It’s been a long road for fans of The Evil Dead franchise, who have been collectively clamoring for more Deadite filled action featuring Bruce Campbell as the gun-toting, lantern-jawed, evil-slaying Ash Williams since the announcement and release of Army Of Darkness. The long journey to what fans would tentatively refer to as “Evil Dead 4” took its time, but eventually surfaced in a new form on Starz, as an episodic tv show that continued the story more or less where the films left off.
Ever since the debut of Ash vs Evil Dead, fans have been treated to the equivalent of 2-3 feature length Evil Dead sequels, albeit in episodic, season length form. For a franchise that used to be one installment at a time, having this much access to a world and characters that have long been loved and speculated about, it seemed inevitable that some kind of bottom would fall out, as too much of a good thing always comes at a cost. Unfortunately, not only has Ash vs Evil Dead been canceled, but Bruce Campbell himself is officially retiring the character! Without Bruce, it’s hard to imagine the Evil Dead series continuing in its current state without him, and to be honest, does anyone really want more of the Ash vs Evil Dead universe WITHOUT Ash in it? Well, there are some possibilities, and when it comes to The Evil Dead franchise as a whole, there are some avenues to explore, although they are all longshots with a capital L. The following are three possible directions the franchise could take, now that Ash vs Evil Dead is officially canceled.
1.) An Ash vs Evil Dead Movie!
Probably the more obvious and basic of decisions, the clear route would be to take whatever plot threads and big plans there were for future seasons of the show and cram it all into one big, cinematic, slightly higher budget direct-to-video release that would do gangbusters on VOD or Netflix. With Netflix taking the gamble on resurrecting plenty of shows lately, it’s possible they could sidestep the whole issue and just revive the show entirely for season 4, yet Bruce Campbell’s sentiment of retiring the character is still something to consider.
Perhaps he’ll be convinced to strap on the chainsaw one more time, but only with a caveat, requiring this to finally truly be the end of Ash, his long beloved, iconic character, once and for all. Bruce Campbell is only getting older, and it’s easy to see his growing desire to cap off the character’s legacy with a grand finish truly worthy of his accord. Alternatively, Netflix could just put a few zeroes on the end of Mr. Campbell’s check and guarantee him for seasons 4, 5 and 6 if they so desire! Crazier things have happened, although as it is, a one-and-done movie seems like a relatively safe bet.
2.) A Sequel To Evil Dead (2013) Featuring Ash!
One of the more interesting ideas would be to bridge the TV and movie universes of Evil Dead, using Ash Williams himself as the bridge. While initially confusing, the amount of dimension and time travel in the film and TV series would lend to this being easily applicable, if only for convenient contrivance. We all want to see Ash onscreen again, and fans of Evil Dead and Jane Levy’s Mia have wanted her to have some crossover cameo with Ash since the 2013 remake was even announced. A sequel to Evil Dead, perhaps even as simply titled as “Evil Dead 2“, would provide that chance to see Mia recover from the events of her first movie, stumble upon an old legend about a previous inhabitant of the cabin, and the movie writes itself from there. Perhaps a few scenes of mentorship between Mia and Ash, and top it all off with a heroic sacrifice to boot.
This wouldn’t be the Ash we’re used to from the series or even the original Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. This would be a fully traumatized, actualized, paranoid version of Ash, the old man version of the total loser he was in the original The Evil Dead. In a nutshell, this would be a very dark, gritty, psychological take on Ash Williams, one rooted in a reality of having been tormented for years by demons after slaughtering all of your own friends. The TV series picks on this a tiny bit with his hometown referring to him as “Ashy Slashy”, where everyone thinks he’s a crazy person, but this character trait really is the crux of an entirely new, alternate version of Ash. A version that Bruce Campbell could really sink his acting teeth into, and pull a deeply moving performance out of it. Anyone who’s seen Bubba Ho-Tep knows that Bruce can actually genuinely act when he wants to and has the material, so I say give it to him. Let him bring us a new side of Ash that nobody will ever be able to touch, yet again. Also, then we’d get a cool training montage with Ash and Mia, and I don’t know about you, but I kinda need that in my life.
3.) A Direct Sequel To Army Of Darkness AKA The Evil Dead 4
Out of everything possible to speculate, this is still the furthest possible from reality. The fact of the matter is that no movie studio these days is ever going to try to fund and produce this kind of version of the movie. On top of the fact that you’d have to first decide if the entirety of Ash vs Evil Dead was canon – and it’s highly likely that on a professional studio level, it would have to be ignored – you’d also have to deal with the fact that audiences generally don’t care for revivalist stand-alone films based off of older franchises or characters. Notable examples are Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Rocky Balboa, Baywatch, CHIPS, Starsky & Hutch, and basically anything that feels like the dying efforts of a studio to desperately cash in on even a semi-viable brand. Audiences can smell that sort of disingenuous trickery a mile away, and with an Army Of Darkness II, or a The Evil Dead 4, the possibility for overly heightened expectations could lead to a cynical backlash.
The beauty of the remake of Evil Dead was it successfully established itself as its own identity, allowing audiences old and modern to accept and move on with the direction the film took. A direct sequel would require such a fine balancing act to appear simultaneously relevant without appearing laborious, that it seems almost doomed to disappoint its respective audiences with a lack of tonal identity. Is it a throwback, a sequel, an innovation, an homage, etc? All of these things would be huge hurdles for the movie in being directly compared to its predecessors and matching the impossible expectations that come with that. The fact that the Ash vs Evil Dead series already managed to do this is a half miracle on its own right, but expecting it to happen again with studio funding and far, far less running time? That’s asking for a miracle.
Now now, things may seem dire but the fact of the matter is that while it’s a dark time for fans of Ash and The Evil Dead, it’s also a time to be thankful and count your blessings. There was a time for fans of Evil Dead when there seemed to be almost no hope for any future installments of the franchise, yet slowly and surely things amassed momentum until we finally got three entire seasons of a show, tantamount to 2-3 new movies a season. While of course, we’d all love the show to continue, there really is something to be said for the longevity of such a relatively simple series of films. All in all, if Bruce Campbell really is hanging it all up, and this is the end of Evil Dead as we know, I for one think it’s been a great ride. Hopefully, it’s one that future audiences will get to continue.
Images: Starz, Tristar Pictures