Horror’s Icons: Ashley J. “Ash” Williams
AN UNLIKELY HERO
So far on Horror’s Icons, we have only looked at the villains of the horror world. And why not? The villains are usually the stars of their respective franchises. The villains make the movies. As a matter of fact, the heroes are usually people that can be easily replaceable. More often than not, the survivors or heroes are not that easily remembered. Of course there are a few exceptions. Nancy Thompson from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Laurie Strode from Halloween are two exceptions. But perhaps the most unlikely and yet most recognizable hero in horror comes from the Evil Dead series. And his name is Ash (Bruce Campbell).
The Evil Dead is a low-budget horror movie that was released in 1981 and directed by Sam Raimi, the man who would later go on to direct the mega-blockbuster Spider-man franchise. The Evil Dead focuses on five Michigan State students as they go to a cabin in Tennessee for their spring break. Cheryl, Scotty, Shelly, Linda, and Ash are looking forward to a relaxing break but what happens throws any chance of relaxation out of the window.
Their nice little break goes terribly wrong when they come across the Naturon Demonto, otherwise known as The Book of the Dead. When they find the book, which is bound in human flesh, they also play a tape that recites some of the book’s incantations and release its demons. Soon after, Cheryl goes outside and the demons attack her as she is raped by tree branches. And as crazy as that sounds, it is only the beginning.
The rest of the group do not believe Cheryl and try to take her for help but the only bridge that would allow them to leave has been destroyed. Having to go back to the cabin, Cheryl is completely taken over by the demons and informs everyone of her possession. She attacks Linda but is soon locked in the cabin’s cellar. But that doesn’t matter. Soon Shelly is possessed. Then Linda. And eventually Scotty also.
This leaves Ash by himself to try to survive. Armed with a chainsaw and a shotgun, Ash fights off his possessed friends while trying to find a way to end this nightmare. While fighting with Scotty, Ash notices The Book of the Dead near the fireplace. But so do Cheryl and Scotty. But Ash manages to make his way to the book and tosses it in the fireplace. This releases the demons from their bodies, which fall and immediately start to decay.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn was released in 1987 and is a sequel/redo of the original film. While there are some differences, this film bares many similarities to the original. After recapping the events from the previous film, Ash and his girlfriend Linda arrive at a cabin in the woods. There they find the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or, of course, The Book of the Dead. After playing an accompanying recording, the demons are once again unleashed.
Linda is soon possessed and Ash must kill her. But after this, Ash himself becomes possessed. But when daylight comes, he is freed from the demon and tries to escape, only to find the bridge leaving the cabin is destroyed. Then, to make matters worse, his right hand becomes possessed and he has to sever it.
Ash is soon found by others and they find that Ash is being driven insane by his battle with the demons. Then, the demons begin to attack the others and take over their bodies. With everyone becoming possessed, Ash modifies a chainsaw and attaches it where his right hand once was. The demons are eventually driven out by another incantation that opens a portal to suck them through. But, the demons are not the only ones to go through the portal.
The movie finishes up with Ash and his treasured Oldsmobile landing in ancient times. This sets up the plot for the third film in the trilogy, 1992’s Army of Darkness.
THIS…IS MY BOOMSTICK!
In Army of Darkness, Ash is sent back to the year 1300 A.D. There, he is captured by Lord Arthur’s men as they think he is one of Duke Henry’s men, whom Arthur is at war with. The people confiscate Ash’s shotgun and chainsaw and toss him in a well where a Deadite dwells. He fights off the Deadite and regains his weapons in time to kill the Deadite in front of everyone. After this, the people hail him as a hero and a local woman begins to fall for Ash.
The Wise Man in the village informs Ash that the only way he can return home is to find The Book of the Dead and recite one of the incantations exactly as it is written. Ash then sets off to find the book and while gone is attacked by unseen demons. After dealing with the demons, Ash finally finds the book, but notices that there are three books. He finally figures out which book is the right one and begins to say the incantation, Klaatu verata nicto. However, Ash forgets the last word and tries to mumble out the word, hoping that will work. Then he picks up the book and heads back to the village, unaware that he just unleashed the army of the dead.
When he returns, Ash is asked if he said the incantation correctly and admits he didn’t. They inform him that he just unleashed the army of the dead and now there village will be attacked. Meanwhile, the evil version of himself that attacked him earlier rises from his grave and marches his army toward King Arthur’s village. Ash leads both King Arthur and Duke Henry’s men against the Deadites and saves the village from disaster. In the process he has also brought peace between the two former enemies and saved the girl that had fallen for Ash.
After saving the village, the Wise Man makes a potion that will transport Ash back to his time and Ash gets ready to go home. Soon after, Ash arrives back at S-Mart, the store where he works. He is telling a co-worker about his experiences back in time and how he could have been king if he wanted. Then, a female costumer becomes possessed by a demon and Ash pulls out his trusty shotgun and kills her.
GIMME SOME SUGAR, BABY
Ash is one of the best known horror icons world over. While the Evil Dead trilogy may not have been huge successes at the box office, the films gained a huge cult following on home video and are held in high regards by fans even to this day. And while the original film trilogy ended in 1992, the chances of seeing Ash once again are not over.
Earlier this year, Evil Dead, a reboot of the franchise was released and was a success, even without the Ash character. But the studio responsible for the reboot have hopes for at least 3 more films. First, there would be a sequel to this film, directed by Fede Alvarez, the director of the reboot and featuring lone survivor Mia. Then, Raimi would like to make Army of Darkness 2, which would bring back the Ash character. Then, finally, a seventh film could be made that Alvarez and Campbell have said could merge the stories of Mia and Ash. We the fans could only hope.
HAIL TO THE KING, BABY
Bruce Campbell is the actor that made Ash an icon. The role of Ash was the first big role for a young Bruce Campbell and it is the one that he will always be remembered for. As noted, he continued to play Ash for the three films in the franchise and afterwards was cast in many other low-budget horror films. His filmography includes Congo, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, Escape from L.A., Spider-man, Bubba Ho-tep, and My Name is Bruce. Most recently he has had a recurring role in the television series Burn Notice, a role that he has maintained since 2007. And even though the Ash character was not in the reboot of Evil Dead, the is a post-credits scene in which Campbell is seen, looking at the screen and giving his infamous “Groovy” line.
Well, this was a nice change of pace here with this week’s Horror’s Icons. After looking at so many villains, it was good to look at a hero. And not just any hero. Ash Williams, the man that gave the world so many great one-liners and catchphrases. Ash is the true definition of a hero and I just wish there were more like him in the horror genre. But, then again, there can never be another Ash. Just like there can only ever be one true psycho. That’s right, next week I will look at Hollywood’s only true psycho, Norman Bates. The man who took his mother’s love too far and taught us that we can all go a little mad sometimes. See you next week.