Television Review: ‘Ash Vs Evil Dead’ Season 1
The year was 1989. “Look Away” by Chicago was the number one song of the year, Tim Burton’s Batman topped the book office, and Balki and Cousin Larry ruled the television airwaves on Perfect Strangers. It was also the year a young eleven year old named Corrye (me) was exposed to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. Or should I say ALMOST exposed.
I was at my local video store (remember those kids?!) and browsing through the horror section when I noticed a VHS cover with a skull on it. What drew me to it was the skull had eyes (very atypical) and they were looking, seemingly, right at me. The film was called Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Now I wasn’t much of a horror fan at the time mostly because my parents wouldn’t let me watch them. However for some reason this movie spoke to me. I knew it wasn’t going to fly with my Mom though and I was right. As I slowly approached her from the horror section with the tape, she was shaking her head before I even reached her. Probably BECAUSE I was emerging from the horror section. (At least it wasn’t the velvet curtained entrance leading down to the porno section. Yeah not creepy at all.) But what did I expect? Like a devout Catholic mother is going to let an eleven-year-old kid rent a movie with the words “evil” and “dead” on the cover. That’s about as likely as an actual guy with a chainsaw for a hand.
Flash forward ten years. It’s now summer 1999. “Smooth” by Santana was the number one song, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (ugh) topped the box office, and everyone was still wild about Ross and Rachel on Friends. I’m almost the legal drinking age and in college. My friend Ken and I are at the local video store (still going strong as the writing wouldn’t be on the wall for about another six years) and once again I run into (you guessed it) Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. Neither Ken nor I had seen any of the films so we thought, hey what the Hell? We rented The Evil Dead and went to my house to watch the movie.
To say Ken and I loved the film is like saying Ash Williams likes boomsticks. At one point I remember my Mom coming in because we were laughing so hard and asking what we were watching. She even watched a couple of minutes and had a chuckle or two. We were fully entertained by the over the top gore, the constant laughs (when Ash’s sister’s Cheryl rises into the air possessed by demons and says, “YOU WILL DIE!” we almost pissed our pants), and the surprisingly compelling story. The next two days we proceeded to watch the sequels, Evil Dead 2 (with the skull VHS cover of yore), and Army of Darkness. Each were as entertaining as the last. It was the first time I’d been introduced to horror comedy and I was hooked.
In the years since Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series has been often imitated (Cabin Fever, Cabin in the Woods) but never duplicated. Ever since Army of Darkness released in 1992 there were rumblings of a fourth Evil Dead film. However, Raimi ended up doing the Spider-man films, Campbell got involved in the USA Network television show Burn Notice, and the project just didn’t come to fruition. However, the will to revisit the world of Ash, the Necronomicon, and the Deadites was always there. And much like the Book of the Dead, all parties involved were just waiting silently to spring. In other words the chainsaw was humming but demons weren’t quite ready to be sliced.
Which brings us to 2015. Thirty-seven year old me is married with a wife, a son, and a mortgage. Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” was so hot you had to call the PO-LEEZ and the firemen, Game of Thrones flew higher than Drogon, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (yay!) crushed the box office like Chewie stomping on Salacious Crumb.
Yes my friends it was and is the Golden Age of Television. And because we are living in said Golden Age, Evil Dead fans finally got what they wanted–Ash Vs Evil Dead the television show, which premiered on the Starz network October 31st, 2015.
But would the show be any good?
The answer is a resounding yes. To quote Campbell’s character Ash, “Groovy.”
So what’s been going on the last 30 years for the chainsaw wielding, boomstick carrying, Deadite killing badass? The answer? Not much. In fact Ash’s life is pretty empty. Now in his 50s, he’s still a stock boy at a local bargain store, he’s thirty pounds overweight, and lives in a trailer. And he’s still rocking the 1973 Oldmobile Delta 88. He’s also a middle-aged Lothario who goes to bars and lies about how he lost his hand in order to get sympathy sex. Ash’s sex scene at a bar in the first fifteen minutes is one of the most awkward and hilarious I’ve ever seen. Yes Mr. Williams’ life is less than boring…
Until he gets high, tries to impress a girl, and reads from the Necronomicon. Then, quite literally, all Hell breaks loose.
Although reluctant to pick up the chainsaw and boomstick again, Ash is forced to when an angry doll attacks him in a horrifying and hilarious scene at the back of the ValueShop. (Guess he stopped working at S-Mart.) Thankfully, his one friend Pablo (Ray Santiago) is able to save Ash at the last second. When Ash proceeds to tell Pablo his story, Pablo, whose Uncle is a shaman, becomes convinced that Ash is actually El Jeffe, a man destined to stand against the Deadites.
Before long Ash straps on the chainsaw, reloads the boomstick, and heads out on a quest to reverse the shitstorm he started. (Not surprisingly a certain cabin comes into play eventually.) Joining Ash on this quest is Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) a young woman whose life has been ruined by Deadites and who Pablo expresses not so subtle feelings for. Also joining the fray is a disgraced Michigan State Trooper Amanda (Jill Marie) who had her own run in with the Deadites and tries to track Ash down, believing him to be the source of the problem. She joins up with Ruby Knowles (Lucy Lawless) who claims to be the sister of Ash’s girlfriend Annie from Evil Dead 2. (Just forget the fact that Ash’s girlfriend’s was named Linda in the first film.) Hers is a mission of revenge, although her motivations are more than suspect.
There’s a lot to love about Ash Vs Evil Dead. The gore and swearing is as relentless as you’d expect with the cinematography mimicking both Evil Dead 1 and 2. (I don’t think the show would have been as good if it had not been on a premium cable network.) All of the new characters are a treat to watch especially Santiago and DeLorenzo as Pablo and Kelly. Their chemistry with Ash was perfect. Although offended by his casual racism and sexism (one of the best moments of the season was when Ash suggests churros as a dessert but assures Pablo it’s not racist and Pablo has to remind Ash he’s not Mexican) they recognize him as a true brother in arms and a friend. Lucy Lawless adds a certain charm and her true identity becomes one of the more compelling plots of the season. If anything she’s underused Not to be left out, Jill Marie’s character arc through the first season of Ash Vs Evil proves intriguing. She goes from a person brought low by Deadites to a woman with a purpose, and (sort of) Ash’s love interest.
And Bruce Campbell? After all these years he still fits the character of Ash Williams like a glove. If anything he’s gotten better at the character. The years have only made him more wise cracking but not one iota less a bad-ass. And we definitely learn some interesting facts about Ash such as his ideal happy place is Jacksonville, Florida even though he’s never been there, and apparently he has a gigantic dong. His character doesn’t remain static however. While Ash has always considered himself a lone wolf, by the end of the season he realizes he needs companions and moreover friends. And by the way the first season ends, he’s going to need them more than ever next season.
If I had only one complaint about Ash Vs Evil Dead it’s that episode lengths are too short. I’d rather have it be an hour long show. Although to be fair, the quick half hour time makes the show fast paced. I guess it’s not really a complaint, it’s more of a desire for more cowbell. All things considered, Ash Vs Evil Dead is everything an Evil Dead fan could hope for and then some.
Hail to the King, baby.
Season One of Ash Vs Evil Dead Rates: 9/10 Boomsticks.
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