TV & Movies

Evil Dead Is Growing Up Into A Mainstream Horror Franchise (At The Cost Of Everything That Made It Great)

“Evil Dead” was founded on the principle of pushing the envelope. The first film is a tour de force of independent filmmaking that turned the possession genre on its head, laying the foundations for all subsequent efforts. It sees Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his friends get tormented in a woodland cabin after accidentally summoning demons. Cue a darkly-humored nightmare involving monsters, pencil stabbings, and diabolical trees that Stephen King described as “ferociously original horror.”

The first “Evil Dead” isn’t short on laughs, but “Evil Dead II” is an absolute hoot. A soft reboot, the sequel follows the same basic premise but adds more “Three Stooges”-style slapstick humor to the violent set pieces as Ash finds himself tormented by ornamental deer heads, forks, and other household appliances. It’s an entirely different movie, and it showed that Raimi and co. were keen to expand both the mythology and the creative direction of the franchise.

This became more evident in “Army of Darkness,” a complete left field turn that sent Ash back in time to the Middle Ages to face skeleton armies and miniature versions of himself. The movie was inspired by “Jason and the Argonauts,” Arthurian literature, and old-school pulps such as “Conan the Barbarian,” and it opened the door to a whole world of possibilities. Basically, “Army of Darkness” showed that there were no limits regarding what an “Evil Dead” movie could be.

“Ash vs. Evil Dead,” meanwhile, made the jump to television and dug deeper into the Deadite lore. The show is a tribute to everything that came before and as a conclusion to Ash’s story on the screen, it’s satisfying and surprisingly heartfelt. However, the post-“Army of Darkness” franchise was originally going to push the boundaries of weirdness even further.

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