Ash vs. Evil Dead review
Hail to the king, baby
Following a 22-year break, filmmaker Sam Raimi (The Spider-Man trilogy, Oz: The Great and Powerful) and B-movie icon Bruce Campbell (“Fargo,” “Burn Notice”) return to the franchise that began their storied cinematic careers in the early 1980s. Halloween night saw the premiere of Starz Channel’s latest series, a televised continuation of Raimi and Campbell’s cult horror-comedy Evil Dead trilogy. “Ash vs. Evil Dead” presents a return to a nostalgic era in horror filmmaking for returning fans and new viewers who haven’t been exposed to the forgotten element of comedy in horror to create a perfect viewing for a niche audience.
Unfortunately for many fans, Universal Studios wouldn’t allow any of the events of Army of Darkness, the trilogy’s final entry, to contribute to the plot of the new series. Luckily, this doesn’t really affect Ash’s story at all as Campbell returns in perfect form, not missing a beat as the immature, chosen defeater of the Deadite army (unfortunately no “Deadite” references are allowed per the agreement with Universal). While he doesn’t work at exactly the “S-mart” retail store, Ash continues his endeavor in the retail industry albeit in a lazy, unmotivated, sleazy capacity.
The events of the first two Evil Dead movies still affect Ash very much despite the lack of time travel, S-mart, and deadite references. First and foremost, his hand remains completely severed with a hollow socket fashioned for a chainsaw consuming the end of his right arm. He also retains possession of the troublesome Necronomicon, the hilariously terrifying “Book of the Dead.” When Raimi shows Ashley J. Williams for the first time since 1992, our protagonist cranks up the stereo in his trailer and swallows a Hi-C juice box while jamming out in his trailer to pump himself up for a night of lying to get sex at a local dive. It’s safe to assume he accepts his evil-fighting days as an early peak, slipping into an arrested development after fate thrust him into the role of hero as a much younger man. Ash’s blatant immaturity seems to act as a coping mechanism for his earlier perils.
In the pilot, “El Jefe,” Ash has help beyond his chainsaw and boomstick. An optimistic co-worker named Pablo, played by Ray Santiago (In Time, “Raising Hope”), sees Ash for his former glory as opposed to his present disappointment. Through a bizarre circumstance (when aren’t the circumstances bizarre?), Pablo witnesses the Evil Dead at play and christens Ash as the titular “el Jefe”—a mythical foretold savior of sorts not unlike the mythical foretold savior of sorts that Ash became in Army of Darkness. Pablo’s recently-hired friend Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo—A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson”) also joins the unlikely group of retail misfits as the recent resurgence of evil seems to have directly affected her.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” also picks up a new thread beyond that of the legendary Ash. Jill Marie Jones (“Girlfriends,” “Sleepy Hollow”)co-stars as a detective named Amanda who investigates a call with her partner that quickly puts her in the path of the Evil Dead’s wrath. She’s the no-nonsense character to balance all of Ash’s quips and shenanigans. Her run-in with the malevolent force finds her briefly suspended and still somehow puts her in the company of Ruby, a mysterious drifter played by cult-television hero Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Spartacus”) who may know more about the Evil Dead than she’s willing to reveal.
In the pilot for his new television venture, talented filmmaker Sam Raimi taps back into the formula that initially made him a success with fans. Buckets of fake blood, cheesy writing, frightful ghouls, and the impactful star power of Bruce Campbell make “Ash vs. Evil Dead” a series not to be missed by Evil Dead fans and horror aficionados alike. If you think it’s going to be a mistake, consider that Starz picked the show up for a second season before the pilot even aired Saturday evening. How many rookie shows in television history get to say that?