The Evil Dead (1981) is unmistakably one of the most incredible 80s horror movies in existence, but the timeline definitely needs some clarification in order to get the full experience from Raimi’s gore-laden, off-the-wall classic.
A master class in how to make a phenomenal movie on a small budget, The Evil Dead showcases what a dedicated group of actors, a visionary director, and a lot of imagination can do for the horror genre without taking a huge hit to the wallet.
The original franchise consists of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness. Later, the franchise would continue with the Starz network bringing lead actor Bruce Campbell as the iconic Ashley J. Williams to the small screen in Ash vs. Evil Dead, but due to legal reasons, aspects of Army of Darkness couldn’t be mentioned in the series, though cast and associated crew still consider the events of that movie to be part of the timeline as well.
Depending on what timeline fans follow, The Evil Dead has multiple options. However, most consider the start of Sam Raimi’s epic to be Army of Darkness, which is technically the third film in the franchise, but the beginning of the timeline’s chronology as far as Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is concerned. After the events of Evil Dead 2 (which are slightly different than the beginning of Army of Darkness), Ash is transported back to the Middle Ages. After his arrival, Ash is taken to a castle after having his weapons and chainsaw confiscated; he is thought to be in league with Duke Henry, who is a Scottish man at war with the English knights who found Ash after he time-traveled through his Oldsmobile. Ash is speculated to be the answer to a prophecy, which denotes that he will be the redeemer who saves mankind from the Deadites.
According to the priest, the only way for Ash to return to his own time is to obtain the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which contains both spells (the one to return home, and the one to stop the Deadites). On his way to obtain the book, Ash spawns into an “evil Ash,” which is created through part of his shattered reflection in a mirror. Despite Ash’s attempt to put him down, Evil Ash rises from the grave and ends up uniting the Deadites into an army, the Army of Darkness. Ash unites the people, with Duke Henry, to rise up against the army of Deadites and is victorious.
According to Bruce Campbell, there was never supposed to be an Evil Dead 2. Because Sam Raimi couldn’t get the rights to his own movie, Evil Dead 2 was made as a “re-quel”, which means that they essentially remade The Evil Dead with new people. Campbell states that people thought Ash would be dumb to return to the same cabin with different people, but this wasn’t the case. Instead, Evil Dead 2 is basically the first movie again; it was shot as a recap with different actors, except Bruce Campbell, who reprised his role as Ash Williams. Therefore, The Evil Dead is the next part of the timeline. Ash Williams, in this timeline, was born in 1958. He and his friends traveled to the Knowby cabin, where the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis was discovered by Professor Raymond Knowby in 1981 along with the Kandarian dagger in the ruins of Kandar Castle; in the Army of Darkness timeline, Ash is concurrently hibernating due to a potion in a cave near this very castle. In total, Ash 1 slept for six centuries.
The events of The Evil Dead transpire after Ash and his friends read from the book and summon the Deadites and ends with the last sequence of The Evil Dead where Ash is being attacked by an unseen entity after he is the sole survivor of the events at the Knowby cabin; this was originally meant to portray his demise. Evil Dead 2 has a few differences here. First, Ash’s hand is possessed and he chops it off, replacing it with a chainsaw. Ash, Linda, and Annie Knowby end up discovering what happened to the professor after he discovered the book and read the incantation. Annie also reads various incantations from the Necronomicon; she attempts to force the Kandarian demon to manifest physically and ends up opening a time vortex to banish the demon. Ash ends up being sucked into the time vortex, and ends up traveling through time to 1300 AD, where Army of Darkness begins.
After defeating the Deadites in Army of Darkness, Ash is given a potion that will allow him to sleep until he returns to his own time. He sleeps for six centuries, and then re-awakens in 1982, then gets his job back at the S-Mart. Ash tells a co-worker about his time-travel adventures, wistfully discussing how he could have been king. Seemingly unable to escape the Deadites, Ash must fight one more after it attacks his store and, after he kills it, he’s praised as a hero once again. After this, he utters the fan-favorite line, “Hail to the King, baby”, and the movie ends.
Fede Alvarez‘s Evil Dead does fit into the Evil Dead universe. Alvarez stated that it continues the first one, but in a modern setting. According to Alvarez, the coincidences between his version and the original 1981 version are not coincidental, but “dark fates” created by the Necronomicon. As such, when Mia (Jane Levy) and her friends arrive at the Knowby cabin, certain things – such as Ash’s car rusting – are apparent. Likewise, the cabin has already been broken into, just as Ash and his friends did in the first film. Similar events transpire throughout Evil Dead, just as Ash and his friends experienced a gruesome conflict with the Deadites after reading an incantation from the book. There is one distinct difference in that, in Evil Dead, Mia’s parents supposedly own the cabin; this could have been due to the property changing hands over time, and doesn’t necessarily negate the other connections.
Ash Williams also makes an appearance in a post-credit scene of Evil Dead, which confirms that the universes are connected. Campbell and Raimi have both teased a crossover with Ash and Mia that would further establish this connection.
Ash vs. Evil Dead is set approximately 30 years after the first three Evil Dead films; it was originally meant to be a sequel to the trilogy. Ash Williams is working as a stock boy at Value Stop, which is a department store similar to S-Mart. In the series, a Deadite plague threatens to destroy the world, and Ash must gather new friends to help him fight the evil that he’s already been attempting to stop for decades, though in some capacity, it’s much longer than that. At the culmination of the series, Ash takes on a Kandarian demon; the battle ends with Ash killing the demon. In the final scene, Ash wakes up in a bunker after being drug out of the wreckage where the final battle occurred. The show ended on a cliffhanger, with someone claiming that there’s “still work to be done”, which means the hero of The Evil Dead franchise doesn’t get to retire yet, though Campbell has stated that he’s finished playing the character.
Read more: screenrant.com