Maybe my age is starting to show, but I distinctly remember a time when there was a serious drought of any and all news regarding Evil Dead. That all changed once Sam Raimi became Mr. Spiderman, and now 15 years later we’re still feeling the wonderful trickle down of that glorious change, as now, fans of Evil Dead are submerged in a veritable flood of glorious Evil Dead news, rumors and projects both announced and unannounced.
The fact of the matter is that it has never been a better time to be a fan of Evil Dead, simply because there is unprecedented access and demand for new franchise content. The original trilogy just isn’t enough, and the TV series Ash VS Evil Dead merely whets the appetite for more. While I’m sure fans are well aware of any and all new movie/TV deals coming into the fray, there’s still a glut of offerings to choose from, from all walks of the media aisle. Today we’re gonna shine a spotlight on a few Evil Dead related pieces of entertainment that aren’t the aforementioned trilogy of films, or the spectacular TV series.
The Games of the Dead
While there’s no definitive Evil Dead game for the current generation of consoles, a few of these came pretty close for their respective times.
Evil Dead: Hail to the King (PlayStation)
Released in 2000 for the PlayStation, this game was basically just a ripoff of Resident Evil, with a nice coat of Evil Dead paint on it. It was extremely challenging and required the lateral thinking and exploration skills that old school survival horror games demanded of you, especially since Ash needed constant refills of chainsaw fuel to ever stand a chance against any of the infinitely spawning deadites. A bright spot, however, was the story of the game, which takes place after Army Of Darkness and functions as a direct sequel, possibly making this the closest thing to an Evil Dead 4 that had been released, up until the Ash Vs Evil Dead series debuted.
Overall it was a game that demanded a lot from the player and didn’t hold up well 17 years ago. Now, I imagine it’d be nigh unplayable to anyone who wasn’t already expressly familiar with old school PS1 style Resident Evil gameplay. Those who do play it, however, will find themselves privy to some of Bruce Campbell’s earliest and always excellent voice acting.
Evil Dead: A Fistful Of Boomstick (PS2/XBOX)
A generation cycle later and they’d finally release an Evil Dead game I could really sink my teeth into. This was a post-Devil May Cry game, and its influence shows, where the goal was killing hordes of enemies with combos to keep up a hit counter in order to get more points to unlock more upgrades. It’s a state of gaming that certainly existed before, and has been improved and expanded upon over the years, with the likes of the God Of War franchise, and the reboot of Devil May Cry itself. A Fistful Of Boomstick got in there right before the first God of War game and crafted itself an identity using that Evil Dead charm and the silky smooth tone of Bruce Campbell’s voice. Being an action game, it served perfectly well at the time, but it too probably suffers from the ages of gaming’s past, as the bar for action games has been raised. Fans of the franchise, however, will assuredly find some mindless fun to be had killing deadites for an hour or two.
Evil Dead: Regeneration (PS2/XBOX)
A Fistful Of Boomstick was successful enough to warrant a sequel, and at this point, they were really spitballing ideas around, because they came up with some basic story ideas that are similar to ideas we’d see explored in future episodes of the Ash Vs Evil Dead series. It takes an “alternate world” style of approach, and even adds in a little sidekick named Sam for Ash to kick around, literally and figuratively. Since the focus is a bit more on the lore of the Evil Dead universe which then expanded upon alternate “what if?” scenarios, this is the game I’d recommend for most curious fans to track down and play if they haven’t. It’s got a lot of neat ideas in it that could easily be reconfigured to work in the current Ash Vs Evil Dead series, or even be remastered and retooled as a modern game, with better graphics to match its unique story. Not only that but alongside the wonderful voice work of Mr. Campbell is Ted Raimi as your sidekick Sam! True fans of the series will appreciate being able to punt a tiny Ted Raimi, believe you me.
Army Of Darkness: Defense (iOS/Android)
The easiest game to acquire here out of all of these, this game is worth the download on your phone or iPad, even if you’re just a passing fan of tower defense games. It is simply a tower defense game through and through, there’s no story to speak of, and no voiceovers or anything more complex than a tiered reward system. However, if you like tower defense games, this is probably one of the best possible themed versions out there. You play as Ash during the final battle of Army Of Darkness, with skeletons, deadites, and witch-hags breaking down the doors of your castle, and you have a selection of skills and abilities to take them out, amongst a plethora of soldier units. It’s available for free, and there’s really no better price than that.
The Music of the Dead?
Yes, you read that correctly. For those of you who are into this sort of thing, a group of bizarre yet inspired individuals has decided that somehow the best way to tell the story of Ash William’s horrific demonic encounter in the woods with pure evil, is through music. Stemming all the way back to its origins in a comedy club in Ontario, the popularity of the show snowballed until an official off-Broadway production started in 2006 and ran until 2007. There have been quite a few revivals of the show since then, and as recently as a few weeks ago there were still showings of the musical, complete with bloody special effects. Even more interesting is that while rumors of a movie adaptation of the musical were squashed, what was brought up in its stead was a version on ice! Honestly, the thought of Evil Dead: The Musical: On Ice, makes me a bit queasy, but I understand the massive appeal for fans who love themselves a good show tune. How I wish I could share your enthusiasm! For everyone who likes a little song and dance with their gory, demonic mayhem, I’m positive you’ll be able to catch a version on a stage near you, very soon.
The (Comic) Books of the Dead
Now for a while, this was the most you could hope for when it came to new Evil Dead content. Army of Darkness was long over and the naysayers of the time were pretty much correct about Sam Raimi’s newfound directorial clout not leading directly to the production of Evil Dead 4. However, we did get some snazzy comics!
You see, for a while, New Line was trying to make a Freddy VS Jason movie, and it went through a million and a half script re-writes and was delayed time and time again. To illustrate this, it was a 10-year gap between Jason Goes To Hell’s infamous “Freddy’s Glove” ending, and 2003’s Freddy Vs Jason. Plans for that team up were seeded in Jason Goes To Hell, along with elements from Evil Dead, including the Necronomicon itself. At the time this was a throwaway gag, but it led to speculation about a triple crossover, which eventually blossomed into a comic mini-series, and was successful enough to spawn its own sequel mini-series.
A horror fan’s dream come true, this comic sequel was written and marketed as a kind of Horror-Movie-Crisis “event” series. It was extremely novel for the time, and did an amazing job of uniting a lot of memorable and unique characters from every respective franchise of the series. Hilariously, it opens with the US government trying to resurrect and control Jason and Freddy as weaponized forces of military strength, only for that to obviously backfire when they can’t control either of them. Ash joins up with crucial figures from the two movie franchises, creating a kind of supernaturally inclined squad united against Freddy and Jason. Character cameos abound, from Tina Shepherd (F13: Part 7- The New Blood) to Maggie Burroughs (Freddy’s Dead), and even a relatively mentally stable Tommy Jarvis (F13: Parts 4, 5, & 6)!
For a while, Marvel was really going all out with the zombies’ gimmick. They really covered almost everything you possibly could, which is why it was paradoxically surprising and predictable that Marvel got around to including Army Of Darkness in their rapidly increasing line of zombies comics. Basically, things got so bad in the Marvel Zombies universe that a superpowered zombie starts attacking Heaven ITSELF, which is where Ash is currently residing. This leads to a bunch of problems as you could imagine, and only Ash is the one able to help stop yet another army of the dead. This time, with superpowers! In 2007, this was the height of schlock and camp for these respective franchises, and it’s honestly a gift that it even exists.
Over the years Marvel, Dark Horse, and Dynamite have done books about Ash, and more recently, an Evil Dead 2 line of books from Space Goat has become all the rage. Ash seems to be showing no signs of slowing down.
I hope this exploration of alternative Evil Dead media has been enlightening for you, as going through the litany of new material warms my shriveled black heart, and reminds me of how lucky modern Evil Dead fans are now. Way back when, I wouldn’t have thought that Evil Dead was ever popular enough to warrant such a living and growing fan base, yet it’s clear that the desire and demand are on wide display, and so far the supply has yet to dry up. The pessimist in me wants to revel in what exists now because I very clearly remember how hopeless it all seemed at one point, the thought of ever seeing new Evil Dead versions of anything. Now, it’s looking like the fans aren’t going to have to worry about anything other than taking the series for granted that it’ll always be around. I think that’s a pretty good place to be, and one worth celebrating if you’re a true fan of Evil Dead.
Images: Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics,
Space Goat Publishing, Dynamite Entertainment,