Ash went through five grueling rounds in the first year of the Movie Pop Culture Showdown, defeating Korben Dallas, Colonel Hans Landa, Kikuchiyo, Harry Callahan, and, finally, Indiana Jones, earning himself the top spot in the First Annual Movie Pop Culture Showdown!
Ashley J. “Ash” Williams is the fictional protagonist of The Evil Dead franchise. He is portrayed by Bruce Campbell and created by director Sam Raimi. 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 by Empire Magazine.
Ashley J. Williams first appears as the main character in The Evil Dead and he remains the primary protagonist in the film’s sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.As well as appearances in the films, Ash has been featured in various comic book series and video games.
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 “ash-hole”, indicating Raimi’s opinion of the character. 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.
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 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 andEvil 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 inventing skills 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”.
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 cowardly 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. Sam 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 with fighting off monsters. The character gradually became more of an anti-hero 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 “Evil 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.