Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), after the horrors of the Evil Dead movies, is transported to the Middle Ages with nothing but his shotgun and chainsaw and is captured by Lord Arthur’s (Marcus Gilbert) soldiers, who believe he is an agent for the enemy, Duke Henry (Richard Gold). His weapons are confiscated, and he is taken to a castle and thrown into a pit with a Deadite monster. He kills it and is celebrated as a hero. He gets his weapons back, demands that Henry and his men be set free, and falls for Sheila (Embeth Davidtz).
The Wise Man (Ian Abercrombie) tells him that the only way he can return to his own time is through the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, so he searches it out. In a haunted forest, a force chases him into a windmill, and he crashes into a mirror. Small reflections of Ash appear on the shattered pieces of glass and come alive, attacking him. One becomes a life-size clone, whom he kills and buries.
At the Necronomicon, he finds three books instead of one, and has forgotten the last word of the charm—Klaatu Verada Nikto—so he mumbles, grabs a book and flees. But the dead and his evil clone are resurrected, turning into the Army of Darkness. Ash demands to be returned to his own time, but Sheila is abducted by a flying Deadite and transformed. He is determined to lead the reluctant Medieval soldiers to victory over the Army of Darkness. His 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 has fell out of the sky with him, and inside he finds knowledge that will help.
He is successful, saves Sheila, and brings peace between the warring human factions. Using a passage from the Necronomicon, the Wise Man sends him back to the present. He is telling his story to an employee of the S-Mart where he works, when the people are attacked by a Deadite who came through Time behind him because he screwed up the magic words. He kills it with a Winchester from the Sporting Goods Department. In the original ending, Ash is transported to a post-apocalyptic future, but that was considered too depressing in a movie that was filled with bonkers humor.
There had been plans for a while to make a third film in the Evil Dead series. Dino De Laurentiis was willing to finance it and Sam Raimi (of Spiderman fame) wrote this, which was completely different from the other two and has become a cult favorite. Ideas came from Gulliver’s Travels, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, the Three Stooges, and Conan the Barbarian. Traci Lords tried out for the film but was not hired. I’m not sure why. Everyone knows her career was not based on acting skill. Bridget Fonda, however, had a cameo, playing Linda, and Patricia Tallman (Lyta on Babylon Five) was in it too. The poster had a definite Frank Frazetta vibe. Danny Elfman wrote The March of the Dead. The film won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film.
In order to make the chainsaw seem to be running continuously, tobacco smoke was pumped through a tube, up Campbell’s right pant-leg, through his shirt, into the chainsaw. An issue of Fangoria is in the car’s trunk. The car belonged to Sam Raimi. Filming the car falling out of the sky, the crane toppled over into a quarry. Embeth Davidtz was fed up with the difficult fight scenes, but later came to enjoy the positive comments from fans. The magic words are slightly different from the phrase in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Danny Elfman later married Bridget Fonda. Ash flip-cocked the Winchester, a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. The S-Mart is a chain of Mexican grocery stores. In Japan, the movie was called Captain Supermarket.
The movie led to a series of Army of Darkness comics by Dark Horse, and later by Dynamite Entertainment. The stories follow Ash through crossover adventures with Marvel Zombies, Darkman, Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Dracula, H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator, Zena the Warrior Princess, and others.