HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 2 (2016)

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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 gets 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 loosing 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 home town, 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 where 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 it’s 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

3 and 1/2 groovy chainsaws.
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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD (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 book store 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 were 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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Ash with sidekicks Kelly and Pablo ready to battle the Evil Dead

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

3 and 1/2 groovy chainsaws.
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