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Ash Williams

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Evil Dead character
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Ash
First appearance The Evil Dead
Created by Sam Raimi
Portrayed by Bruce Campbell
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Housewares clerk at S-Mart
Family Cheryl Williams (sister, deceased)
Significant other(s) Linda (deceased)

Ashley J. "Ash" Williams is the protagonist in the Evil Dead horror film franchise, played 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.

Conception and history

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.

Fictional biography

Ashley J. Williams (or "Ash" as he prefers) is employed at the housewares section of the superstore S-Mart, and has a girlfriend, Linda. Based on the engineering textbooks in the trunk of his car, it appears that he is studying at Michigan State University. Also, in the first Army Of Darkness comic book released by Dark Horse Comics, Ash says his father spent $20,000 on his engineering degree, showing that either he completed his schooling and had done nothing with his education, or dropped out.

The Necronomicon Ex-mortis

Legend has it that it was written by the Dark ones. Necronomicon Ex-Mortis roughly translates to the book of the dead. The book served as a passage to the evil worlds beyond. It was written long ago with ink from the seas which ran red with blood. In the year 1300AD the book disappeared.

It all started, when Professor Raymond Knowby unearthed the book and started to translate it. The horrors he awoke were evil beyond imagining and totally uncontrollable.

The Evil Dead

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 "Naturan Demanto" (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 of the owner of the cabin, who was translating a passage of the book. By playing the tape, Ash and his friends awake the evil spirits who can now possess the living. Ash's friends and sister are consequently possessed and killed one by one, until he's the last survivor. 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", and the evil seems to be driven back. However, the film ends with Ash being attacked or possibly overtaken by an evil spirit himself during his trip back to the cabin.

Dead by Dawn

Evil Dead II continues the story from the previous film, after a stunted recap in which the audience is introduced to Ash's girlfriend Linda (who still subsequently gets possessed, decapitated and buried) and Ash himself, to the point where the evil spirit attacks Ash. 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 (see "Bad Ash"/"Evil Ash", below) but shortly afterwards is released from the spirit by the coming 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, 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, Ash hallucinates that his reflection in the mirror comes to life, showing an early "Bad Ash"/"Evil Ash". 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 and three more people arrive. It's near the end of this film that Ash gets his famous chainsaw in place of his right hand, with the 'boomstick' to match. The film ends with Ash being sucked into a 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

The third film 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 who is leading the Army of Darkness to steal the Necronomicon. In this movie, 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.

Characteristics, equipment, and abilities

  • Chainsaw

The chainsaw is attached snugly over Ash's right nub, left after cutting off his possessed hand. Comes in handy for hacking up Deadites.

  • Shotgun

A 12-gauge, double-barreled Remington-S-Mart's top of the line. Found in the sporting goods department, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retailing for about $199.95, it's got a walnut stock, colbalt blue steel and a hair trigger. Better known as the Boomstick

Despite only holding two shells, Ash fires this weapon a total of 3 times without reloading during the "This is my Boomstick" scene. He also fires it 4 times without reloading during the "She-Bitch" fight scene. (Every time he fires both shells the shot changes to something else and some soft clicking is heard. Apparently he's a very fast reloader, especially for a guy with only one hand.)

  • Axe

The axe from the cabin. good for choopping wood and Deadites. In Evil Dead II Ash uses the axe to dismember Deadite Ed's body.

  • Shovel
  • Winchester Model 1894

Ash is seen wielding a Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle with a "Trapper" loop handle when a Deadite appears and begins tearing up the S-Mart in the present day. Despite the fact that most lever-actions hold around fifteen rounds, Ash fires 37 shots in quick succession without reloading.

The Deathcoaster is seen in the latter parts of Army of Darkness, made from the remains of his car and powered by a steam engine. The main feature of it is a massive rotating blade on the front of it, akin to an angled upright lawnmower blade. The Deathcoaster was destroyed during the film's final battle. At the end of the film he takes what is left of it with him, and though the Deathcoaster has not been used throughout later set material. The Deathcoaster was not referred to as such in the film; the name only appears in scripts and publicity material.

Besides the sawed-off Remington shotgun, Ash is also skilled in the use of other firearms like the Winchester Model 1894 lever action rifle. Strangely, Ash seems to lose possession of both his chainsaw and shotgun during Army of Darkness, as he is not seen to be carrying the chainsaw after dismembering Bad Ash and is not seen with his shotgun after crashing the Deathcoaster. A possible continuity error exists within the series; while Ash claimed to have obtained his shotgun at S-Mart in Army of Darkness, he really found it at Professor Knowby's cabin during Evil Dead II, though, Ash only says that the gun "can be found" in S-Mart, and never explicitly says that he got it there.

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 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 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".

In addition, during the second time he is possessed near the climax of Evil Dead II, Ash displays some degree of superhuman strength (see Deadite Ash below), as seen when he easily lifts Jake over his head and throws him into a tree.

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. Due to experiences with the Evil Dead, Ash has become cynical, irritable, and perhaps somewhat insane; some of the horrifying experiences he has gone through (such as his reflection in Evil Dead II) were simply his own hallucinations.

Deadite Ash

Deadite Ash is Ash's dark side manifesting itself as a separate entity first in Evil Dead II, where he hallucinates his reflection tormenting him over dismembering "their" girlfriend (Linda) with a chainsaw, proceeding to try and choke him (only for Ash to realize he is choking himself). This side of him later splits off his body in Army of Darkness, becoming 'Bad Ash' and "good" Ash. Evil Ash is Ash's evil ego split off from Ash after his incident with the Tiny Ashes. Ash deals with him with his boomstick and buries him. Evil Ash returns after Ash recites the incantations of the Necronomicon incorrectly. In Army of Darkness, Deadite Ash later leads the Army to King Arthur's castle in hopes to retrieve the Necronomicon, even corrupting Ash's then-love interest Sheila. He battles the original Ash as he runs for the Necronomicon, before Ash sets him ablaze with a torch, only to re-emerge as a 'Skeleton Evil Ash'. As Henry the Red's troops arrive to assist in the battle against the undead and break their ranks, Ash, ironically, cuts off his alter ego's right hand, and then catapults him into the sky on a lit sack of gunpowder, which explodes and destroys Bad Ash.

Deadite Ash is Ash himself possessed by a Kandarian demon and turned into a monstrous version of himself with greatly increased strength and brutality. In Evil Dead II, sunlight and the memory of Linda seems to drive the demon out and reverts Ash back to normal.

Other appearances

Comics

In 1992, Dark Horse Comics released a three-issue miniseries written by Sam Raimi himself. Accompanying it is Evil Dead (2008) a comic from Dark Horse Comics retelling the story of the events of the original film.[8] 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. For as-yet unknown reasons, 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 travelled to Knowby's 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.

Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness (2007) is a spin-off from this comic line (after Ash's 'death' in Army of Darkness #13), taking 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.

Games

Musical

Evil Dead: The Musical is a loose musical adaptation of the film series, mostly combining the plot elements of the first two films. The musical is notable for being one of the few times when Ash is not portrayed by Bruce Campbell, but rather Ryan Ward. The role in the musical is soon to be taken over by Michael Scott Wells.

Universal Halloween Horror Nights

The character Ash Williams also appeared in a haunted house called "Silver Screams" from Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights in 2009. The scene re-created The Pit sequence from Army of Darkness (known as "Medieval Dead" for the event). In this instance, Ash was played by Sam Falco and Chris Turck.

Promotion and reception

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 twenty-fourth "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.

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