Groovy, Indeed: A Review of “Ash Vs. Evil Dead”

Sam Raimi’s cult classic film series Evil Dead has made its way to television with the Starz series Ash Vs. Evil Dead. B-movie star and Evil Dead mainstay Bruce Campbell is back as Ashley J. Williams, the hero of the Evil Dead series, and even Sam and Ivan Raimi came back to write and direct the pilot episode. As a long-time big fan of the Evil Dead series, I’m glad to say that the show retains everything that has made people fall in love with those movies for more than thirty years. Only three episodes have aired so far, but it is safe to say that I really love this show and it has met and even surpassed my expectations. I even feel as though the show is getting better as it continues, making me extremely excited for what might come next.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the film series (you should be ashamed of yourself), the films focus on Ash Williams. Ash and a group of friends once stayed in a remote cabin in the woods, where Ash came across an old book called the Necronomicon. Within this flesh-bound, inked-in-blood book is an old language that, when spoken aloud, brings forth demons from Hell. The original film was played as more of a straight horror flick, and Ash was more serious. The sequels became increasingly more ridiculous and slapstick in nature, making Ash into a bumbling idiot but also creating one of the best demon-killing machines in all of film. It’s in the second film that Ash loses his hand and iconically replaces his stump of a hand with a chainsaw. Yes, it is ridiculous and stupid, but in all the right ways.

So, chronologically, Ash Vs. Evil Dead takes place after the events of Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. Due to legal issues, the show is not continuing from the final film in the series, Army of Darkness. So, Ash is about 30 years older than he was when we last saw him, and yet he’s still the same ol’ Ash. Ash is still one-handed, constantly spouting one-liners, all about the ladies and genuinely pretty sexist, and good at nothing but killing the undead. Ash always was and still is one of the best characters in all of horror. Bruce Campbell gracefully slips back into the role that made him famous 30 years ago, and it’s is an absolute delight to see this character again, chainsaw and all.

The pilot episode shows Ash as he’s living his now-boring life working at a supermarket and living in a trailer park. He has been living a normal, demon-less life for many years now, yet just recently he keeps seeing signs that deadites (Evil Dead’s term for undead/demons) have returned. Well, he apparently got high with some girl and decided to read a passage from the Necronomicon, which means that he has once again summoned demons from Hell to wreak havoc on the earth.

Ash reluctantly joins up with his two younger coworkers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), to try and stop the deadites and save the world. Pablo is young and naive, looking up to Ash like he’s the coolest guy around, while Kelly can see right through Ash and can tell that he’s actually a loser. All the while, Ash is being hunted by two women: Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) and Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless). Amanda is a state trooper who is on the case, searching for Ash and an answer to all this chaos after she was forced to brutally slay her partner when he became possessed and turned into a deadite himself. Ruby is extremely mysterious this far into the season, but one thing’s for sure: she is determined to find and take down Ash as she knows he’s the reason that the deadites are back.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead retains the dynamic of mixing horror and comedy that made the film series so fresh and exciting. I’ve found myself laughing consistently throughout the first three episodes (mostly from the hilarious dialogues between Ash and Pablo), and I’m glad that the absurdly over-the-top gore aspect of the film series is still intact as well. One minor problem I have with the show is its use of CGI effects. The film series always relied on practical effects so it is somewhat disheartening to see a fair amount of CGI used here, especially when the CGI is generally pretty poor.

The acting in the show is generally pretty good, with Bruce Campbell really bringing his A-game. The only sub-par acting so far this season comes from Dana DeLorenzo, who plays Kelly. She just doesn’t sell a lot of her lines that well, and feels stiff a lot of the time. The series keeps the frenetic pacing of the films, and there’s a lot of homages to how Raimi directed those films, which is a nice touch. Something I really love about the series that surprised me is the soundtrack, which intermixes some great 70s rock-and-roll tracks into action scenes in great fashion while also having newly composed orchestral tracks from Joseph LoDuca, the man that scored the original film series.

With AMC’s The Walking Dead becoming increasingly boring and tedious, and FX’s American Horror Story being hit-or-miss with each season, it’s refreshing to see a horror tv show of high quality that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is willing to be a ton of fun all of the time, and that’s exactly what Ash Vs. Evil Dead is. This is my new favorite show on television right now, and if you’re a fan of the films, you owe it to yourself to watch it. If you’ve never seen the films then go and watch them! Afterwards, start watching this show.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead airs Saturday nights at 9:00 pm on Starz.

— Michael Lane, Blog Editor

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