This past weekend brought the very last time that Bruce Campbell will play famed Deadite-slayer Ash Williams. After Starz announced that Ash vs Evil Dead will cancel following Sunday’s finale fans began petitioning to save the show and shortly after Bruce Campbell announced that he’d be retiring from portraying the Ash character.
Ash first appeared in 1981’s cult classic horror film The Evil Dead as the sole survivor after awakening an ancient evil from the pages of the Necronomicon ex Mortis (the Book of the Dead). Using a shoestring budget the film launched the careers of Bruce Campbell and childhood friend Sam Rami. The film gained a cult favorite following VHS release and a sequel was made 6 years later.
Evil Dead 2 was made by a new studio and the first 30 minutes is essentially a soft reboot of the first movie. Trading scares for slapstick humor the movie became an inspiration to many future horror comedy movies.
In 1993 yet another movie studio (This time Universal) went big budget and made Army of Darkness which followed Ash’s adventures after he was teleported into the middle ages following the events of Evil Dead 2. The movie is still routinely played at cult screenings and quote-alongs.
We wouldn’t see Ash on screen again until 2013’s semi-reboot of The Evil Dead in a post-credits stinger. In the time that spanned between Army of Darkness, Campbell reprises Ash via voice-overs in video games and rumors would constantly surface of Ash taking on iconic horror monsters such as Freddy Kruger, Jason, Pinhead or that the series would be rebooted with another actor playing Ash. Ash as a character had taken a life of his own beyond Campbell’s portrayal. In comic books Ash would tangle with zombie versions of Marvel heroes such as Spider-man, Hulk and Captain America. He would also tangle with the aforementioned iconic boogiemen on the pages of a comic instead of a movie screen and we’d see further adventures of the character fighting evil. On stage a comedy musical took on Broadway complete with a splash zone of blood (highly recommend catching a production if one rolls near you). While we didn’t see Ash on-screen after his return from the middle ages to save the attractive store clerk at the end of Army of Darkness….or waking up in a post-apocalyptic future depending on the version of the movie you’ve seen, Ash the character was still around.
Finally Bruce Campbell would put the chainsaw on and load up the old boomstick in 2015 after a few rumors of an Army of Darkness 2 movie followed by a crossover featuring Ash and Mia from the soft-reboot. Like so many rumors that didn’t happen. Ash would come instead in Ash vs Evil Dead. In the Starz TV series we follow Ash in his later years once again having to fight off demons, Deadites and Evil Ash…a few times. Along for the ride is new sidekicks Pablo and Kelly. Over the course of 3 seasons we’ve had 15 hours of the further adventures of Ash.
While this could mark the end of Campbell as Ash, he seemed like he was hanging up the chainsaw just a year before the show was announced so it’s really anybody’s guess if we’ll see Campbell back in the role should Ash be called upon once again to fight evil. Much like Wolverine most likely coming back sooner than later with someone new in the role that Hugh Jackman made famous, we’ll probably see Ash again in some form. Studios are still pretty high on remaking things, so it wouldn’t be hard to imagine another Evil Dead series or movie sometime in the future.
With that said I’m excited to see what Bruce Campbell does next. Ash may be his most famous role but he’s been a ghoul-slaying geriatric Elvis, a former spy in Burn Notice and he’s matched wits with Spider-Man (which reportedly would have culminated in a portrayal of Mysterio). I think Bruce will do just fine. Any convention he attends gets buzz. Meeting him in 2014 at Denver Comic Con, not only did Bruce Campbell have the best panel, meeting him was amazing as our photo op he’d cozy up to my wife and strong arm me back. All for show of course (I think) but it was hilarious to me. In addition he’s a hell of a writer and has a few game shows lined up.
I’m going to miss Campbell’s Ash. My first exposure to Ash was when my late friend Todd had me watch Army of Darkness in his dorm in college. After that point I became an instant fan and immediately bought the other movies. In fact I invited a few friends not long after to watch the movie, that group included my future wife. We even had guests sign a movie poster at our wedding since it’s how we met. I didn’t really think we’d see Ash back on screen large or small. While it’s easy to be annoyed with Starz’s handling of the last season (February premiere instead of October was basically a kiss of death mixed with poor marketing, no early screenings or hype prizes as they did in prior seasons and ultimately citing live viewership instead of VOD views as a reason to cancel the show) one thing that fans should do is to throw a thanks their way in between the complaints. Without the show we may not have had more Ash adventures. 15 hours of Ash is more than we’d have seen with a single movie which years ago seemed so unlikely. With the show, we had some low-lights (Ash vs Evil Ash x3, Aussie/Kiwi actors slipping out of the American accents) and highlights (first Raimi directed episode, gross-over the top Morgue episode, Ashy-Slashy…puppet and store, Cabin return and Ash’s father Brock) and of course Kelly and Pablo made for a great new dynamic.
Ash vs Evil Dead could have gone in an exciting new direction next year to wrap things up with Ash waking up in a post-apocalyptic future with a sexy android sidekick to fight evil in the wasteland. At the same time it’s a great ending with Ash kicking evil’s ass in the past, present and future. Much like the Ghost-beaters Kelly, Pablo and now Brandy we’re going to have to make do without the Groovy one! (not counting the 2 Ash Figures I have on my desk)
(Absentee note: If you semi-follow this blog of Pop Culture you may have noticed it’s been a while…more like 5 months since the last update. Sorry. I’ve been a bit busy. My wife and I welcomed my son Desmond in March (yes…after the Scotsman in LOST), so updates have taken a back seat. More to come more frequently.)