I can’t imagine that there are too many fans of the movie who aren’t aware that there were two different endings, but I’ll sum up just in case:
In the theatrical release, of course, the film ends with Ash returning to the present and relating his adventures to his S-Mart co-worker, a bored-looking Ted Raimi. However, all is not well; Ash has neglected (again) to recite the correct incantation, and a Khandarian demon (or Deadite, or whatever) has followed him back. Ash dukes it out with the she-bitch in the sporting goods aisle, emerges victorious, gets the girl etc.: “Hail to the king, baby!”
This was not the ending that Sam Raimi had intended, however. In the original ending, Ash is sealed into a cavern with a magic potion that will send him into a deep trance, to awake in the present day. Ash is instructed to drink only five drops. As he starts to count them off, he is distracted by a strange noise in the cavern. He looks around; it’s nothing. Satisfied, he finishes the rest of the potion. When he awakens from his coma, he digs his way out of the time capsule to behold a blasted post-apocalyptic landscape; he’d taken one drop too many! Ash screams in frustration…and the credits roll.
This ending was nixed by the studio for being too much of a downer, and the new “S-Mart” framing material was filmed instead. I recall Bruce Campbell speaking out at a convention about what a terrible decision this was, as the original ending kept the door wide open for a sequel.
Now, I have an enormous amount of respect for Sam Raimi as a director, and I would give my eyeteeth and nosehairs for another “Evil Dead” film. I also have never considered myself a yokel who demands an upbeat or unambiguous ending to his escapist film fare. That said, and having seen both endings, I just can’t seem to accept Sam Raimi’s originally filmed ending as the better choice. For one thing, I feel like the second ending is slightly truer to the character of Ash, who though often boneheaded is basically a survivor. In my opinion, the original ending made him out to be a buffoon who couldn’t even count to five. I also don’t see that the second ending ruled out a sequel in any way, and anyway I doubt that the studio would have gone out of its way to finance one even if the original ending had been used.
One other note: According to Bruce Campbell at the above convention, Sam Raimi’s idea for a sequel would have involved a future race of evil robots, with Ash as the “primitive screwhead” who eventually leads the subjugated humans in a Spartacus-like uprising. Now, I have enormous respect for Sam Raimi…
Any thoughts on this topic? Am I wrong to favor the happy ending?