Even before Sam Raimi and company fully defined the character in Evil Dead II, Ash was always a strange hero. For much of the more seriously minded The Evil Dead, we see Ash cowering in the background while the more manly Scotty takes care of business. It’s only when Scotty finds defeat (and rape?) at the hands of some Evil Dead trees that Ash finally steps up to the plate.
That’s pretty much how he’s been ever since. We know Ash as a mouthy idiot who can dish out violence but is just as likely to talk tough and run away from it (when he’s not getting knocked around and abused like a rag doll, that is). We love Ash, but he’s not the only character of this type. There are many other Ash-a-Likes out there, some knowing ripoffs, others mere coincidences.
Jack Burton – Big Trouble in Little China
Big Trouble in Little China came out a year before Evil Dead II, so this not a case of shenanigans but rather a coincidental intersection of two very similar parodies of cinematic male heroics. Ash and Jack Burton are both hilarious assheads who find themselves in over their hilarious assheads without missing their misguided stride. But they are also both infinitely likable in their buffoonery. John Carpenter would add a harder edge to this archetype a couple years later with They Live‘s Nada, who is also a bit of an Ash-a-Like, though a far more tragic one.
Burt Gummer – Tremors
You don’t mess with Burt Gummer. He will shoot your ass. He’s a horrible shot, but with all those guns, he has enough firepower to blanket the horizon with bullets. Surely one will get you.
But Burt’s also kind of an idiot, and a funny one at that, particularly if we limit this to just the first (or even the second) Tremors film. He may be close friends with Ted Nugent, but we love him anyway.
But both know how to kick some serious ass. And both spend their films seriously getting their asses kicked. On top of that, both guys are really funny, though it’s unclear whether we’re laughing at them or with them.
Rick O’Connell – The Mummy
It’s hard to say whether Brendan Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is supposed to be an Ash ripoff or an Indiana Jones ripoff that got slightly out of hand. Either way, Rick’s Ash-isms are one of the very few bright points in the otherwise mediocre Mummy franchise. He’s a fun character not even a notoriously awful CG version of The Rock can blemish, and for Rick alone, we’ll probably all look back fondly on Stephen Sommers Mummy movies when Len Wiseman’s version eventually comes out.
But there’s something remarkably Ash-like about Brayker’s constant bad luck. From the beginning of Demon Knight to the bitter end, the exasperated Frank Brayker can barely keep up with all his misfortunes. When he finally bites the dust at the film’s conclusion, you almost feel his relief, which might be our reaction if we ever saw Ash meet his long-coming demise.
Bill Hardy – Slither
Like Ash, sheriff Bill Hardy is just a guy who wants to get along. When weird alien slugs take over his small town, the crisis unfortunately forces him to do his duty as a police offer. It’s not exactly a walk in the park, though. In fact, most of it is quite awful, a fact Hardy confronts with one-liners and hesitant bravery. In the end, however, he’s just a big softy with the hots for his high school sweetheart. So he’s like the actual heroic, teddy bear version of Ash.
Ghostface – The Scream Series
Ghostface is a villain, so right there he doesn’t seem very much like Ash at all. On top of that, he’s not even very funny. So he probably shouldn’t be on this list at all.
Except for one thing: Ghostface (whoever Ghostface happens to be at the time) might be the only character in horror who routinely takes bigger beatings than poor Ash. Pretty much every Ghostface victim gets an opportunity to kick Ghostface down some stairs or hit him/her with something before finally dying. Along with Dewey, it’s one of the few reliable high points for the increasingly awful sequels.
Duke Nukem – All the “Duke Nukem” Stuff
More than anyone on this list, Duke Nukem is a knowing Ash ripoff. That’s okay, though. Duke Nukem is basically a ripoff of everything. Not only does he say some of Ash’s lines verbatim, but he also steals from They Live‘s Nada and looks like a cross between Dolph Lundgren and Street Fighter 2‘s Guile in a game that does little more than turn Doom into an action game rather than horror one. When you’re this derivative, it’s hard to get mad at each individual theft.
Francesco Dellamorte – Cemetery Man
Honestly, Dellamorte and Ash don’t have a ton in common, but they’re both featured in horror comedies that go places no one would expect. Dellamorte is far cooler under pressure than Ash, but he’s also a murderer (maybe?).
More than anything, Dellamorte and Ash belong in the same group because both are hilarious, atypical heroes awesome and different enough that you just couldn’t wait to introduce both of them to as many of your friends as possible when you were young.
Every Sam Raimi Hero Ever
It’s hard to be a leading man in a Sam Raimi film and not be at least a little bit of an asshead. Not even Spider-Man is immune (See: The Dancing Scene). No where is this more clear than in Raimi’s most recent film, Oz: The Great and Powerful, which is little more than a remake of Army of Darkness for the kiddie crowd.
Sam Raimi just loves selfish, cowardly protagonists who spend most of their time being unlikable and murdering cats. That’s one big reason why his films are always worth looking forward to.