First Impressions: A Spoiler-Free Review of Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Ash is back baby! This Halloween marked the return of Bruce Campbell’s portrayal of Deadite slaying badass Ashley (Ash) Williams with the new Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead. Set 30 years since his last battle against the Deadites, we see Ash facing the demonic foes once again.
I have very fond memories of being introduced to the Evil Dead series. Back in college one of my friends Todd and I were hanging out and he asked me “hey wanna watch this?” It was the Director’s cut of Army of Darkness. Having never seen any of the Evil Dead films, I was confused, yet very entertained in the first few minutes as I chuckled at the pit fight, the excessive fountains of blood as well as the moment Ash sucker-punches (or sucker-uppercuts?) Arthur by saying “Your shoelace is untied”. The joke of course was Arthur despite being a man in the Dark Ages, prior to shoelaces, actually looks at his feet before getting a knuckle sandwich courtesy of Ash. The movie was an awakening for me and shortly after that initial viewing; I made a quick trip to Wal-mart (as most nights were in college) and snatched up my own copy as well as the other 2 movies of the trilogy. I even purchased the theatrical version of Army of Darkness because although I really enjoyed some of the differences in the brown-bag covered Director’s cut, I really liked the original ending of Ash fighting a Deadite in S-Mart as opposed to the post-apocalypse ending. I would introduce my future wife to the films as well as many other friends along the way. My fandom continued as I purchased Bruce Campbell’s autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Actor as well as his other book Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way. In addition, I purchased copies of his other movies: My Name is Bruce, Maniac Cop, The Man with the Screaming Brain, ect. I even supported the gory reboot. I was overjoyed a few years ago that Denver put on a production of Evil Dead: The Musical (returning October 2016!!!!) and it all came to a head last year when I got to meet Bruce Campbell at Denver Comic Con (which was fantastic because he shook my hand and for our photo he put his arm around my wife and his other arm he used to shield me away…purposely for comedic purposes…I think). Needless to say, I’m an Evil Dead/Bruce Campbell fan and the movie trilogy is one of my favorites to watch.
When the series Ash vs. Evil Dead was announced I was pumped! There were rumors for a while that despite the reboot, there would be an Army of Darkness 2 made within a few years. Even though a reboot existed, Ash made a cameo in the post-credits spuring rumors that the 2 Evil Dead film franchises will merge at some point. When it was announced we’d get a series instead, I found it to be a good thing as this meant we’d get more time with Ash. Thankfully the series exists on a premium channel, which would mean language, violence and content would not be restrained. Although we’ll be seeing the continuing adventures of Ash in single one-hour and 30 minute formats, I think we’ll be perfectly fine!
So in a non-spoilerly recap of the pilot episode “El Jefe”, we catch up with an older Ash. He’s every bit the sexist and egotistical ham that we see mostly in Army of Darkness. He still firmly believes that he’s God’s gift to women, He’s still a not-so-subtle jerk and with a knack for wisecracks during battles. Ash hasn’t evolved too much in the 30 year gap since he faced off Deadites. This time around Ash is joined by new sidekicks Pablo, a fellow stockboy who usually covers for Ash’s tardiness and mistakes at work as well as Kelly, a new co-worker whom both fuels Ash’s hormones and trades barbed insults. I feel like the coming episodes these two sidekicks will be a great counter-balance to Ash. In addition, we get a glimpse of Lucy Lawless, who will probably be a very important character, as well as, a police officer whom we get to see in the episode’s more scarier Deadite encounters. So there’s plenty to work off of for 10 episodes (plus a newly green-lit season 2!). I think we’re going to have some fun with Ash and Co in the coming weeks.
One very interesting note was while watching the series, I was somewhat bummed that Ash rocked a rosewood hand rather than a metallic hand and that he didn’t make any mention of his trip to the Dark Ages. It turns out that due to some licensing issue, they couldn’t acknowledge Army of Darkness, which also might be why Ash is working for Value Stop rather than S-Mart. It’s kind of interesting because Evil Dead 2 wasn’t able to recap the first movie at the time and that’s why the first act of Evil Dead 2 was essentially a slimed down remake of the first movie. However, NOW Ash can mention Scotty, Cheryl and Shelly but not Arhur, Sheila or Henry the Red! Really though, the show wisely didn’t dwell much on the past other than a quick moment and just went forward with the new threat, which I think is a wise move as being too caught up in nostalgia could drag it down.
Overall I think it was a great start to a fun new series. It brought the wonderful mix of humor and horror that made Evil Dead 2 awesome. I was happy to see a quick making-of snippet after the episode with Sam Rami splattering blood on the actors, which is a lot tamer than the stuff the crew went through for the original Evil Dead movies. Needless to say, it’s fantastic to see Ash return!
On a somewhat somber note, my friend Todd, who introduced me to the world of Evil Dead that I mentioned earlier in this review sadly passed away back in March at the age of 32. We unfortunately fell out of communication over the years as our lives went in our different directions but I really wish that Todd were still around to experience the show. I think he would have loved the show just as much as I did. He would have been extremely hyped over Evil Dead becoming a show in the first place! It’s a major bummer he didn’t get to see it.
Overall I’d give this show a strong A-, the CGI is pretty bad, but the show remembers to not take itself too seriously and give us the Evil Dead zaniness that made fans like myself love the series. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!