Replacing horror with uninhibited monster movie jokiness, Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness picks up where Evil Dead II left off, with chainsaw-handed hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) transported via an unholy portal to 1300 A.D., where he’s forced to find the Necronomican (i.e. the Book of the Dead) to return home, all while fighting an army of the undead. Directed and co-written by Raimi, this period saga turns Ash into an out-and-out wisecracking badass with unparalleled fighting skills, unassailable confidence, and a habit of punctuating each macho quip with an Elvis-style “baby.” Campbell is great, as is Raimi’s cinematography, which zooms, twists and somersaults during first-person POV shots of stabbing spears and flying fiery cannonballs. There’s energy to spare, and at times it’s put to good use, as during a rollicking sequence in which Ash is beset by impish miniature versions of himself à la Gulliver’s Travels. Too bad, then, that Army of Darkness’ story is so perfunctory and lame that there’s nothing to tether its bits and pieces of loopy madness. After floundering around during its first half with barely related scenes of Ash acting comically confident and buffoonishly sparring off against horrific adversaries, the film spends its latter portion staging a prolonged battle between militias of men and skeletons that’s short on inspiration and urgency, and thus serves only to highlight Raimi’s clever (for the early ‘90s, at least) melding of live-action and stop-motion effects. By opting for gonzo mania over any element of unnerving otherworldly terror, the film proves just a throwaway goof, and ultimately one with an inflated sense of its own funniness.