|Evil Dead character|
Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
|First appearance||The Evil Dead|
|Created by||Sam Raimi|
|Portrayed by||Bruce Campbell|
|Voiced by||Bruce Campbell
Danny Webber (Poker Night 2)
|Occupation||Houseware clerk at S-Mart (Value Stop in the STARZ series)
|Family||Cheryl Williams (sister)
Brock Williams (father)
|Significant other(s)||Linda (The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2)
Shelia (Army of Darkness and comics series)
Jenny (video game)
Ashley James "Ash" Williams is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Evil Dead franchise. Created by Sam Raimi, he is portrayed by Bruce Campbell and is the only character to appear in each entry of the series, including an after-credits scene appearance for the remake-continuation film. Throughout the series, Ash has to face off against his loved ones inside an abandoned cabin as they are possessed by "deadites", the evil souls of the dead. He was named the 24th Greatest Movie Character of All Time and voted the Number 1 Greatest Horror Movie Character by Empire Magazine.
As well as appearances in the films, Ash has been featured in various comic book series and video games.
In The Evil Dead, Ash and his girlfriend Linda, sister Cheryl, and friends Scotty and Shelly stay at a log cabin in the woods, where they find the "Naturon Demonto" (renamed or possibly translated to Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the sequels), the "Book of the Dead", along with a tape recorder. The tape is a recording made by the cabin's owner Professor Knowby, who was translating a passage of the book. By playing the tape, the group unknowingly awaken the evil spirits which can possess the living. They are possessed and killed one by one, until only Ash remains. He finally destroys the Necronomicon by throwing it in the fireplace, and in doing so causes the possessed bodies of Scotty and Cheryl to rapidly decay and "die". However, the film ends with Ash being attacked or possibly overtaken by an evil spirit.
Evil Dead II continues the story from the previous film, after a quick recap (slightly confusing to some) where within a few minutes we see Ash & Linda go to the same cabin. Ash finds a reel to reel player and plays the tape. He releases the evil spirits and Linda gets possessed. Ash decapitates her with a shovel and buries her. Then the evil chases Ash through the cabin and attacks Ash (just like the end of the first film). From this point, the film continues the story from where the first film left off. Carried a good distance by the demon, Ash is slammed hard against a tree and falls in a puddle of water; he becomes a deadite, but shortly afterwards is released from the spirit by the light of dawn, only to pass out. Ash regains consciousness moments before sunset. Deciding to get out of there as fast as he can, he climbs into his car and drives to where the bridge was, only to find it completely destroyed by the evil force. As the sun quickly sets, said force starts climbing up the cliff, and Ash hops into his car, driving away as fast as he can and as a result, crashing right into a tree stump that sends him flying through the windshield.
With the evil close behind him, he runs into (and through) the cabin, trying to hide, and ducks into the trapdoor leading to the fruit cellar, waiting until the evil force leaves. After it does, Ash comes out, only to find himself stuck at the cabin with the spirits of the Evil Dead for yet another night. Shortly after, the evil toy with his mind and his reflection in the mirror comes to life. After this, a deadite possesses Ash's right hand, resulting in him having to cut it off at the wrist with his chainsaw. Later, the cabin owner's daughter, Annie Knowby and three others arrive to discover what became of Professor Knowby. They arrive at the cabin and initially believe that Ash killed Knowby which results in them locking him in the fruit cellar. However after finding Knowby's research they soon realize that demons are behind the events that transpired. Eventually Ash works with them to survive the demons attempts to kill them. However soon the others are killed off, leaving only Ash and Annie.
It's at this point in the film that Ash becomes a slightly braver character and begins fighting the deadites rather then cowering from them. Ash also gets his famous chainsaw in place of his right hand, with the 'boomstick' to match. Annie reads from the Necronomicon and opens a vortex to dispel the demonic spirits, which causes the evil to manifest itself. However Annie is killed by Ash's possessed hand and is unable to read the last passage to close the vortex. The film ends with Ash being sucked into the vortex and traveling back in time to 1300 AD, where the locals claim, according to their prophecies, that he is "The Man That Falls from the Sky" who will save them from the 'Deadites'.
Army of Darkness picks up right where Evil Dead 2 left off, with Ash landing in a medieval kingdom. Ash is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home. Ash must also defeat his alter-ego known as "Bad Ash", who is leading the Army of Darkness to steal the Necronomicon. Ash constructs a mechanical prosthetic hand out of a gauntlet from a suit of armor, using it throughout the film in place of the chainsaw when it is not needed. The film is split into two endings. The first and intentional ending resulted in Ash defeating the Army of Darkness and being given the potion to sleep until his time. However, distracted by a sudden movement in the rocks, Ash drinks too much and awakens in post-apocalyptic London. The film then cuts straight to black and his insane laughter is heard. The second ending, and one more familiar with US and Australian audiences, consists of Ash simply riding off into the distance and returning to the present. Here, he boasts of his victory to his coworkers, but is suddenly interrupted by the possession of a female customer. After killing it, Ash is hailed a hero and he kisses a newfound love interest.
Ash made a cameo appearance in the post-credits for the 2013 remake Evil Dead, in which he says his iconic line "Groovy", then looks at the camera. Campbell reprises his role in Ash vs Evil Dead, the television sequel to Army of Darkness.
In 2015, an older Ash appears as the main character in Ash vs. Evil Dead, a horror comedy series for Starz. The show continues Ash's story long after the film trilogy. Three days before the series' premiere, Starz renewed it for a second season.
In the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead, it is revealed Ash has been living within a trailer park alone for the last thirty years while working at a local department store. The character is forcibly sprung into action once more upon accidentally releasing the deadites. He is now accompanied by Pablo Bolivar and Kelly Maxwell, two young coworkers who cross paths with him after the evil is unleashed. While the trio search for a way to stop the evil, Ash is being hunted by Amanda Fisher, a Michigan state trooper who blames Ash for the death of her partner. She later teams up with Ruby Knowby who blames him for the death of her family thirty years ago. Ash eventually discovers that the key to dispelling the evil is to return the book to the cabin and bury it within its grounds. Along the way to the cabin, Ash confronts Amanda who after a brief struggle realizes that Ash is trying to stop the deadites rather than unleash them.
Eventually Ash, Pablo, Kelly and Amanda reach the cabin to undo the evil. However Ash's decomposed severed right hand creates a duplicate that interferes with their efforts and kills Amanda who then resurrects as a deadite. After defeating the duplicate Ash then meets Ruby Knowby who claims that using the kandarian dagger to tear the books cover will destroy the necronomicon and stop the evil from destroying humanity. After Ruby defaces the book she then reveals herself to be the author of necronomicon. Ruby then uses Pablo's body as a conduit to release the demons from the book within the cabins fruit cellar. Ash kills the deadite Amanda and defeats Ruby's released demons but is unable to save Pablo from being a gateway for the demons to enter the mortal world.
Ash gets the upper hand on Ruby by using the kandarian dagger to wound her. But before he finishes her off, Ruby notes that Ash can't save Pablo or Kelly and offers a compromise. If he allows her to release the demons as well as lord over them, then she will not only save Pablo and Kelly but also fulfill his dream of living a normal life with his friends in Jacksonville, Florida. Ash accepts, much to the dismay of Pablo and Kelly. They drive off from the cabin while Ash delights in the idea of finally living a normal quiet life. However a radio broadcast reveals sinkholes are erupting across the country, suggesting that Ash's envisioned normal life will be short lived.
In the 2000s, Bruce Campbell voiced Ash in a trilogy of video games. The first was Hail to the King released in 2000 on PlayStation/Dreamcast/Windows. This game continues after Army of Darkness. Ash is dating Jenny, a fellow S-Mart employee, his continual nightmares of what he's lived through convinces her to get him to come back to the cabin to face his fears, but his severed hand (from Evil Dead 2) replays the tape and sets the evil loose again. The second game was A Fistful of Boomstick released in 2003 on Xbox/PlayStation 2. In this game Ash mentions Jenny died in a bus accident previous to this game. Ash watches TV in a bar in Dearborn, Michigan, where a local TV show, "Mysteries of the Occult," reads the passages from the Necronomicon setting the evil loose and possessing most of the town. Ash has to find his weapons, fight the deadites and find a way to stop the evil. Over the game you play through several time periods including colonial times and civil war times. The third and final game was Evil Dead: Regeneration, released in 2005 on Xbox/PlayStation 2/Windows. This game plays through an alternate history; instead of being sucked into the vortex at the end of Evil Dead II, Ash has been placed in a mental institution for the criminally insane (as a result of the events of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II). His doctor has gone mad and obtained the Necronomicon and releases the deadites once again. There is also an Army of darkness tower defenses game on the app store.
Ash Williams also makes an appearance as a player in the side-scroller action game Broforce, as well as Telltale Games' "Poker Night 2" where the player participates at a poker tournament, along with characters from several other franchises, namely GLaDOS from Portal, Sam from Sam & Max, Claptrap from Borderlands, and Brock Samson from The Venture Bros.. 
In 1992, Dark Horse Comics released a three-issue miniseries written by Raimi himself. Accompanying it is Evil Dead (2008), a comic retelling the story of the events of the original film. In this version of the tale, Cheryl is not Ash's sister, but just a friend of his girlfriend Linda, and the book is called "Nacheron De'manto". The professor and his wife are depicted as younger adults rather than the middle-aged version seen in the film. The only character in the book that looks like their film counterpart is Ash; every other character has been completely redesigned for this "expansion".
Dynamite Entertainment has made their own line of comics featuring the character. Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes (2004) a four-issue miniseries that picks up directly after the film's ending, taking place on the very day Ash and his friends travel to the cabin, and leads into Army of Darkness: Shop Till You Drop (Dead) (2005) a four-issue miniseries. Another mini-series, Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator (2005), featuring Ash confined to a mental institution and forced to go up against Doctor Herbert West and his zombie minions, came out in 2005. In 2006, Dynamite started releasing an ongoing series, showing the events after the Re-Animator crossover. The ongoing series ended in 2012.
Ash appeared in Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness (2007) which takes place in the Marvel Zombies universe. The series serves to fill in certain gaps left in the Marvel Zombies storyline that even Dead Days didn't flesh out fully. The crossover lasts several issues, with Ash finally returning to his own world (and own comic) with Army of Darkness: From the Ashes (2007). Dynamite has created several crossovers and side stories of their own. Tales of the Army of Darkness (2006) is a one shot comic featuring several stories about Ash and the Necronomicon. Darkman vs. Army of Darkness (2006), a four-issue miniseries features Ash teaming up with Darkman to stop the Deadites. Ash then starred in Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash (2007), a six-issue miniseries from Wildstorm and Dynamite Entertainment where Ash must face off against the horror icons, and then Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors (2009), in which Ash joins forces with a support group for people who have both faced and survived Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, consisting of previously established characters from their respective franchises, to defeat the two for good. Ash appeared in a crossover comic series with "Danger Girl" Abbey Chase, with the first issue released in April 2011. In 2013, the main series ended with a final crossover with the "Re-Animator" in a one-shot comic, and a 7-issue crossover with Hack/Slash during late 2013 to late 2014. At Comic-Con 2013, Dynamite announced a reboot of the title called "Ash and the Army of Darkness", which was released in Nov. 2013. Like Dynamite's Ashes 2 Ashes story from 2004, it picks up after the final frame of Army of Darkness.
Concept and creation
According to Sam Raimi, Ash's name is a reference to his originally intended fate at the end of Evil Dead, stating "that's all that was going to be left of him in the end." Campbell, however, suggested the name was short for "Ashley". When creating Army of Darkness, Raimi toyed with giving him the full name "Ashley J. Williams", which was later used by video games and comics involving the character. Campbell later confirmed in Cinefantastique that the full name was official. The character is also referred to as "Ashley" by his sister Cheryl in the original Evil Dead. Ash is again called "Ashley" by numerous deadites in the new Ash Vs. Evil Dead show. In the Army of Darkness comics, it is revealed that the "J" in Ashley J. Williams stands for James, and that it comes from his grandfather James Williams, who was a fictitious member of The Untouchables led by Eliot Ness in 1929 Chicago.
Bruce Campbell has stated Ash is incompetent at everything except fighting the Evil Dead. Campbell also added that Ash is "a bad slow thinker and a good fast thinker". He knows some degree of hand-to-hand combat techniques, and shows prowess with a variety of weapons in various situations. His main strength seems to be his ingenuity: although he is repeatedly noted in the audio commentaries for The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II for his stupidity and ignorance, he has from the second film on been shown creating such things ranging from his chainsaw bracket and shotgun harness, gunpowder from mainly referencing its elemental makeup in a chemistry book, a fully functional prosthetic hand from a metal gauntlet, and the short-lived "Deathcoaster".
His invention and ingenuity are further expanded on in the games: in Evil Dead: Regeneration, he creates fully functional weapons such as a flamethrower and a harpoon gun from spare parts that are merely laying about; and in Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, the inventiveness seems to run in Ash's family, as his blacksmith ancestor in the Colonial Dearborn level is quickly able to make a flamethrower and a Gatling gun from spare parts Ash finds for him, when Ash says those things "haven't even been invented yet". In the 1992 comic adaptation of Army of Darkness written by Sam and Ivan Raimi, Ash says that he has a degree in engineering from Michigan State University.
Ash's personality and state of mind change drastically throughout the franchise. In The Evil Dead and the beginning of Evil Dead II, he is something of a laid-back everyman, but by the middle of Evil Dead II and into Army of Darkness, he has grown into a much braver person, and becomes the voice of encouragement and confidence in Arthur's castle. It is at this point that Ash becomes known for his one-liners, and his personality takes on a more cynical, embittered tone. Raimi has said that he feels Ash's personality transformation in Darkness was very out of character.
In The Evil Dead, Ash is portrayed as being cowardly and incapable of dealing with the horrors presented to him. Over the course of the film, Ash gradually overcomes his fears and manages to fight off his possessed friends. Also, he is shown to take his predicament very seriously in the first film, rather than in a comedic manner, as in the subsequent films. Evil Dead II portrays Ash as a braver character. Campbell commented that in the film Ash is more than capable at fighting off monsters. The character gradually became more of an antihero within Evil Dead II and its sequel, Army of Darkness. Ash's most defining characteristic is the chainsaw attached to Ash's right nub, placed after cutting off his possessed hand in Evil Dead II.
Ash's dark side manifests itself as a separate entity, referred to as "Bad Ash". This persona first appears in Evil Dead II, where Ash experiences a hallucination wherein his reflection torments him over dismembering "their" girlfriend (Linda) with a chainsaw, and proceeds to try to choke him, only for Ash to realize he is choking himself. This side of him later splits off his body in Army of Darkness after a battle with "Tiny Ashes", becoming "Bad" Ash. Ash seemingly kills his doppelganger and buries him, but Bad Ash is revived after Ash incorrectly recites the Necronomicon incantations. Bad Ash later leads the Army to King Arthur's castle to retrieve the Necronomicon, even corrupting Ash's then-love interest Sheila. He battles "Good Ash" for the Necronomicon, gets burnt with a torch, and continues fighting as a Skeleton. As Henry the Red's troops arrive to assist in the battle against the undead and break their ranks, Ash coincidentally cuts off his alter ego's right hand and catapults him into the sky on a lit sack of gunpowder, which explodes and destroys Bad Ash.
A new version of Bad Ash appears in the television series Ash vs. Evil Dead, where Ash's dismembered hand (from Evil Dead 2) spawns a new copy. While essentially exactly the same character, it's uncertain if this version of Bad Ash retains the others' memories.
In popular culture
A pre-order bonus for the video game Lollipop Chainsaw, a game that revolves around zombie slaying, was an Ash Williams skin for the game's protagonist, Juliet Starling.
A 1997 video game called Blood was heavily based on the Evil Dead movies and the protagonist uses many of Ash's one-liners throughout the game.
The character was parodied in an episode of the Canadian CGI series ReBoot, in which a game based on the Evil Dead series (parodically titled Malicious Corpses) was being played. The hero of the game, and thus the antagonist to the show's main characters, was an Ash look-alike whose only line was parodied in several episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy as "Hoss Delgado", voiced by Diedrich Bader.
Many rock songs mention Ash or are directly about The Evil Dead series in general, some of these songs include:
- "Junesong Provision" by Coheed and Cambria (Rock Band) features samples of Ash's dialogue from Army of Darkness.
- "Evil Dead" by Death (Death Metal Band) is all about Ash's experiences in the first film.
- "Chainsaw For A Hand" by Covered In Spiders (Horror Rock Band), is about the Evil Dead films from Ash's point of view.
- "Evil Dead" by Zeke (Punk Rock Band) is about Ash in the film The Evil Dead.
- "Who's Laughing Now" by Skinny Puppy (Industrial Band) has samples of Ash's dialogue from Evil Dead 2.
- "Boomstick" by KIWA (Electronic Artist) features samples of Ash's dialogue from Army of Darkness.
- "I Want To Be Bruce Campbell" by The Lemmings (Punk Rock Band) focuses on Ash's one-liners with "Klaatu Verata Nikto" repeated as the chorus.
- "Bruce Campbell" was released by the "humorcore" band Psychostick on their album "IV: Revenge of the Vengeance" along with a music video.
- There is a grindcore band called Bruce X Campbell.
Ash ranked eleventh on UGO.com's Top 100 Heroes of All Time list, describing him as "An egomaniacal, complaining, misogynistic goon", but also the best "demon and zombie killer ever to be portrayed on the silver screen". They additionally praised the character for his humility at the conclusion of Army of Darkness, in returning to his own time. Empire ranked him the 24th Greatest Movie Character on their list of 100, calling him a "truly iconic horror hero", and a "delirious, delicious, dimwitted" parody of action heroes. He was also ranked number 77 on Fandomania's list of the 100 Greatest Fictional Characters, and number one on WatchMojo.com's Top 10 Horror Movie Heroes.
The Evil Dead films and the character of Ash influenced many 1990s first-person shooters such as Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and Blood. Duke Nukem quotes so many lines from Ash that Bruce Campbell stated that he was angered by not being paid for them.
Another notable video game character influenced by Ash is Alisa Bosconovitch. In an interview, Tekken project director and chief producer Katsuhiro Harada said, "Alisa's quite popular overseas as well. Personally, I didn't think we would get much of a following. We usually do research for new characters, but Alisa was something we created based on internal staff feedback. We really wanted a character with chainsaws on her arms." Scriptwriter Dai Satō then asked, "Influenced by Ash by any chance?" Harada replied, "Exactly. (laugh) I'm a huge fan of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead. I just didn't think Alisa would catch on, considering her vast differences from the other characters."
- Sam Raimi (director) (1981). The Evil Dead (Film). New Line Cinema.
- Sam Raimi (director) (1987). Evil Dead II (Film). De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Renaissance Pictures.
- Sam Raimi (director) (1992). Army of Darkness (Film). Universal Pictures.
- "Ash vs Evil Dead". IMDB. 1 March 2016.
- "Telltale Games - Poker Night 2".
- "Dark Horse Solicitations for January, 2008". Comic Book Resources. October 5, 2007.
- "Danger Girl And The Army Of Darkness Comic". Deadites Online. January 12, 2011.
- Warren, Bill (2001). The Evil Dead Companion. Macmillan. (2001). ISBN 0-312-27501-3. p. 181
- Clarke, Frederick S. (1991). Cinefantastique 22-23: p. 29
- Audio commentary for Evil Dead II, Bruce Campbell: "As dumb as Ash is, he's actually a capable guy with dealing with monsters"
- In Army of Darkness, Ash trains the people of King Arthur's kingdom in martial arts
- Sam Raimi's comments on the DVD audio commentary for the Army of Darkness Director's Cut.
- Burkart, Gregory. "Get a Taste of Eric Millikin's Totally Sweet Candy Monster Mosaics". FEARnet. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- Millikin, Eric. "Eric Millikin's totally sweet Halloween candy monster portraits". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- "The Lemmings Band - Zen Baseball Punk Rock Music".
- "Top 100 Heroes of All Time". UGO.com. UGO Networks. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
- "The 100 Greatest Fictional Characters". Fandomania.com. Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
- "Top 10 Horror Movie Heroes". YouTube. WatchMojo.com. August 10, 2013.
- One on One with Bruce Campbell verbosity.wiw.org
- November 5, 1999 IGN For Men Interview: Bruce Campbell
- As quoted in The Art of Tekken Hybrid (Namco Bandai Games Inc., 2011), 26.
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