised that if one player wins a co-operative game then both players win – but, he was a natural. As the polygonal zombies lurched towards the screen, he got perfect headshot after perfect headshot. Meanwhile, I was reduced to firing at them wildly.

Then, as we turned the corner of some grotty sewer, a scaly green sea monster leapt out of the water and lurched towards us. Cartoon blood spattered the screen. Grim flinched. I missed. A second later, the screen read “GAME OVER. CONTINUE 10…9…8…

Hissing at the screen, Grim said ‘That wasn’t…. fair. We didn’t even have a chance. No matter what I did, I couldn’t have won. This game is rigged.

I shrugged: ‘Now you know how everyone you meet feels.

His jaw dropped open. He still held the plastic gun. His teeth chattered nervously. He stared at me with haunted, empty eyes. I smiled. It turns out that it was possible for one person to win a co-operative game.

Short Story: “Stage Fright” By C. A. Brown

With a soul-shuddering screech, the guitars kicked in. Not even pausing to draw breath, Skull almost crushed the mic in his hand and let rip: ‘Thundering steel, electric eel. Skies darken, rise the electro-kraken!

Below him, the crowd went frigging wild. Against the blood red glare of the stage lights, he saw a thousand black T-shirts and a thousand faces twisted in frantic ecstasy. Somehow, it never quite got old. Beside him, Razor raised his obsidian guitar and let out a volley of crunching chords. Taking his cue, Skull ducked towards the crowd and screamed: ‘Crushing jaws, lock your doors! Bladed tendrils, slashing claws.

The crowd roared back. A hundred horned hands saluted him. The bass throbbed through his body. As the drums let off another salvo and Razor launched into a machine-gun guitar solo, Skull raised his arms and shouted to the crowd: ‘I wanna hear you scream! Raise the roof, you mean metal mother…

He paused. For a second, he didn’t know why. Then it hit him. Two of the stage lights were in the wrong place! At the back of the crowd, two red points of light stared back at him from ground level. A hundred thoughts raced through his head. What if someone had got crushed? What if one of the roadies screwed up the safety checks? How the hell are those lights still working if they’ve just fallen from the ceiling?

Then, he noticed that Razor’s guitar solo was almost over. He glanced at the rest of the band, none of them had noticed the lights. He stared at the crowd again, they weren’t screaming in agony or fleeing in panic. Maybe it was just a reflection of some kind?

Letting out a silent sigh, Skull went into autopilot and belted out the chorus: ‘Fear the seas, ancient prophecies! Deep evil, deep evil! Primeval creature!

When he glanced at the cavorting crowd again, the two lights seemed brighter. They were larger. They were getting closer. For a second, he was frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights until a crashing cymbal from the back of the stage shook him back into action. Leaning towards Razor, Skull pointed at the lights. Not even pausing, Razor just raised his eyebrows and mouthed: ‘Wanna stop?

Skull shook his head. The song was almost over. The show must go on.

But, a few seconds later, the red lights had reached the mosh pit and the crowd had started to notice. Like the seas from some stern sermon, the crowd parted. The music fell silent. Even the drummer had noticed that something was wrong. The only sound that filled the air was slow, thudding footsteps. The two red lights glowed like suns.

And then, as it walked under the scarlet stage lights, Skull saw it. It looked like something from the record covers of his youth. A great, hulking horned demon with skin as scaly as a crocodile and teeth like twenty knives. What Skull didn’t expect were the clothes. The hellish monster was wearing a three-piece suit! As the apparition drew even closer to the stage, he even noticed a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles around the creature’s fiery eyes.

When the creature opened his fearsome maw, Skull had expected a deep growl from the pits of hell. Instead, the creature’s voice sounded thin, severe and sharp. ‘Will you turn that racket down?! Can’t you play some nice music instead? Something that everyone can enjoy?

Skull was dumbfounded. Razor’s mouth fell open. Ignoring them, the demon levelled a bony claw at the crowd: ‘And, all of you, why are you staying up late? Don’t you have work tomorrow? You know, I’d bet that some of you are still in school. You don’t get good grades by going to dismal dives like this and listening to music that is clearly unsuitable for people your age.

Everyone remained silent, unsure whether to laugh or scream. The demon growled menacingly and opened his fearsome maw. Amidst the confusion, Skull knew one thing. He was on stage. Everyone looked up to him. He was the closest thing to a real authority figure in the room. Shuddering at the implications of this, he realised that he had to do something. Then it struck him. When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Standing to attention, he turned to Razor and barked: ‘Start “Crypt Of The Corpses”! Don’t question me, just bloody do it!

Shocked into action, Razor reached down to his guitar and launched into the blistering opening riff. The noise cut through the air like a katana. The demon winced. A second later, the drums kicked in and Skull heard the bass thrum loudly. The demon recoiled. Grabbing the mic like the hilt of a sword, Skull took a deep breath and then let the words explode from his throat: ‘Crushed skulls, evil rituals! Vestal virgins, sacrificial surgeons!

The demon let out an unholy screech. A second later, it was drowned out by the roaring of the crowd. As Skull watched with stunned fascination, the pulsing mass of humanity in front of him converged on the demon. The swarming mass undulated and jumped. A sickening squelch filled the air. For a second, Skull felt like he was in a terrifying freefall. Without even noticing it, he began to mutter “oh shi….

But then he saw her. Below the red lights, a cheering woman with raven hair held a long, twisted horn above her head. Dark ichor dripped from the base of it. A second later, something flew through the air and landed near the drummer with a loud splat. Skull didn’t turn around, but he heard the drummer shout: ‘That was pretty… heartless… of you all!‘ The crowd laughed. A smile crossed Skull’s lips and he launched into the next verse.

Later, the band sat around backstage. The adrenaline rush had faded and they were on their fifth beer, unsure whether they were drinking to celebrate or to forget or both. Finally, Skull picked up the remote and turned on the TV.

On the evening news, pictures of police officers milling around an old stone building splashed across the screen. In received pronunciation, the newsreader said: ‘Following reports of several lost pets, police visited the offices of the local conservative club. They found what can only be described as some form of ritual sacrifice...’

Beside him, Razor raised his bottle and said: ‘Makes sense, you know.

Short Story: “Amusements” By C. A. Brown

Although I don’t know how many I’ll write or how often, I felt like getting back into writing short stories. So, here’s a comedy horror story I wrote earlier today.

With a thunderous death-rattle and twenty banshee screams, the rickety old rollercoaster car shot past me like a ghost in the night. I must have jumped because the next thing I heard was Brad’s laughter mingling with the tinny music from the big top.

Brushing a strand of dark hair from his kohl-lined eyes, he grinned at me: ‘You know as well as I do darling that you can’t visit somewhere like this without checking out the house of horrors. It’d be like Paris without the catacombs or Romania without the castle or a hot date without…

I get the idea.‘ I laughed. ‘But, I’ve heard things about this one.

Brad put a warm arm around my shoulder, his leather trenchcoat crackling slightly. Trying not to laugh, he said: ‘Well, of course they’re going to say stuff about it. I mean, what’s the fun of a house of horrors if you can’t boast about being brave enough to enter it?

I let out a sigh and stared at the tapestry of flashing lights in the distance ‘No, I’m like serious. You remember Jorge. He’s been scared of the dark for the past two nights because of this silly house of horrors. I mean, Jorge of all people. Scared of the dark.

Oh please, he’s probably got indigestion. Or a hangover or both.‘ Brad smiled. ‘Or, of course, he’s trying to scare you. Maybe I put him up to it?

Above the distant rattling, jangling and babbling, an owl screeched in the distance. Another rollercoaster car juddered past us. A huge smile spread across Brad’s face, followed shortly by a frown. Finally, he said: ‘Or, I didn’t. Truth be told, I haven’t seen him in a couple of evenings.‘ The smile returned to his face: ‘Maybe… he never left.

Like I didn’t see that one coming.‘ I laughed. ‘Seriously though, I saw him last night. He was… noticeably perturbed.

All because of a silly house of horrors?‘ Brad pulled back his sleeve and glanced at his watch before saying: ‘The next tour begins in ten minutes. Now you’ve made me even more curious.

Go ahead.‘ I laughed. ‘I’ll wait outside. But, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Coward.‘ He chuckled. ‘Well, it’s your loss.

Silently, we skirted the bright lights and baying crowds as we headed straight towards the house of horrors. As we drew closer to the unearthly grey building, a barker with a pointy beard stared at us and shouted: ‘Roll up! Roll up! A glimpse into perdition itself! A nightmare to shake even the stoutest of spirit! Dare YOU enter…

A giant smile crossed Brad’s face as he rushed towards the barker. I stood back and fumbled through my bag for a clove cigarette. For a second, both Brad and the barker seemed to share the same maniacal grin. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or roll my eyes. In almost perfect unison, they turned to me and said: ‘Last chance?

I laughed: ‘I’m fine. Have fun. I’ll see you in ten minutes or whatever.

The ten minutes seemed more like twenty. Two cloves and three unwanted pamphlets later, the doors to the house of horrors slid open gently and Brad staggered out. The barker was nowhere to be seen. As Brad lurched towards me, he stared at me with haunted eyes. I grinned and said: ‘Very funny.

No…‘ He mumbled. ‘I’ve never seen anything so horrible. To think that such things exist even in the worst nightmares of the worst souls…..

Look, you can tell me about it over dinner. I hear they’re doing a two for one. I’ve got a coupon.

At the blood bank, Brad barely even took a sip. Even when the waiter almost tripped over his cloak, not even a hint of a laugh escaped Brad’s throat.

Finally, he muttered: ‘There were people who were famous… because they were famous. There was a nightclub… except everyone wore bright clothes. The music! Oh god, the music! It still rings in my ears! Then there were TV shows that didn’t even have a script! And then there were…

Stop!‘ I found myself saying. My hands were trembling. ‘Don’t tell me any more! It’s too horrible!

Review: “Army Of Darkness: Director’s Cut” (Film)

2017 Artwork Army Of Darkness review sketch

I first saw “Army Of Darkness” when I was about fourteen or fifteen. If I remember rightly, I bought an old ex-rental VHS of it (which had a gigantic case, does anyone else remember when rental videos used to have these?). This was some time after I’d seen the first “Evil Dead” film, but possibly sometime before I’d seen the second one.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what I thought of “Army Of Darkness” back then – but the comedy probably went completely over my head, since I probably expected it to be a gory horror movie like it’s predecessors.

A few years later, I learnt that virtually all of the classic 1990s FPS games made by 3D Realms referenced the movie in some way or another (in fact, the box art for “Duke Nukem 3D” is a blatant rip-off of the poster from this movie – so is the title image for this review). So, naturally, it went on my “to watch” list… for many years.

Last year, I found a cheap second-hand DVD of the Director’s Cut on Amazon (the 2002 UK edition, that also includes the original US version of the film) and – well- I just had to rewatch it!

“Army Of Darkness” is a horror/comedy movie from 1993. After a brief re-cap of the events of the second “Evil Dead” movie, Ash is thrown through a mystic portal back to medieval England (or, a version of Medieval England that looks a lot like an American desert). Captured by some nearby knights, he finds himself in the middle of a conflict between King Arthur and King Henry.

Sentenced to death, Ash is thrown into a pit to be consumed by one of the many zombies that are plaguing the land. Ash being Ash, the zombie soon ends up being chainsaw fodder. Amazed by his prowess in battle, King Arthur and his magician agree to help Ash get back to the present day. Of course, this involves finding the Necronomicon……

As I hinted earlier, this film is actually a dark comedy movie rather than a horror movie.

Although the film does contain some truly brilliant moments of dark humour, a fair amount of the humour is of the slapstick variety. Even though some of this is genuinely funny (such as when Ash is slapped by skeletal hands), it does get a little bit repetitive and predictable after a while. Still, some of the English accents in this film are literally “so bad that they’re good” and I should know, I’m English!

It may be because I’m more used to TV shows than movies these days, but the storytelling wasn’t as great as I remembered. The plot seemed to jump along too quickly in some parts, there are a few small plot holes and the characterisation is wildly inconsistent….

But, this is missing the point of what “Army Of Darkness” is supposed to be about! It’s a movie that’s meant to be fun! It’s a cheesy old American horror comic brought to life and infused with the sarcasm of the 1990s. It’s Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court“! It’s part of a great tradition of medium-budget American comedy horror films from the 1980s and 90s.

It’s a film where zombies are chainsawed mercilessly, where skeletons explode, where medieval knights duke it out with the undead, where the main character is a cartoon character in human form etc… It’s a horror comedy classic.

As well as lots of hilarious skeletons and cheesy zombies, the best thing about this film is the dialogue. There are so many great lines in this film that I’ve heard quoted a million times before in “Duke Nukem 3D” and “Blood” and, well, it’s interesting to see where they all came from. But, even if you’ve never played these games, then you’ll probably find at least a few brilliantly quotable lines here.

Like with the ex-rental VHS I saw when I was a teenager, the “Director’s Cut” keeps the hilariously cynical and pessimistic original ending to the film. This was removed from the original US version of the film and replaced with something that is ten times more badass, but slightly less funny. Having seen both endings, I’m really not sure which one I prefer.

Although I couldn’t spot every difference between the director’s cut and the version I saw on video when I was a teenager, the director’s cut is apparently 15 minutes longer than the original theatrical version. From what I’ve read online, one scene that was originally cut in the theatrical version was a totally bloodless zombie decapitation in the “zombie pit” scene.

Apparently, they had to cut this because the MPAA would have given the film a NC-17 rating if it stayed in. To call this censorship “bizarre” would be an understatement, given that far more violent films were passed by US censors at the time. Then again, it may be an example of the MPAA’s apparent ultra-harsh treatment of any film not by the “big five” film studios. Even the UK censors gave this film a “15” certificate in 1993, back when they were ridiculously strict.

Amusingly, the film was originally planned to have a “PG-13” certificate in the states. Although this is perhaps prescient of today’s cynical trend for watered-down sequels/remakes, the only real difference between this movie and the previous “Evil Dead” films is the relative lack of blood and the extra humour. The visual style of a lot of the film is still wonderfully gothic in the way that only films from the 1990s seemed to be able to be.

As for the special effects, they’re surprisingly good for a medium-budget film from 1992/3. There are epic battles, lots of stop-motion animated skeletons, dramatic explosions, cartoonishly distorted body parts etc… Although some of the effects may look a little bit old-fashioned by modern standards, I imagine that they would have been ten times more epic back in the 1990s.

All in all, this film is a classic. Yes, some of the slapstick humour gets slightly repetitive and the characterisation is a bit random, but this isn’t meant to be a “serious” film. It’s a film about time travel and zombies in the middle ages. It’s from a time when Hollywood actually made films that were meant to be fun!

A time before identikit superhero movies, “updated” remakes, CGI tech demo movies, generic dialogue-light action movies and endless reboots.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.