Evil Dead Rise Proves There Is An Afterlife For The Franchise Beyond Bruce Campbell And Ash

This piece contains spoilers for "Evil Dead Rise."

There is no denying how big of an impact the character of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) has had on making the "Evil Dead" franchise as big as it is. While some people might come into the franchise looking for disturbing imagery and bloody kills, others are open with their adoration of the bumbling hero, who has been a somewhat consistent presence in every entry in the franchise. He's the closest the franchise has to an icon, like how Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are the faces of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th," respectively. It's as if Ash is intrinsically connected to "Evil Dead," and thinking of the franchise without him would be weird.

That is, until "Evil Dead Rise" clawed its way out of development and into theaters. Lee Cronin's new take on the series doesn't feature the groovy antihero. Rather, its lead is guitar tech and expecting mother Beth (Lily Sullivan), whose reunion with her older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) turns bloody when an unearthed Book of the Dead brings Deadites back to Earth. While the film doesn't set Beth up as the new franchise lead, it does send a clear message: the franchise doesn't have to be tied entirely back to Ash's adventures, and that's great.

Setting the record straight

Something that "Evil Dead Rise" does that will undoubtedly cause discussion among fans is follow up on a loose plot thread from 1992's "Army of Darkness." We find out for certain that there isn't just one Necronomicon in existence, but at least three. What this means is that, in theory, each entry in the "Evil Dead" franchise, which famously had a pretty crummy chronology due to its distribution issues, can exist in the same timeline. Perhaps one of those books was the one torturing Ash throughout those first three films and maybe even "Ash vs Evil Dead," while another was the one discovered in the cabin from the 2013 reimagining.

"Evil Dead Rise" coming back to the idea of multiple Necronomicons is a very smart idea that allows the franchise to move forward with loosely-connected entries. This is exemplified by the additional confirmation that each Book of the Dead follows different rules. For instance, we hear one of the meddling priests in "Evil Dead Rise" say how Deadites cannot be exorcised through live burials, which was seen in the 2013 film to be that book's one true cure for possession.

An important franchise lesson

As much as the horror genre is loved and respected, it arguably does have a problem with restraint. After all, characters from a horror franchise can continuously reappear in later entries, even if it doesn't make much sense for them to continue their arc. It's not hard to see that after decades of slashing and hacking Deadites, Ash doesn't really have a narrative arc to follow anymore. He's learned to process the traumatic things that have happened to him, learned how to actually be a good fighter, and even officially became a dad. "Ash vs Evil Dead" really seemed like a fitting end to his character, so to have him return to "Evil Dead Rise," even as a mentor figure, wouldn't make any sense.

"Evil Dead Rise" is not a goodbye to the character of Ash, as there are more than a few homages and nods to the character sprinkled. It's an acknowledgment that he has done everything he could possibly accomplish as a character and that other people need to experience the horrors the Necronomicons bring onto the Earth. It is absolutely the right decision in a horror landscape full of legacy sequels and overwrought continuations. Needless to say, the blood-red sun is shining over the "Evil Dead" franchise, whoever becomes its new hero.