Sam Raimi’s stylishly dark horror-comedy classic Army of Darkness continues to stand the test of time. What started out of a terrifying, extremely graphic cabin-in-the-woods movie, soon transformed into a cult classic filled with fight sequences, time travel, and a protagonist whose dialogue we recite as though it were poetry. Twenty six years ago today, audiences were first graced with Ash Williams triumphant defeat of The Deadites, before returning to his own timeline to save a damsel in distress during his work-shift S-Mart.
This seemed to be the where the Evil Dead universe closed its final chapter, until Starz premiered Ash Vs. Evil Dead in 2015. What could have happened to Ash between 1993 and 2015? The answer lies within three video game titles released between 2000 and 2005; Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick, and Evil Dead: Regeneration.
Known for developing Pixar and SpongeBob SquarePants video games, Heavy Iron Studios began their production journey with an official Evil Dead title. Aside from a comic book adaptation of Army of Darkness in 1992, Evil Dead: Hail to the King (2001) would be the first continuation of Ash’s deadite-slashing journey. Bruce Campbell reprised the role by lending his voice as the titular character. Taking place eight years after the events of Army of Darkness, we find Ash Williams continuing his employment with S-Mart, as well as his relationship with fellow employee, Jenny. After experiencing recurrent nightmares of demons and “The Necronomicon”, Jenny suggests that Ash return to the cabin and face his fears. (Good idea, right?)
Upon arriving at the cabin, things seem normal, until Ash’s severed, and possessed, hand triggers a recording of Professor Knowby reciting passages from the book of the dead, once again awakening the evil forces who quickly kidnap Jenny. Now, Ash is on a journey to not only destroy the Necronomicon once and for all, but also save Jenny from Evil Ash. Hail to the King, takes Ash through several Deadite battles and even sends him back into a 9th century Arabian village. At the game’s conclusion (Spoiler Alert) Ash destroys Evil Ash, saves Jenny, and both return to their normal timeline. Upon their return, they find the streets of Dearborn, Michigan empty, noticing copies of the Necronomicon advertised in retail stores. To his horror, Ash turns to the camera, and screams.
2003’s Evil Dead: Fistful of Boomstick gave fans more action oriented gameplay than its predecessor. Three years after the events of Hail to the King, Ash is found retelling his encounters with The Necronomicon to a Japanese man. In a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that Ash’s girlfriend Jenny was killed in a recent bus crash. A television broadcasts a live interview with journalist Trisha Pettywood and parapsychologist Alex Eldridge, a former colleague of Professor Knowby and author of a book based on the Necronomicon.
In the broadcast, Trisha reveals an audio player. I think you can see where this is going. Soon, the entire town of Dearborn, Michigan is plagued with Deadites. Having to face a nearly entire town lousy with Deadites, Ash manages to find his way to Eldridge to conjure a plan. Revealing ancient artifacts hidden in the local museum (including a Kandarian Summoning Stone), Ash must retrieve these items in order to open a vortex that will send the demons back to their own dimension. Instead, Eldridge reveals he true plans, backstabbing Ash in hopes that he can use The Necronomicon for world domination.
Ash follows Eldridge through several timelines, encountering his ancestors Williams the Blacksmith in 1695, and Captain Williams of the Unionist army in 1863. Upon defeating Eldridge, who takes the form of a dragon-like demon with the use of his Kandarian Summoning Stone, Ash is able to return present day. Unfortunately, as Ash failed (or forgot) to destroy the Kandarian Summoning Stone in the past, Dearborn is still plagued with Deadites. Destroying the evil in present-day Dearborn and retrieving the Summoning Stone, Ash attempts to restore the town using its powers, but rather, ends up warping himself to another timeline in medieval Asia (think, Genghis Khan era). We find ourselves where the game starts as Ash is retelling his story to a Japanese man (not understanding a word he’s saying), along with other Samurai guards holding Ash prisoner. The story ends when the guards become possessed by the Summoning Stone. Ash grabs a nearby katana and tells them, “Come get some” in fluent Japanese!
The final installment in the video game series was published in 2005. Evil Dead: Regeneration was the final chapter but also a remake that disregarded the first two games, as well as Army of Darkness, entirely. Assuming he was never sent back in time to the medieval timeline of Army of Darkness we find Ash Williams locked away in an insane asylum for the crimes committed in Evil Dead I and Evil Dead II. His psychiatrist, in a very familiar move, attempts to use The Necronomicon for world domination, once again releasing evil onto the world. As Ash battles his way through the dead, apparitions of Professor Knowby reveal what must be done to stop the evil Dr. Reinhard. Along the way, Ash also comes across Sam (voiced by Ted Raimi), who’s somehow a half-human, half-deadite in full control of his humanity. Reaching a hellish dimension where Ash finds the deadite temple, he and Sam defeat Dr. Reinhard as well as destroying the evil plaguing their timeline. Yet a portal suddenly open and drags Sam, Ash, and the Necronomicon through the portal (in a similar fashion as the ending to Evil Dead II). Their whereabouts are unknown as the game fades to black and the credits begin to roll.
But it’s all for not! Ash Vs. Evil Dead retains the formal timeline and canon of the Evil Dead universe, but don’t let that discourage you. As a gamer, I very much enjoyed the experience of playing each of these installments. Hearing Bruce Campbell reprise his role in each game made the experience much more fruitful. Although there are various other forms of Army of Darkness sequels, particularly comics such as Army of Darkness: Ashes to Ashes, the video games were easily the most memorable.
Celebrate the Army of Darkness 26th birthday by either watching the movie, or dusting off your old console and popping in the game disc. They aren’t hard to find on eBay, and let us know your favourite Army of Darkness quote on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. Stay ghoulish, friends!