Played by: Bruce Campbell
Film(s): Army of Darkness (1992), Evil Dead II (1987), The Evil Dead (1981)
Here is your number one, and The Chin has it by an overwhelming margin. Good thing, too, as we didn't want to have to get out our boomstick. Let's be very clear here: the Ashley Williams of The Evil Dead is not the number one horror character of all time. He's a very different creation, a passive, almost cowardly character who becomes the hero of the film almost through default (being best mates with the director didn't exactly hurt). And as much as we love Army Of Darkness it's hard to make a case for that Ash – an unapologetic idiotic American abroad who shoots first, asks questions later – being number one as well. The Ash of Evil Dead II, though? That's a different story altogether, and it was clear from your votes that you feel the same.
When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell came together on Evil Dead II, they were a more confident acting/directing team, but they had also (Raimi especially) just come off a flop in Crimewave. They had nothing to lose, and so they built the kind of horror hero they wanted to see: a swaggering, stone-faced, super-cool ass-kicker, as if someone had parachuted Clint Eastwood into the middle of a horror film. But Evil Dead II's Ash is much more than that. Raimi and Campbell's impish shared sense of humour saw to it. It's about the evolution of a hero, the birth of a badass, as Ash is dragged – sometimes literally – kicking and screaming – again, sometimes literally – from a hapless haunted husk of a man to the sort of grizzled action hero who can look a giant demon in the face and slide a chainsaw into its eye.
Raimi has often said that torturing Campbell is fun. It may even be his raison d'etre, and it's fascinating to see the sheer hell that Ash is put through in Evil Dead II. He's possessed, near drowned, hit with branches (wielded by Raimi himself), flung through car windshields, smacked on the head with pottery, chucked down wooden stairs, driven mad by laughing household objects, covered in more blood and goo than you could shake a large stick covered in blood and goo at and, of course, has his right hand seized by demonic bailiffs. But it's all part of this particular hero's torturous journey as he finally mans up and does what anyone would do in that situation: weld a chainsaw to the bloody stump, arm himself with a sawn-off shotgun, and start speaking almost entirely in one-liners. Groovy.
We asked Bruce Campbell how he felt on being voted number one: "How do I feel? I feel pretty fucking good. I think your readers are fine, intelligent, discerning people with obviously a lot of taste. The Ash character we like doing because he's an evolving character, a very flawed character. In the first Evil Dead he's a worthless git who slowly learns how to survive. The second one, he's got a little more abilities, he's like a Vietnam veteran in the second, and by the third one he's a full, ugly American who causes the deaths of hundreds of innocent people through his ignorance. What a great leading character. Hollywood would never allow that character, which is why I love those movies so much. But audiences eat it up. I think the Ash character is endearing to some people because he doesn't really know what he's doing!"