The Evil Dead "franchise" (God, how we hate that term!) has wandered all over the map in plot, tone, and mythology, from energetically terrifying (like Evil Dead 2) to wonderfully goofy (like Army of Darkness) to consistently enjoyable, if not exactly groundbreaking (like Ash vs. Evil Dead). And though Evil Dead Rise has little or no direct connection to the plot of characters of the core story or the 2013 remake, it has some of the same manic energy and gleeful gore of the core films -- a welcome return to form.
Now we've got at least three separate Evil Dead 'threads' that could continue: Ash's original and continuing adventures (Come on, Bruce! More!) ... whatever happens next to ** of the 2013 remake ... and now the 'mother and daughter team (we know, we know) of deadite-destroyers from Evil Dead Rise. And we want it all.
Bruce Campbell turned 65 in late June, and he sent out a great pic to remind us of just what a legend he is – not just in Zombie World, but all over the place. Speaking zombierifically, here are some of the high spots worth looking at as we celebrate @GroovyBruce in all his glory:
It all began with Evil Dead 2 (1987), where deadites and Ash and his chain-saw arm all first appeared – each one unquestionably a zombie icon (Evil Dead , the first one, was just… a preview)
It was a few years before Ash would return in Arny of Darkness (1992), when Ash was pushed into some skewed version of the Middle Ages to fight a whole different kind of deadites with his boomstick. By far the funniest (intentionally) of the whole ED set, and filled with more good memes than all the others combined.
Bubba Ho Tep (2002) deserves a mention as well. Let’s not get into the whole, “are mummies zombies?” thing – not here, anyway! -- but it’s clearly an alternate-universe story about at least one impressive character – and maybe others? -- returning from death (or never really leaving in the first place). If you haven’t experienced this half-hidden classic about an old, old man who may or may not be Elvis Presley in a fight against an abandoned mummy in an old age home, joined by a black man who claims to have the brain of John F. Kennedy – yes, we know, it’s odd – then you have not truly lived. Based on an equally toothsome (literally) novella by the equally legendary Joe R. Lansdale, this cracked gem will live in your heart and your brain for a long time.
There were video games and cameos and a crazy amount of work for the years in between and after, but Campbell didn’t return to Zombie World until relatively recently, with three seasons of the remarkably energetic series, Ash v. Evil Dead (2015-2018) Ash is older and maybe a little wiser (or at least world-weary), but not too wise to keep from getting caught up in yet another round of deadites from the Necronomicon. The series is reinforced by a great supporting cast, including the awesome Lucy Lawless for most of the episodes. We can always hope for more.
And most recently, a very different Bruce Campbell – complete with a truly ugly walrus mustache – joined with a strange new crew to fight an entirely different kind of zombie outbreak in Black Friday (2021). This time he’s a doughy late-middle-aged guy who has to be dragged kicking and screaming into defending the Walmart-like ‘big box’ store he’s sworn to manage and defend on – you guessed it – Black Friday. It’s clever and fast-paced, and it’s nice to see Campbell back facing the risen dead, even as he embraces his age (especially since he played an even older version of himself in Bubba Ho Tep, twenty years earlier).
Meanwhile, Evil Dead and the character of Ash himself have spawned multiple spin-offs and a near-infinite amount of merch. Apart from the 2013 remake of Evil Dead and the recent well-received ‘side story, Evil Dead Rise, there are graphic novels, posters, and even door mats and decals. Among our favorite Ash-centered items:
The Evil Dead Canvas Art Print is 16”x24”, printed on canvas rather than paper. Waterproof, moisture-proof, and durably colorful. You can even request alternate sizes with a single email.
The Evil Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition Graphic Novel. Mark Verheiden, a long-time comics writer and part of the Ash vs Evil Dead creative team, teamed up with innovative and exciting comics artist John Bolton in this slightly brain-blasting “expansion” of the film. And this fancy 40th-anniversary edition even includes an afterword from Mark Verheiden. (Other versions are available too, including an ebook version).
And from the far outfield:
The Ash/Evil Dead Decal, a 5.5” tall silhouette decal. Great for cars, laptops, tablets, skateboards, or a close personal friend. Available in a variety of colors.
Funko POP Pop! Evil Dead Ash Figurine
How can he look so innocent and yet be so deadly? Even the chainsaw is cute! 3.75”, styles may vary slightly. Whether this is your first or your fiftieth FUNKO, any Evil Dead fan has to have it.
Zombies Attack Walmart (or something worse!)
Movie / Dark Action Comedy / SlowZombies
Horror Comedy, the mother of all oxymorons, is very tough to do well… but that doesn’t keep filmmakers from trying. Over and over. And hey, it doesn’t have to beShaun of the Dead orTucker and Dale vs. Evil to be worth a look.
So where would we put Black Friday, a 2021 entry in the Comedy Horror Olympics that starts with the all-too-real horror of the ruthlessness, cruelty, and utter madness of shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, then postulates what happens when those shoppers go full-tilt zombie, thanks to some goo that looks like it came right out of The Stuff, a zombie-adjacent movie that we’ll talk about eventually.
Yeah, it’s funny. Not laugh-out-loud, roll-in-the-produce-aisle hilarious, but on the other hand it has Bruce Campbell – yeah, post-Ash, post-Burn Notice Bruce, at his 2021 doughy best, complete with a bushy mustache and a dickish attitude, teamed up/at odds with Devon Sawa, fresh out of the new Chucky series by way of Final Destination and Idle Hands, the last of which is another zombie-adjacent film we’ll have to cover.
There are some cool swipes at consumerism, corporate callousness, and the death of the American Dream throughout the surprisingly graphic all-night adventure, and though the ending gets a little too Ghostbusters(the first one, the good one) to work entirely well, but it’s a solid piece of comedy horror. It’s no Horrorstor, Grady Hendrix’s amazing book about a haunted/cursed IKEA that has no zombies, but you’ll like it anyway, and… hey! Bruce Campbell! Being a dick!
The Autopsy of Jane Doe:
Dark, Disturbing, Claustrophobic ... But Is She a Zombie?
Movie / One-on-One
Look, we can all meet for drinks after work and have a good, long, well-lubricated debate about whether the body on the slab inThe Autopsy of Jane Doeis a zombie or a witch or a ghost or what. But whatever that thing is, it keeps crossing the line between living and dead and back again, always with ill intent. If that ain’t a zombie, we don’t know what-all is.
The father-and-son team of Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch, operating of that bizarre underground morgue, go through one awful and awesome postmortem as the mystery of this creature on the table grows wider, deeper, and more dangerous.
This is essentially a two-person drama (the zombie doesn’t count), and the tight but terrifying script produces two of the best performances Cox and Hirsch have ever given – which is saying something. Even better: the ending actually justifies the gettin’ there – another rarity in “locked room” stories.
Come for the zombie, stay for the mystery and the reveal, and try to forget what you see. We dare you.
All Cheerleaders Die: A Darkly Comic, Bloody Revenge Flick with Smart Zombies
Not everybody loves this movie – you can look at the Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic numbers and see that – and part of its appeal is definitely just the name and notion. Come on: zombie cheerleaders? You have to love it. But we tend to agree with the WeGotThisCovered review, who called All Cheerleaders Die“mindless and contrived”, but also admitted it was a “witching, bitching good time.”
One interesting production point: The semi-legendary grim-and-bloody horror auteur Lucky McKee first made this movie in 2001 when he was fresh out of film school, and liked the idea so much he remade it in 2013. The first version was a pretty straightforward (and not terribly interesting) bloodfest; in the newer edition, there’s a whole team of cheerleaders killed by heartless football players who are brought back to life with Wiccan magic, and who work together to avenge their deaths by knocking off the jocks and their minions one by one. And yes, there’s a wide-open “The End??” ending that begs for a sequel that unfortunately has never shown up.
Wedecided to include it here, and give it a solid “Adequate” rating, partly for its sheer Australian exuberance, but mostly just for the idea itself… and if you happen to have a cheerleader-type in the fam, this could be a great little gift.