This guy is the latest addition to my collection of distractions. That’s the Funko Pop figure of Ash from the Evil Dead movies. I came upon this chainsaw-wielding bit of awesome not through luck but by demonstrating an actual skill. While attending a theatrical presentation of the original Evil Dead a few weeks ago I correctly answered that those who are possessed in the films are referred to as Deadites (though that term didn’t get used until the very end of Evil Dead II). Now Ash stands guard over my workspace keeping the forces of evil at bay with his chainsaw and his boom stick.
I’ve followed the Evil Dead saga since before the first film was even released. Stephen King mentioned it in an article in the November 1982 issue of the late great Twilight Zone magazine. He had seen the movie at a film festival, I believe, but lamented that it would probably never get any kind of theatrical release in the U.S. Evil Dead‘s tale of demonic possession and graphic dismemberment was so extreme, said King, it would likely be slapped with an X rating (NC-17 wasn’t used until years later), making it unmarketable.
Of course, this made me want to see it all the more. Evil Dead eventually did go out to theaters unrated, which occasionally happened back then with other gore fests like Dawn of the Dead, Zombie, and The Gates of Hell. I finally had a chance to see Evil Dead in ’83 or ’84 when it played on campus at the State University of New York at Oswego, but it was playing at the same time that I needed to pre-register for classes for the following semester. I got to the theater a good 30 or 40 minutes in, forcing me into the uncomfortable position of asking a complete stranger why that guy on the screen was vigorously dismembering someone with an axe. Fortunately, there were still lots of gory goings-on yet to unspool, and over the course of the next hour or so I started a decades-lasting admiration for the work of director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell.
Evil Dead II followed in 1987, managing to outdo the original in just about every respect. A third film, Army of Darkness, came along in 1992. It took me a bit longer to warm up to this one. While the first two films were unrated splatterfests, Raimi was required to deliver an R-rated film this time, so the gore was severely curtailed. I left the theatre feeling disappointed, but over the years Army of Darkness has grown on me.
Which brings us to today, Halloween, October 31, 2015. Ash Vs. Evil Dead, premiered last night on the Starz network, and I watched it this morning with my coffee and Cracklin’ Oat Bran. How times have changed. Evil Dead nearly didn’t see the light of day back in ’81 because of its extreme content, and now we’ve got a TV series that is (thanks to Starz’ status as a premium cable channel) every bit as violent as the original. Bruce Campbell returns as Ash, who is equal parts jackass and badass. Once again the forces of darkness have been unleashed thanks to our hero’s own stupidity, and he, along with some new sidekicks, must put things right. I can only hope the series lives up to the premiere episode, because it was an absolute blast.
Dare I say, it was groovy.
So, I feel like I’ve known Ash for a long time. And while he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, he knows what to do when faced with Kandarian demons. That’s why I’ve charged him with protecting my Post-it notes. Those are the first thing monsters come for.