HAPPY ASH WEDNESDAY: A LOOK BACK AT ASH vs EVIL DEAD!

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HAPPY ASH WEDNESDAY: A LOOK BACK AT ASH vs EVIL DEAD!

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 1 (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

“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.

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EPISODE LIST

  1. El Jefe – directed by Sam Raimi and written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy
  2. Bait – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Dominic Dierkes
  3. Books From Beyond – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Sean Clements
  4. Brujo – directed by David Frazee and written by James E. Eagan
  5. The Host – directed by David Frazee and written by Zoe Green
  6. The Killer Of Killers – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Nate Crocker
  7. Fire In The Hole – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes and Ivan Raimi
  8. Ashes To Ashes – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Michael J. Bassett
  9. Bound In Flesh – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Rob Wright
  10. The Dark Ones – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Craig Digregorio

-MonsterZero NJ

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 2 (2016)

“Always bring a gun to a puppet fight!”-Kelly Maxwell

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Ash vs Evil Dead was a blast for Evil Dead fans, 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, that finally brought back Campbell’s Ash Williams for more battles with the Deadites. The half-hour show premiered, last year, on Halloween night on Starz and was a big hit renewed for two more seasons.

Season two arrived on October 2nd, 2016, and opens with Ash living it up in Jacksonville, Florida as per his agreement with Ruby (Lucy Lawless). Ruby however finds herself overwhelmed by her “children” and as she has lost all control of them, she needs Ash’s help and thus sicks the Deadites after him to get his attention. She lures him back to his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan where we find he is an outcast nicknamed “Ashy Slashy” by the locals, who believe he murdered his friends and sister back in that cabin in 1982. We also find that Ash has an estranged father (Lee Majors) who still lives there and a former flame (Michelle Hurd) who he still has feelings for. We also have a new villain, a demon named Baal (Joel Tobeck) who has apocalyptic plans for The Necronomicon. Now it’s a race against time and various Deadites to secure the book and foil Baal’s schemes…if the townsfolk don’t kill Ash first!

While the novelty has worn off a bit that we actually have an Evil Dead series, the fun hasn’t and season two makes up for being the second go-around by upping the ante on gore, taking us to some new places, adding some new faces and delivering some nice character development, especially from Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly. We also get the return of some classic characters, like Ellen Sandweiss as Ash’s sister Cheryl and some truly shocking and unexpected moments. There is a somewhat darker tone at times though there are still plenty of classic Ash moments, like in The Morgue. As with last season, there are a few weaker episodes such as Last Call, where Ash throws a party to find the kids that stole his car and Confinement that has the gang trapped in a police station with Baal. To counter that, there are some really great episodes such as the DUI where he battles his demon possessed Delta, Delusion, which takes place in an asylum and the climatic Home Again and Second Coming that return us to the cabin once again, this time back in 1982. In between we get an epic reunion with dead sister Cheryl in Trapped Inside, that horrifying and hysterical trip to The Morgue, an evil Ashy Slashy hand puppet and some truly unexpected character deaths that really resonate. There is an abundance of gore and while some gross-out moments are a little too obviously in existence just to be gross, Pablo and Kelly do graduate from sidekicks to equals by being given some very strong moments in which to shine. The show obviously sets up season three but does so without sacrificing a satisfying conclusion to this season’s storyline. With new show runner Mark Verheiden, hopefully season three will keep things fresh without losing the show’s beloved and now established elements.

The cast are enjoyable as they were last season, as far as the regulars. Campbell plays the role with the same gusto and doesn’t seem at all tired of it. We get to see a bit more of Ash here as we travel to his hometown, visit his house and his room, experience the effects of his strained relationship with his dad and for the first time, the guilt over the death of his sister and the rejection of a town that blames him. Campbell pulls it all off with swagger and some surprising sensitivity. Dana Delorenzo really shines as Kelly. She comes into her own as a hero and fighter, as well as deals with the loss of her parents and the rage it has caused. The actress has some strong dramatic moments, yet also has some very funny ones, too, including a wonderful turn as a crazy Kelly in the asylum episode Delusion. She really gives a tour de force here and we hope the writing continues to give this actress such opportunities. Ray Santiago also gives a strong overall performance as Pablo. Ash’s buddy has a more serious role this season as he is still suffering the effects of being linked to the book and it only gets worse for the loyal sidekick. Santiago is charming and evokes sympathy in the darker moments and yet keeps Pablo lovable and endearing. He is involved in some powerful moments, and he shines in them like his costars. Hope season three lets Pablo have a bit more fun, again and continues to give him strong scenes. Lucy Lawless gives us a different Ruby here as she is now an ally and not the bad guy. It gives Ruby a new spin and Lawless carries it out well. She makes her likable, though the character is written with a bit less intrigue than last season, and her bonding with Kelly was an interesting element.

As for new characters, we have an eclectic bunch. Lee Majors is great as Ash’s cantankerous and horny old man. The veteran actor really has a good time with a man who proves apples don’t fall far from the tree when it comes to being the father of Ash. Ted Raimi also has a blast as not only Ash’s best bud from school, Chet, but he also returns as a classic character from the original movie series. He was a lot of fun, though sadly the Chet character is left out of the action, for the most part, in the season’s second half. Michelle Hurd is pretty and likable as old Ash flame Linda. Her character isn’t given all that much to do, though being married to Ash’s arch enemy (Stephen Lovatt) who is now sheriff, adds a troublesome wrinkle. Lovatt is fine as the wimpy Sheriff Thomas Emery, though the character didn’t seem to contribute much other than being a clichéd thorn in Ash’s side. Possibly the weakest written character this season. Finally, we have Ellen Sandweiss who does a great job returning as Ash’s sister Cheryl, who was the first victim of the Deadites in the original film. It was wonderful to see her back and the character is used interestingly, and Sandweiss seems to have a blast with it.

In conclusion, season two was a bit darker but still a lot of fun. There were some great episodes, though a few weak ones too, and we got some nice character growth and background for our main characters who were given some strong moments to really shine in it. It was different in many ways from season one, yet never lost that Evil Dead vibe. There still seems to be room for improvement and growth for the show and thankfully season three is on its way to hopefully do just that.

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EPISODE LIST

  1. Home – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Craig DiGregorio
  2. The Morgue – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Cameron Welsh
  3. Last Call – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Noelle Valdivia
  4. DUI – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written Ivan Raimi
  5. Confinement – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by William Bromell
  6. Trapped Inside – directed by Mark Beesley and written by James E. Eagan
  7. Delusion – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Hank Chilton
  8. Ashy Slashy – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Suzanne Keilly and Aaron Lam
  9. Home Again – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner
  10. Second Coming – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Luke Kalteux

-MonsterZero NJ

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 3 (2018)

“Good sex is 30 seconds followed by a cheeseburger”– Ash Williams

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Ash vs Evil Dead season three is the final season, not only for the canceled, cult favorite show, but also a final farewell to Bruce Campbell’s Ash, too, as with its cancellation, the actor has officially announced his retirement from the role. One can’t fault him; he’s been playing the character on and off for over thirty years and is a true horror icon. Thank you, Bruce!

Season three arrived later than usual, debuting on February 25, 2018, and opens with Ash (Bruce Campbell) still in Elk’s Grove, Michigan and now running his father’s hardware store. Ash also finds out he has a daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) who immediately becomes a target of Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and her evil schemes to create Hell on Earth. Pablo (Ray Santiago) is selling tacos outside the hardware store and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) returns, along with a Knight of Sumeria, Dalton (Lindsay Farris), who belongs to an order sworn to assist “The Chosen One”. Can Ash handle fatherhood and fighting evil, as Ruby has birthed a hell-spawn of her own and The Dark Ones are soon to rise?

Like the past two seasons, this one has it weak spots and strong points. Season three starts off a tad shaky with introducing Brandy pretty much right off the bat, in the first episode Family and then having her thrown into the gory action before we or Ash really get a chance to embrace her. Not only are father and daughter thrown together a little too quickly, but new characters such as Brandy’s mother Candy (Katrina Hobbs) and knight Dalton get introduced and then meet their fates way too early for the characters to have resonated. A little more time with them would have been nice. There is still the trademarked gory action and some of it is quite clever, like a scene in the music room of Brandy’s school in episode #1, which utilizes musical instruments in quite a bloody inventive way. There are also some funny bits, too, such as Ash checking on his “donations” at a local sperm bank in Booth 3. The stuff involving Ruby’s pregnancy and birth are as disturbing as a delightful inappropriate funeral scene in Apparently Dead, is hilarious. Things start to get serious in episode four and then build in intensity as Ruby’s hungry offspring grows, Pablo comes into his own as a Brujo and Ash and his daughter bond in blood…and pop tarts. There are some really great moments in the second half, though few match a final showdown between Kelly and Ruby in Tales from the Rift, which is really intense and violent and shows how much Kelly has grown as a character. There are a few weak spots, too, such as yet another evil Ash doppelganger in Twist and Shout, but all the death, resurrection and blood and gore hasn’t quite warn out its welcome just yet. The last few episodes all lead up to the return of The Dark Ones and Ash’s confrontation with the massive demon Kandar, himself, as Deadite chaos erupts all over the world in the finale, The Mettle of Man. It’s a strong finish to the season and the show as a whole and the last scene is true to the Evil Dead spirit and is typical Ash. A fond farewell.

The cast are enjoyable as ever and certainly will be missed. Campbell plays the role with the same perfect blend of hero and schlep he has from the beginning. He pulls it all off with his trademark swagger and a little newly added paternal instinct when it comes to his daughter. As Brandy, Arielle Carver-O’Neill is a chip off the old chainsaw. Early on she is a typical troublesome teen who is not eager to accept that her dad is Ashy Slashy, but by the last few episodes is dispatching evil with the same blood-soaked gusto as her dad. The actress is quite appealing, and it would have been nice to see the character evolve further. Dana DeLorenzo still shines as Kelly. Her showdown with Ruby might be one of her finest moments and one of the best episodes in the entire three season run. Ray Santiago really owns the role of Pablo, especially now that he is a full Brujo Especial. He’s a very talented actor, who has a gift for comedy and can be a hero, as well as a sidekick. Lucy Lawless continues to be a strong villain as Ruby. Here she is defying not only Ash, but the Dark Ones themselves, which leads to Ruby being on everyone’s hit list. Lawless oozes malice and devilish confidence. Newbies Lindsay Farris as Sumarian Knight Dalton and Katrina Hobbs as Brandy’s mom Candy, both are good in their parts, but neither character hangs around long enough to really make an impact or get fully developed. To get to the meat of the story, some character development went out the window with the supporting players. Good news to fans of last season, though, Lee Majors returns in episodes Apparently Dead and Unfinished Business as Ash’s dead dad Brock. Couldn’t have cast Ash’s dad any better.

In conclusion, this was consistent with the other two seasons and thus fans should be thankful for three solid seasons of Ash and his battle against the Deadites. There were a few weak spots, but they were outweighed by lot of fun and gory moments, true to the franchise. The last half of the season was really strong and gave us a satisfying…and very Evil Dead…finale as the show and its star are not returning. Thanks to Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and the rest of the cast and crew for finishing Ash’s story in true Evil Dead style.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Family – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Mark Verheiden
  2. Booth Three – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Rob Fresco
  3. Apparently Dead – directed by Diego & Andres Meza-Valdes and written by Ivan Raimi
  4. Unfinished Business – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Nicki Paluga
  5. Baby Proof – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Luke Kalteaux
  6. Tales from the Rift – directed by Regan Hall and written by Aaron Lam
  7. Twist and Shout – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Caitlin Meares
  8. Rifting Apart – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Bryan Hill
  9. Judgement Day – directed and written by Rick Jacobson
  10. The Mettle of Man – directed and written by Rick Jacobson

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…and a farewell message from “Ash Williams” himself, Bruce Campbell…

“Good people, Evil Dead fans everywhere, I bid you a heartfelt farewell playing Ash – the character I took acting lessons with for 39 years. I am hereby retiring from that portrayal. It’s time. I followed Ash from his formative years thru his mid-life crisis and decline. What a thrill! What a privilege! We had a great resurgence with the help of Starz (kudos not jeers, folks). They made it possible for 15 more hours of Evil Dead-ness in your life – the equivalent of 10 more features! Is Ash dead? Never. Ash is as much a concept as a person. Where there is evil in this world, there must be one to counter – man or woman, it matters not.

Thanks for watching.

Love, Bruce”

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: HAIL TO THE DEADITES (2020)

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HAIL TO THE DEADITES (2020)

Hail to the Deadites is a documentary from writer/director Steve Villeneuve that takes a fun look at the Evil Dead franchise’s loyal and dedicated fan base. The film travels from convention to convention and puts the spotlight on some of the movies’ most avid fans, as well as features interviews with the series’ cast members like Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, the late Dan Hicks, Kassie DePavia and the man, the myth, the legend himself, Bruce Campbell. It’s a fun and interesting look at the fans of one of horrors greatest and most recognized franchises and the effect that loyal fandom has had on the talent involved with those movies, such as FX legend Tom Sullivan. If you are one of these diehard fans and want an entertaining look at some of your peers and how you have affected the lives of the actors you idolize, then this is a nice companion piece to the classic horror film series. Documentary is now available to stream on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN 2021!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

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haunt 06Harper (Katie Stevens) and friends visit the wrong Halloween haunt on Halloween night!

-MonsterZero NJ

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EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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EQUINOX and EVIL DEAD I & II: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these three films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Equinox, or Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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For years horror movie fans have debated as to whether or not the 1970 low budget horror Equinox was an influence on Sam Raimi’s 1981 Evil Deadthough there are also strong similarities with it’s 1987 sequel Evil Dead IIas wellSam Raimi has never mentioned seeing it, though Evil Dead FX man Tom Sullivan has. We may never know for sure and it’s up to us then to decide for ourselves. So read on to take a look at just how these flicks compare…

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

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THE STORY

Equinox finds Four college students David, Susan, Jim and Vicki (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher), venturing into the woods to meet a Prof. Waterman (Fritz Leiber), who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find his cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), soon have the devil himself after them to get it back. In this film the evil has already been unleashed when our main characters arrive.

Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead has five young people, Ash, his sister Cheryl, his girlfriend Linda, Scott and Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich and Theresa Tilly), going up to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and fun. When they get to the rundown cabin, they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book, and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations.

Evil Dead II finds Ash, now alone, trapped in the cabin with the forces of evil trying to get at him. Ash is soon joined by the daughter (Sarah Berry) of the archeologist, who formally inhabited the cabin and is the finder of the book. She and her party (Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley and Richard Domeier) first think Ash has murdered her parents. Soon enough, though, the evil in the woods makes itself known and Ash joins forces with his new companions. Their numbers start to dwindle as the evil lays siege to the cabin and Ash must face this ancient terror in a final showdown.

There are some differences in plot details, but all three flicks have a cabin, a book of evil discovered by a professor and a group of unsuspecting characters, being attacked by an ancient evil. All three have demons and demonic manifestations from the book. All three have a story or backstory that is revealed by way of a reel to reel tape recording.

 

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THE EVIL

Equinox has the devil himself in the human disguise of park ranger, Mr. Asmodeus (theatrical cut director Jack Woods) pursuing the four characters to get the book back. He can take on the guise of one of the other characters and appears in a flying demon form near it’s climax. He also sends various minions to get the book, such as an octopus-like creature, a mutant ape and a blue giant. His minions appear to be able to be killed by conventional means, while he can be warded off with protection symbols from the book.

The Evil Dead Films feature ancient evil spirits known as Deadites, that are unleashed when either the book is read from directly, or a recorded reading from the book is played back. They want the souls of all those in the cabin and possess and torment the occupants claiming them one by one. Raimi’s film requires the possessed victim be totally dismembered to render them harmless. The Deadites seem to hail from somewhere around ancient Sumer and there are, like in Equinox, some creature-like minions in Evil Dead II. The Deadites appear to be only able to attack at night, while Equinox‘s evil is active both day and night.

 

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THE HEROES

Equinox’s ill-fated hero is college student David Fielding (Edward Connell). He’s a clean-cut all-American college student who is forced to come up against some supernatural odds. He’s resilient and brave and is pretty much the strongest and quickest thinker of his group of friends. Poor Dave ends up doomed and in an insane asylum, but before all that, he stands up to some intimidating evil.

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is the Evil Dead franchise’s beleaguered hero. The now iconic Ash is a mild mannered fellow and a little on the cowardly side in the first film. He leaves it up to alpha male Scott to hack up his possessed sister Cheryl and generally do the hero stuff till the Deadites get Scott, too. This leaves Ash all alone to man-up and battle the Deadites. It’s not till the sequel that he starts to take on the mantle of a hero, although an arrogant and bumbling one.

 

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THE SETTINGS

Here, settings differ slightly though both include cabins and woods. The cabin we are traveling to in Equinox is already destroyed by the time our characters get there and the film takes place primarily after that in the surrounding forest.

Both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II take place primarily inside the cabin with a few unsuccessful sojourns out into the woods.

The cabins in all three films were previously occupied by professors who found the books of evil in question.

 

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THE BOOKS

All Three movies contain books of evil that trigger the horrific ordeals the respective films’ characters endure. Equinox‘s book is discovered in the Persian Gulf by a Prof. Waterman and it is his examining the book and it’s contents that opens a portal allowing the evil to enter this world and seek the book’s return. It is described as a bible of evil.

The book of the Evil Dead films is the Naturan Demanto or Necronomicon…the book of the dead…and is described as Sumerian in origin and thus is discovered by a Professor Knowby (John Peaks), also in the Persian Gulf area.

Both books are filled with cryptic languages and spooky illustrations and are not only filled with dark rituals, but also ways to protect from the evils evoked.

 

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THE OPENING SCENES

Equinox opens interestingly at it’s climax with David on the run through the woods from the demonic evil and finding himself in a hospital after being hit on the road by a driverless car. A year later he’s gone insane and a reporter named Sloan (James Philips) investigates the story to find out what happen to him. It’s his reviewing David’s initial taped testimony that sets us on a flashback to what happened.

The Evil Dead opens with the camera racing through the woods with some ominous growling heard as it reaches the car carrying our main protagonists. It is quick and to the point, but sets the tone right away that something bad is going to happen to our five unsuspecting travelers as they head towards the cabin.

Evil Dead II simply picks up where the first left off, after a brief recap, with the evil attacking and briefly possessing Ash, who is saved by the rising sun. So, there is little similarity here.

All three films’ openings are perfect for setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. Though there are only minor similarities here between Equinox andThe Evil Dead, none really with Evil Dead II…except, of course, for the woods setting each share.

 

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THE ENDINGS

In terms of their climaxes, all the films have endings that resonate.

Equinox ends with David in the asylum screaming for his cross which “accidentally” is now in the hands of reporter Sloan. It’s a year and a day after the incident at the park, the day the demon predicted David’s demise. As Sloan leaves the building, David’s dead girlfriend Susan is seen walking into the hospital. As we hear David’s cries for his cross over the soundtrack, a wicked smile appears on Susan’s face. Ominous and spooky, a last chill before you leave the theater.

The Evil Dead ends with Ash having barely escaped a vicious assault from his possessed friends by burning the book in the fireplace resulting in a roller coaster bloodbath of gore. As the sun starts to rise, he limps out the door only to have the camera race towards him growling like in the opening and coming right at his face as Ash utters a horrible scream. The film cuts to black and ends with the credits rolling; Ash apparently not as triumphant as he believed. It is ferociously quick and very effective, a last jolt before you leave the theater.

Evil Dead II comically has Ash being sucked into a vortex and deposited in the Middle Ages, where, at the moment, he is seen as a deliverer come to defeat the Deadites. Again as with the opening scene, no similarity here to Equinox other than the visual of a castle.

…though all three endings do involve screaming.

 

 

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MISC.

Here, pictures speak louder than words, with these visual similarities…

 

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IN CONCLUSION…

So, we have one flick that is a horror masterpiece and one of the greatest horror flicks of all time and another that is a cult classic, midnight movie from a decade earlier that may…or may not…have inspired it. Both were derived from short films. Equinox was re-edited with new footage added from the original The Equinox … A Journey into the Supernatural, a 70 minute film expanded for theatrical release. The Evil Dead was created from the short film Within the Woods, a thirty minute version of the same story made to attract investors. They both feature some startling SPFX on incredibly small budgets and took three or more years to finally hit theaters. Both are also first films made by young aspiring filmmakers, that made an impression and got careers off the ground for some of their makers and stars.

We may never know the actual truth as to whether Sam Raimi saw and was inspired by Equinox, but the story and visual similarities make for a striking argument. At this point it’s up to you to decide as to what you believe. Did Equinox inspire The Evil Dead, or is it just a cinematic coincidence? Either way, they are both horror classics in their own rights that are now held in high regard.

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 CABIN IN THE WOODS HORRORS!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 CABIN IN THE WOODS HORRORS!

The Granddaddy of the modern cabin in the woods horror, Evil Dead 1981!

Despite being a horror film no-no, folks are always vacationing in, or moving into, remote cabins or houses in the woods. Win, win for us horror movie fans, as this almost always means bad news for the occupants! So…here are 15 such chillers, that can be found on various streaming outlets such as iTunes, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, Tubi, Google Play, Netflix and Youtube Movies. Just Google the title and they’ll tell you where it’s available and how much to rent, if it applies!

 

Here are three old school honorable mentions that were remote house/cabin flicks before it was cool!

Decades later, no one has learned from the movies!…as Evil Dead 2013‘s bunch will soon find out!

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed above covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EQUINOX and THE EVIL DEAD

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MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature is back! For years horror fans have discussed the similarities between the 1970 low budget flick, Equinox and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Was this flick an inspiration for Raimi’s classic, or was it all a coincidence? We may never know exactly, but we can watch both films together and decide for ourselves…

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EQUINOX (1970)

Four college students (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher) venture into the woods to meet a professor (Fritz Leiber) who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find the cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), find the devil himself is after them to get it back.

While this does sound like the plot of an Evil Dead film, it is actually the plot of the low budget horror, Equinox which was released in 1970. Over a decade before Raimi’s classic, the film does share a lot of plot elements, such as the students being possessed, here by the park ranger disguised Satan, and even the book itself is quite similar to Raimi’s Necronomicon. It’s never been stated that the film was an influence on Raimi’s flick, but Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan admits seeing the film and it inspiring him to make movies. Draw you own conclusions.

Equinox is campy by today’s standards and is slow paced, unlike Raimi’s roller coaster ride, but there is some fun to be had and some nice SPFX for such a low budget flick. Equinox started out as a low budget short film, put together by three future FX legends, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen in 1967. It was made for about $6,500, from a story by Mark Thomas McGee and directed by Muren. So there is some great FX work for the time and budget, including some very cool stop-motion animated creatures, representing the Devil’s minions and Old Scratch himself in winged demon form. Producer Jack H. Harris saw their film and hired writer/director Jack Woods to film some new footage and expand the 70 minute short film into feature length and re-edit it. The film was finally released in 1970 as Equinox, shortened from the original title of Equinox…A Journey Into The Supernatural. I saw this as a kid and must admit it creeped me out back then. I watch it now and it’s more campy fun than scary, but it’s no denying that it is a valiant low budget effort, despite some very amateurish acting from the cast, including director Jack Woods, who also appears as The Devil in park ranger form.

This film, like Raimi’s, is now considered a classic. Whether it inspired Evil Dead or not, both films represent the achievement that future filmmakers can make on a micro-budget, if their hearts and talent are in the right place. Evil Dead fans should check it out for the interesting similarities, even if we may never know if Raimi indeed saw and was influenced by it, or if the familiar elements are just coincidence. It’s been released in a wonderful restored edition by the Criterion Collection, which includes the original short film and effects work that didn’t make the final cut. A campy, fun horror that gave the world, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and the late, great David Allen…and maybe…just maybe, Evil Dead.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated A campy fun 3 (out of 4) blue giants!

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The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies, if not the all time favorite. I was fortunate enough to see it in a theater when it was released in 1981 and it changed how I looked at horror movies. This one was furiously paced, wildly inventive and delivered buckets of blood and gore, all on a shoestring budget. It launched writer/director Sam Raimi’s career and made a cult legend out of star Bruce Campbell.

The film opens as Ash (Bruce Campbell) and girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker) are traveling to vacation in a remote cabin with another couple, Scott (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Sarah York), along with Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). When they get to the rundown cabin they find an old book and a tape recording, in the creepy cellar, that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording, which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations. The quiet Cheryl is the first to be possessed, as she is attacked and literally raped by the trees during one of the film’s most talked about scenes, As the panicked bunch lock her in the cellar, it is only the beginning as they are soon possessed one by one by an ancient evil that can only be stopped by total bodily dismemberment. Let the fun begin!

The first Evil Dead did not have the heavy comic elements of it’s two sequels or recent series and what follows is a gore soaked roller coaster ride, when Ash finds himself the last man standing against his demon possessed friends. Raimi uses some fantastically inventive camera work and low budget gore effects to bring us Ash’s battle to survive against the people he once loved, in all it’s gory glory. The film is fast paced and once it starts, it never stops, as this classic turns the screws on it’s viewing audience with a barrage of scares, jolts and suspense, all bathed in buckets of blood. This was the first of it’s kind to use such a relentless and merciless attack on it’s viewers where most films at the time, like John Carpenter’s Halloween, or the original Friday The 13th, used a bit of a slower burn and more of a methodical pace to present it’s suspense and scares. Raimi paces this like an action flick. Carpenter did crank things up in the last act of The Fog, a year earlier, but it was still nothing like Raimi’s final act, as the outnumbered Ash refuses to “join us”, as his demonic assailants constantly taunt.

Evil Dead revolutionized horror to a degree and inspired some of today’s best young horror directors. Without it, we may not have a Blair Witch, Dead Alive or Martyrs. While we still get the occasional slow burn horror like Paranormal Activity and the films of Ti West and Stevan Mena, which is just fine, Raimi opened the door for horror filmmakers to take a far more aggressive approach and showed us horror can be deliriously scary, delightfully gory and just plain fun. A true classic that placed Raimi amongst the likes of George Romero and John Carpenter!

-MonsterZero NJ

Check out our review of the remake!

A solid 4 (out of 4) Ash salute!

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ALSO…

If you’ve got time, add Evil Dead II as a third feature, which also shares some amusing similarities with Dennis Muren and Jack Woods’ 1970 cult classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY SAM RAIMI!

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Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY SAM RAIMI!

Legendary horror director Sam Raimi hits a milestone birthday today at 60 years young! Raimi is the creator of the now classic Evil Dead franchise, as well as, produced a number of horror flicks for other up and coming filmmakers, not to mention directed three Spider-Man flicks! Happy Birthday to this legend of modern horror!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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HAPPY 61st BIRTHDAY, BRUCE CAMPBELL!

HAPPY 61st BIRTHDAY, BRUCE CAMPBELL!
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MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes the legendary Bruce Campbell a very happy 61st birthday!…

 

…and as a special treat…your own MonsterZero NJ being strangled by Mr. Campbell himself at the 1992 Chiller Theater convention in Hackensack N.J.!…

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-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 31 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October…these are a mix of classic favorites and recent horrors that I feel are especially perfect to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HALLOWEEN
  2. TRICK ‘r’ TREAT
  3. PHANTASM
  4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
  5. THE FOG
  6. ANY (OR ALL) OF THE UNIVERSAL CLASSIC B/W HORRORS!
  7. PUMPKINHEAD
  8. EVIL DEAD
  9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
  10. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
  11. ZOMBIE
  12. THE THING
  13. THE HOWLING
  14. THE FLY
  15. HORROR HOTEL
  16. DAWN OF THE DEAD
  17. DAY OF THE DEAD
  18. FRIDAY THE 13th
  19. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
  20. HALLOWEEN II
  21. HALLOWEEN III
  22. THE VIY
  23. WRONG TURN
  24. THE OLD DARK HOUSE
  25. THE DESCENT
  26. HELLIONS
  27. TALES OF HALLOWEEN
  28. THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
  29. HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
  30. HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES
  31. THE HILLS RUN RED

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 3 (2018)

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 3 (2018)

“Good sex is 30 seconds followed by a cheeseburger”– Ash Williams

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Ash vs Evil Dead season three is the final season, not only for the canceled, cult favorite show, but also a final farewell to Bruce Campbell’s Ash, too, as with its cancellation, the actor has officially announced his retirement from the role. One can’t fault him; he’s been playing the character on and off for over thirty years and is a true horror icon. Thank you, Bruce!

Season three arrived later than usual, debuting on February 25, 2018, and opens with Ash (Bruce Campbell) still in Elk’s Grove, Michigan and now running his father’s hardware store. Ash also finds out he has a daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) who immediately becomes a target of Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and her evil schemes to create Hell on Earth. Pablo (Ray Santiago) is selling tacos outside the hardware store and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) returns, along with a Knight of Sumeria, Dalton (Lindsay Farris), who belongs to an order sworn to assist “The Chosen One”. Can Ash handle fatherhood and fighting evil, as Ruby has birthed a hell-spawn of her own and The Dark Ones are soon to rise?

Like the past two seasons, this one has it weak spots and strong points. Season three starts off a tad shaky with introducing Brandy pretty much right off the bat, in the first episode Family and then having her thrown into the gory action before we or Ash really get a chance to embrace her. Not only are father and daughter thrown together a little too quickly, but new characters such as Brandy’s mother Candy (Katrina Hobbs) and knight Dalton get introduced and then meet their fates way too early for the characters to have resonated. A little more time with them would have been nice. There is still the trademarked gory action and some of it is quite clever, like a scene in the music room of Brandy’s school in episode #1, which utilizes musical instruments in quite a bloody inventive way. There are also some funny bits, too, such as Ash checking on his “donations” at a local sperm bank in Booth 3. The stuff involving Ruby’s pregnancy and birth are as disturbing as a delightful inappropriate funeral scene in Apparently Dead, is hilarious. Things start to get serious in episode four and then build in intensity as Ruby’s hungry offspring grows, Pablo comes into his own as a Brujo and Ash and his daughter bond in blood…and pop tarts. There are some really great moments in the second half, though few match a final showdown between Kelly and Ruby in Tales from the Rift, which is really intense and violent and shows how much Kelly has grown as a character. There are a few weak spots, too, such as yet another evil Ash doppelganger in Twist and Shout, but all the death, resurrection and blood and gore hasn’t quite warn out it’s welcome just yet. The last few episodes all lead up to the return of The Dark Ones and Ash’s confrontation with the massive demon Kandar, himself, as Deadite chaos erupts all over the world in the finale, The Mettle of Man. It’s a strong finish to the season and the show as a whole and the last scene is true to the Evil Dead spirit and is typical Ash. A fond farewell.

The cast are enjoyable as ever and certainly will be missed. Campbell plays the role with the same perfect blend of hero and schlep he has from the beginning. He pulls it all off with his trademark swagger and a little newly added paternal instinct when it comes to his daughter. As Brandy, Arielle Carver-O’Neill is a chip off the old chainsaw. Early on she is a typical troublesome teen who is not eager to accept that her dad is Ashy Slashy, but by the last few episodes is dispatching evil with the same blood-soaked gusto as her dad. The actress is quite appealing, and it would have been nice to see the character evolve further. Dana DeLorenzo still shines as Kelly. Her showdown with Ruby might be one of her finest moments and one of the best episodes in the entire three season run. Ray Santiago really owns the role of Pablo, especially now that he is a full Brujo Especial. He’s a very talented actor, who has a gift for comedy and can be a hero, as well as a sidekick. Lucy Lawless continues to be a strong villain as Ruby. Here she is defying not only Ash, but the Dark Ones themselves, which leads to Ruby being on everyone’s hit list. Lawless oozes malice and devilish confidence. Newbies Lindsay Farris as Sumarian Knight Dalton and Katrina Hobbs as Brandy’s mom Candy, both are good in their parts, but neither character hangs around long enough to really make an impact or get fully developed. To get to the meat of the story, some character development went out the window with the supporting players. Good news to fans of last season, though, Lee Majors returns in episodes Apparently Dead and Unfinished Business as Ash’s dead dad Brock. Couldn’t have cast Ash’s dad any better.

In conclusion, this was consistent with the other two seasons and thus fans should be thankful for three solid seasons of Ash and his battle against the Deadites. There were a few weak spots, but they were outweighed by lot of fun and gory moments, true to the franchise. The last half of the season was really strong and gave us a satisfying…and very Evil Dead…finale as the show and its star are not returning. Thanks to Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and the rest of the cast and crew for finishing Ash’s story in true Evil Dead style.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Family – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Mark Verheiden
  2. Booth Three – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Rob Fresco
  3. Apparently Dead – directed by Diego & Andres Meza-Valdes and written by Ivan Raimi
  4. Unfinished Business – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Nicki Paluga
  5. Baby Proof – directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Luke Kalteaux
  6. Tales from the Rift – directed by Regan Hall and written by Aaron Lam
  7. Twist and Shout – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Caitlin Meares
  8. Rifting Apart – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Bryan Hill
  9. Judgement Day – directed and written by Rick Jacobson
  10. The Mettle of Man – directed and written by Rick Jacobson

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…and a farewell message from “Ash Williams” himself, Bruce Campbell…

“Good people, Evil Dead fans everywhere, I bid you a heartfelt farewell playing Ash – the character I took acting lessons with for 39 years. I am hereby retiring from that portrayal. It’s time. I followed Ash from his formative years thru his mid-life crisis and decline. What a thrill! What a privilege! We had a great resurgence with the help of Starz (kudos not jeers, folks). They made it possible for 15 more hours of Evil Dead-ness in your life – the equivalent of 10 more features! Is Ash dead? Never. Ash is as much a concept as a person. Where there is evil in this world, there must be one to counter – man or woman, it matters not.

Thanks for watching.

Love, Bruce”

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 groovy chainsaws.
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