For only the second time, an Evil Dead movie is opening without the franchise’s signature hero. Here’s why Ash Williams won’t be in Evil Dead Rise.
One of the novelties of the Evil Dead franchise is that it’s most closely associated with a hero rather than a villain. The horror genre was built for baddies, ranging from the likes of Freddie Kreuger and Jason Voorhees to more sympathetic “monsters” such as Carrie White and Frankenstein’s creation. Ash Williams, the chainsaw-handed Deadite slayer so memorably embodied by actor Bruce Campbell, is most assuredly a hero. The fact that he often backs into his heroics — and doesn’t seem to be good at anything besides slaying Deadites — plays a huge part in the franchise’s artful blend of horror and comedy. Evil Dead movies just wouldn’t be the same without him.
And yet, the franchise has not only stepped away from him in the past but managed to thrive in the process, as 2013’s soft reboot Evil Dead demonstrated. Evil Dead Rise looks to repeat the formula, and while Campbell has a hand in the movie, Ash is apparently retired for good. It’s a gamble, but it might turn out to be the right one.
Evil Dead Rise Is Missing Ash Williams but Still Has Bruce Campbell
Ash was the final survivor of the original Evil Dead back in 1981. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn took his gonzo energy to new heights as he revisited the haunted cabin of the original, only to lose his hand and get sent back in time. Campbell reprised the role in the third film, Army of Darkness, then starred in Ash vs. Evil Dead, which ran for three seasons on Starz. It ended in 2018 with Ash awakening in a post-apocalyptic future and setting out to slay more Deadites in a tricked-out version of his trusty Oldsmobile.
In a 2021 interview with Collider, Campbell announced that he’s officially retired from the role. His appearance in the Evil Dead remake was severely limited: simply a post-credits Easter egg of him looking at the camera and uttering his signature line, “Groovy!” The rest of the film never so much as mentions him, focusing on an entirely new group of characters who arrive at the cabin and discover the book. It features a new protagonist, and while the plot parallels that of the original, it diverges in several ways, making it more sequel than reboot. The strongest entails its heroine, who comes to the cabin with her friends in an effort to kick her drug addiction. It’s a far cry from the fun-loving college students from the earlier Evil Dead films.
Evil Dead Rises looks to vary the trick with a Los Angeles setting and an entirely new cast of characters. Campbell is slated to provide some minor vocal performances in the film, giving him a presence and providing a creative thread connecting it to the earlier movies. But Ash himself won’t be a part of it in any capacity. He remains where fans left him — driving off into the sunset of a distant future.
What Is Evil Dead Rise About?
Evil Dead Rise removes the cabin completely, using only the Deadites themselves and the dark tome that summons them. It follows Beth, a young woman who joins her estranged sister Ellie and Ellie’s three kids in their cramped home in Los Angeles. Their reunion is cut short when the dreaded Necronomicon is discovered in the basement of their apartment building, and soon enough, demonic souls begin possessing the bodies of mortals again.
In his interview, Campbell stated that there were Evil Dead stories to tell in a larger context, devoid of most of the franchise’s specifics until now. Evil Dead Rise is the first effort to really put that theory to the test. With Campbell co-producing the film, along with franchise gurus Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, the creative DNA remains intact. Ash, however, will no longer be a part of it. It remains to be seen if the franchise can thrive in his absence.
To see the franchise continue without Ash, Evil Dead Rise opens in theaters April 21.