ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)
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“Evil shows up, it blows up!”- Ash Wiliams
The original Evil Dead is one of my all-time favorite horror flicks. While I do enjoy the more humorous sequels and really liked Fede Alvarez’s remake, the first flick will always remain the one dearest to my horror-loving heart. Since 1992’s Army of Darkness, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have teased us with the possible return of Ashley Williams and the deadites, with nothing materializing…until now!
Ash vs Evil Dead is a ten-episode series created by Sam and Ivan Raimi along with Tom Spezialy and produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and star Bruce Campbell, who were all there for the original movie it’s based on. The half-hour show premiered, appropriately, on Halloween night on Starz and is a delightful throwback to the film series, blending the comic elements of the latter two films with the ferocious and abundant gore of the first flick. There are also numerous references and nods to the first two films* that will delight and give goosebumps to any Evil Dead fan. The story finds Ashley Williams (the legendary Bruce Campbell), over thirty years after his battle with the deadites, wearing a wooden hand, living in a trailer park, working as a stock boy at the Value Stop and still in possession of the Necronomicon. The aging Ash still sees himself as a ladies’ man and when trying to impress one conquest, a stoned and horny Ash reads from the book. The deadites are unleashed once more and now Ash must find a way to end this nightmare once and for all…a quest that may lead him back to the cabin where it all began. Along for the ride are his co-workers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) with a pretty police detective (Jill Marie Jones) and a mysterious woman (Lucy Lawless) in hot pursuit. Will Ash succeed, or will he screw things up once again?
I had a blast with this series both for nostalgia’s sake and sheer entertainment value. There are a few weak episodes, such as one that takes place in an occult bookstore and an episode where they visit Pablo’s Brujo (Shaman) uncle. The latter is a little flat…though it sets Ash on his path, and we get a little fun with a possessed Kelly. The rest are a blast, with the premiere episode…which Sam Raimi directed…and the final three, set at that fateful cabin, really cranking it up to 11. That’s where this series really ignites with Ash and company back in the place where it all began, which is lovingly recreated and splattered once again with limbs and gore. Some of the moments there rival some of the best bits in the original movie and it was great to revisit this place, now sacred to horror fans. The team of directors and writers (see episode list below for creative talent) all do good work, to varying degrees, with Tony Tisle and Rick Jacobson having the best material to interpret with the episodes set at the cabin. The plentiful gore is well done for the most part, though there was far more CGI blood spattering than I would have liked, but the show seemed to be modestly budgeted and, on that level, accomplishes a lot. There are the customary cartoonish stunts and over-the-top slapstick expected with the later installments of the films, too and it’s all choreographed well and is a lot of fun. Aside from a lot of classic songs by legendary artists on the soundtrack, original film series composer Joseph LoDuca is back to score the bloody good times, as well. There is also some cool behind the scenes stuff after a few episodes to add something a little extra for fans. As the series has already been renewed for a second season, it’s no spoiler that Ash’s work isn’t done by the time the season finale concludes.
The cast are really top notch and get the tone of the material perfectly. It’s great to have Ash back with Campbell wearing chainsaw and ‘boom stick’ once more. The horror icon is in top form, returning to the role of Ash as if it were only yesterday that he finished filming Army of Darkness. He brings Ash’s over-confident swagger and off-kilter one-liners to bare, while maintaining both the lovable buffoon and unexpected hero aspects of Ash that we all know and love. As his work buddy, Pablo, Ray Santiago is both charming and funny as the young man who idolizes Ash…and crushes on Kelly…and believes Ash is a warrior destined to save the world. Santiago has nice comic delivery and timing and can keep up with Campbell in the physical slapstick department. The beautiful and talented Dana DeLorenzo is the third member of the deadite fighting trinity as the feisty and fiery, Kelly. DeLorenzo is a gifted comedian (check out her youtube video to see some fun impressions) and can keep up with the boys in the ass-kicking department, as well as, with some physical comedy of her own. Her deadpan line delivery adds a nice contrast to the over-the-top style of her male co-stars, too. Rounding out is tough but sexy Jill Marie Jones as a cop who at first suspects Ash of murder, but slowly succumbs to his ‘charm’ and Lucy “Xena” Lawless, who looks great and still can kick major ass as a sexy and mysterious woman pursuing Ash with the help of his dismembered hand. A great cast. My personal hope is that next season they can get Jane Levy to appear as Mia from the remake. That would be fun.
As with any series, the kinks usually get worked out in the first season and shows usually find their footing in the second. This bodes well for Ash vs Evil Dead as the show was a real blast with only a few weak episodes to slow down it’s roller coaster ride here and there. It recaptured the Evil Dead magic of all three movies, deftly combining the slapstick fun of the second two, while bringing back the over-the-top, giddy gore of the first movie…all with the patented off-the-wall camera work. It’s well directed and cleverly written by the various talent involved and Campbell is back as if he never left and has two future stars in the making as his loyal sidekicks. Groovy!
*According to Wikipedia, rights issues prevented the use of any Army of Darkness material.
- El Jefe – directed by Sam Raimi and written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy
- Bait – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Dominic Dierkes
- Books From Beyond – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Sean Clements
- Brujo – directed by David Frazee and written by James E. Eagan
- The Host – directed by David Frazee and written by Zoe Green
- The Killer Of Killers – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Nate Crocker
- Fire In The Hole – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes and Ivan Raimi
- Ashes To Ashes – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Michael J. Bassett
- Bound In Flesh – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Rob Wright
- The Dark Ones – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Craig Digregorio