TV Review: Ash Vs. Evil Dead - Season 1, Episode 1

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Season 1, Episode 1: El Jefe  

SUMMARY: After spending thirty years hiding out as in a trailer park and eking out a living as a stock-boy, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) faces his destiny after once again unwittingly unleashing the Deadites by reading from the Necronomicon.

REVIEW:  It’s taken more than twenty years but, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ash Williams is back!!! With Sam Raimi now a multi-billion-dollar grossing director and THE EVIL DEAD having gotten a surprisingly successful reboot a few years ago, it seemed like the odds of us ever getting an EVIL DEAD IV, or even another Ash adventure were pretty slim. For a while, it looked like he might be drafted into the aborted FREDDY VS. JASON franchise, but that never panned-out, and everyone involved seemed to have moved on to bigger, if not necessarily better things.

 ash vs evil dead bruce campbell

That’s why I felt, while watching the first episode of Starz Ash Vs. Evil Dead series, that I was watching something of a miracle in action. This is one of those totally unlikely pop culture events, similar to what audiences must have thought when Sean Connery re-emerged to play James Bond in 1983’s NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. And sure enough, Starz seems to have put plenty of cash and resources into this new series, with Ash’s war with the Deadites likely to cross-over in a big way.

Ash VS Evil Dead is everything a franchise re-launch should be. It’s perfectly accessible to audiences who haven’t seen the original trilogy (although I expect anyone who likes this to watch the movies immediately) but it’s also tremendously satisfying to old school fans, with our boy Ash being front and center throughout – even with an infusion of new blood added to the mix.

In many ways, this is the EVIL DEAD IV we’ve been waiting for, with Sam Raimi himself having directed the pilot, in addition to serving as one of the executive producers along with Campbell, Robert Tappert, and more. His fingerprints (and those of his co-writer brother Ivan) are all over the pilot, with all the EVIL DEAD hallmarks present and accounted for. There’s extreme, over-the-top gore, Deadite POV camera shots, and plenty of Three Stooges-style humor, with Ash being as clumsy as ever (a bit with a box of light bulbs was classic Raimi).

 ash vs evil dead bruce campbell

Bruce Campbell himself hasn’t lost a beat. While Ash’s advancing middle-age is played for laughs (with him wearing a corset and dentures), he actually doesn’t look all that different from how he did in ARMY OF DARKNESS. While he’s still clumsy and irresponsible as all heck (he unleashes the Deadites after smoking a joint and trying to impress a Goth chick), once the action starts and he gets his paws (or rather – paw) on his boomstick, the old kick-ass Ash is right back in action.

Campbell really looks like he’s having the time of his life, and certainly it helps that Raimi is behind the camera. While it’s unknown how the rest of the show will pan out, it still seems Starz has put a ton of money into this thing, with the forty-minute pilot alone likely having cost more than the first three movies put together. There’s some real inspired lunacy here, including an amazing bit where Ash fights a kewpie doll come to life, with the CGI being pretty state-of-the-art compared to the gloriously old-fashioned tricks they had to rely on twenty-plus years ago.

The timeline here is also interesting, with the events of ARMY OF DARKNESS having not been acknowledged yet in any of the dialogue. At first it seemed like this might be a sequel only to the first EVIL DEAD, but Ash is still missing a hand and has all the toys the blacksmith put together for him in ARMY (along with his Oldsmobile), so it seems II and ARMY are still canon.

 ash vs evil dead bruce campbell

Along with Campbell, the Ash Vs Evil Dead show runners have assembled a tight little cast, with Ray Santiago stealing scenes as a hero-worshipping colleague of Ash’s, while Dana Delorenzo plays the new ValueSTOP (it looks like S-Mart has been the victim of a corporate take-over) cashier who’s somehow able to resist Ash’s charms (so far). Jill Marie Jones, as a state trooper who’s found herself a Deadite target, also seems like a great potential heroine (albeit far more no-nonsense than Ash) while Lucy Lawless is glimpsed quickly (she’s billed as a regular).

Even if the follow-up episodes suck, EVIL DEAD fans should be thrilled that the saga has finally gotten another chapter, with the pilot containing lots of great moments. Optimistically, Ash Vs. Evil Dead is off to a great start, and if they’re able to maintain the quality of the pilot, EVIL DEAD fanboys are going to lose their freaking minds. This seems like it could be a damn good new show, and it sure is nice to see Ash back in the saddle. Hail to the king baby.



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