The final guy/girl trope is a staple in horror, especially the kind where a group is targeted by a deadly threat. This trope has been subverted or reinvigorated to good measure in films like “The Cabin in the Woods,” which completely dismantles horror “rules” while paying homage to them. Ash, despite narratively fulfilling the role of the final survivor, continuously undermines the parameters required to achieve that status. Although Ash evolves greatly throughout the franchise, his demeanor in “The Evil Dead” is a far cry from conventional protagonists who survive extreme scenarios in horror movies.
As the film progresses, the audience is made to realize that it’s Ash we should be rooting for, even though he doesn’t exhibit qualities associated with the final guy. In fact, it is his brash, devil-may-care friend Scott (Richard DeManincor) who does. He proactively fights off Deadites in high-stakes situations and ventures outside to find an alternate escape route. While Scott doesn’t hesitate to dismember his possessed girlfriend and subdue Deadite Cheryl (Sandweiss), Ash remains shell-shocked and is initially unable to do what’s necessary to survive. However, the reason why Ash survives and Scott doesn’t is that the former exhibits compassion even in the face of terror. While Scott’s “every man for his own” attitude should’ve practically saved his life, it doesn’t. Ash’s predicament emerges as infinitely more nuanced, as he is a reluctant survivor torn between saving his loved ones and butchering them to stay alive.
After Ash succeeds in burning the Book of the Dead, the horrors do not end but mutate. Ash witnesses a horrifying spectacle — guts, blood, and pus exploding out of the Deadites in haunting stop-motion glory — and emerges out of the cabin a changed man. He’s been marked, hence hounded in the end despite earning his freedom.