Wow. I just watched the season finale of ASH VS EVIL DEAD. Short review: This was one of the best, most faithful, most fun horror TV series I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Slightly less short review: 34 years ago, a little movie called THE EVIL DEAD burst onto the scene. Do I really need to go into any further detail about it, or how it spawned sequels, remakes, a musical, comic books, video games, and made Bruce Campbell’s character Ash Williams a horror icon?
Following the 2013 remake (reviewed here), which opted for a more serious tone and suffered from unfavourable comparisons to the original, Raimi had planned a fourth film of the original trilogy (the remake featured a different central character to Ash, though there were plans to feature Ash as well). But he ended up writing so much material, far more than just a movie’s worth, that he thought a TV series might be better, with Campbell starring of course (both Raimi and Campbell had been doing well on TV since the EVIL DEAD days, both in front of and behind the camera).
Of course, it could have gone ass over tit if Raimi had decided to let NBC or CBS have the series; these dinosaur networks would have been about as appropriate a medium as the Disney Channel (anyone remember CONSTANTINE?). Fortunately he went with Starz, more popularly known for homemade series with nudity, profanity and/or blood like SPARTACUS, BLACK SAILS and DaVINCI’S DEMONS, as he knew Starz does not require the crew to create alternate, “wimpy” versions for television. Original film series producer Robert Tapert has returned to co-produce along with Raimi, Campbell and Craig DiGregorio, and Joseph LoDuca, the music composer for several Sam Raimi films including The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992), returns to score the TV series.
ASH VS EVIL DEAD takes place 30 years after the events of the movies (Due to legal issues, the events from ARMY OF DARKNESS, which is owned by Universal Studios, cannot specifically be mentioned on the show.), with Ash, still minus a hand following the sequel but minus none of his brash swagger, working in dead-end jobs, riding the same yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88 from the original trilogy (literally the same one; it belongs to Sam Raimi, and was bought new by his father) and banging women he meets in bars. During one such encounter, he drunkenly reads some “poetry” – and yes, it’s incantations from the notorious Necronomicon, which Ash has still kept all these decades.
Naturally, the Deadites rise again, and Ash has to face his destiny once more, armed with his chainsaw and his boom stick. However, this time he’s not alone; fellow wage slave Pablo Bolivar (Ray Santiago) witnesses the demonic goings-on, and recognises Ash as El Jefe, a fabled fighter against evil as described by Pablo’s uncle, a shaman. Pablo becomes Ash’s sidekick, and though Ash would prefer to go it alone, Pablo soon proves his worth. They are soon joined (very reluctantly) by Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo), whose family is possessed by Deadites and gets wiped out by Ash.
But while the trio head out in Ash’s trailer to fight evil, two women are hot on their trails: disgraced Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), who believes Ash is responsible for all this demon s**t (to be fair, she’s right on that score), and Ruby (Lucy Lawless), a mysterious figure who know more than she says, and is after Ash – or more specifically, the Necronomicon).
The pilot episode is 42 minutes long; the subsequent nine episodes are a half hour each. And this is fine, as the season-long story is a simple one: Ash trying to find out how to finally, completely destroy the Necronomicon and send the Deadites back to Hell. And the short times allow them to keep out any needless filler, and let them adopt the insane frenetic pace of Raimi’s work without leaving you exhausted.
ASH VS EVIL DEAD works on just about every level. The same successful mix of comedy and horror we got from the movies flows through the series. Bruce Campbell’s Ash is older and only a little bit wiser, has to wear a girdle and dye his hair, gets winded when he fights the dead, and still fucks up as much as he triumphs. In short, he’s the hero we deserve!
And his supporting cast show a terrific chemistry with each other (Lucy Lawless remains a gorgeous woman post-XENA), while we get little snippets of their backgrounds, the main action revolves around the here and now, as they learn to dispatch demons with pistols, hammers, golf clubs and just about anything else they can get their hands on at the time. And it didn’t occur to me until about the fourth episode that it had been filmed entirely in New Zealand – remarkable! Also of note is the cool soundtrack, featuring classic tracks from the Seventies and Eighties from Deep Purple, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Styx, AC/DC, Whitesnake, The Allman Brothers Band
As for the gore, well… a lot of it is CGI. Yeah, maybe that’s not in keeping with the spirit of the first movie, made in a time when people would have thought CGI stood for Cool Girls Inside. But it does lead to some pretty cool shots, and plenty of imaginative and ultra-gory deaths and dismemberment. And because it’s set in the Evil Dead Universe, there’s no guarantee that anyone will survive. Except maybe Ash. Maybe.
The trailer for the series is below, and has already been renewed for a Second Season. If you can watch it and haven’t yet, why not?
Director: Various, including Sam Raimi
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 10 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Groovy!