Although “Army of Darkness” is the concluding chapter of the “Evil Dead” trilogy, it feels so tonally disconnected from its predecessors. Raimi wrote the kind of conclusion that would feel right at home in an “Evil Dead” movie, but for something as buoyantly exciting as “Army of Darkness,” it feels so deflating. In “Evil Dead II,” Ash never wins, so much as goes through various stages of losing. I understand the point is that Ash is an idiot, which I won’t refute, but after the high of our reluctant hero triumphing over the deadite siege, waking up to the world having fallen to pieces strips him of that victory.
The theatrical ending to “Army of Darkness” carries the same idea as Raimi’s original vision, but brings it to a much more natural conclusion. He flubs up the phrase, and in turn, the deadites return to haunt him. The difference is that, rather than cowering, Ash fully embraces the flawed hero he was always meant to be. The threat hasn’t disappeared, yet he’s ready for it. It shows his growth over the course of the three films.
While “Evil Dead” has lived on in the decades since with the awesome reimagining and the upcoming “Evil Dead Rise,” it was a great place to leave this character for a while. Ash went through hell to finally escape the dreaded cabin in the woods that took everything he loved away from him, yet he still lives on in spite of the deadite’s existence. Even better, it set a path for the best kind of follow-up Campbell’s lovable moron could have received.