Is there anything more entertaining than seeing Bruce Campbell getting the crapped kicked out of him? I’m not sure, but thirty years after the original Evil Dead hit theaters we have a television series that does its best to answer that question. Now pain is integral to comedy, whether it be physical or emotional, but getting the balance right is the secret to really good comedy, and Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are undisputed kings of getting the blend just right.
Back in 1981 audiences were shocked at the level of gore and horror in Sam Raimi’s low budget film Evil Dead, but then in 1987 Raimi released a sequel with even more gore, but with complete overhaul of tone. Evil Dead II was a brilliant comedy as well as a horror film, mixing elements from The Three Stooges and the Grand Guignol. In that prequel/sequel Raimi and Bruce Campbell created a masterpiece of the dark comedy. Army of Darkness, the third entry, reigned in the gore but then expanded the character of Ash’s bravado nature. Then in 2013 we got a remake of the original that was surprisingly good, but it in keeping true to that first film it did not have the comic element fans of the series had grown to love. Enter the Starz Network and its back to gore fueled comic romp we’ve all been waiting for.
Thirty years have passed since Ash (Bruce Campbell) first battled the Evil Dead and we now find him living in a trailer park, working at Value Stop (I’m assuming it’s not S-Mart because Universal still owns Army of Darkness, so this series cannot reference that movie), and trying to score with the local ladies. Ash does surprisingly well at this, and one must chock that up to his insane charismatic charm. He may be a pompous braggart, so full of hot air he could be a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but he is an exceptional likable braggart. Unfortunately when one of his conquests asks him to read some poetry the only book he has on hand is the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, the book of the dead. That element is this show’s hardest thing to swallow, and this is series where a hardware store clock can construct a robotic hand, but It’s hard to believe that Ash would not only still have the Necronomicon but that he’d read from it to impress a chick.
Sure he’s was half out of his gourd on drugs at the time but it could have worked just as easily if the girl had found it while he was passed out, and then she read it on her own. For me this scene pushed Ash from the lovable idiot end of the spectrum to the fucking moron end. Regardless of the logic of this scene this does get the show’s premise moving along because once evil stalks the land Ash must do battle with it, but unlike in the movie the initial attack isn’t on Ash but rather on innocents in the surrounding area. Enter Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) who, upon responding to what was assumed to be a domestic abuse situation, find herself facing off against deadites.
So Fisher’s partner is killed and she is put on administrative leave after reporting the crazy shit she saw, but she won’t be sidelined and her hunt for the truth will pull her into Ash’s circle. Meanwhile Ash, having failed to escape town with his paycheque, teams up with fellow Value Stop employees Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana Delorenzo) who agree to help Ash find a way to destroy the book. So Ash suits up, dons his signature chainsaw and shotgun, and the trio set out face evil.
This is a brilliantly fun show, but if you have a squeamish side or a weak stomach you may want to give it a pass. People are decapitated, eyes gouged out, limbs lopped off in sprays of blood, and that’s just in the first episode. Gallons upon gallons of blood fly throughout this ten episode season and I can’t see any fan of the Evil Dead movies being disappointed. Special shout-out to Mimi Rogers, who plays Kelly’s mom and whose deadite transformation is fantastic as is her awesome carnage filled battle with Ash.
The final crucial element to the season is in the character of Ruby (Lucy Lawless). She claims to be the daughter of Professor Raymond and Henrietta Knowby who we met back in Evil Dead 2, and she teams up with Fisher to track down and kill Ash. That Fisher trusts a woman who is using Ash’s severed possessed hand as a GPS unit shows what strain this police officer must be under.
Now not every episode hits it out of the park, the crew take a pit stop to see Pablo’s uncle to help exorcise a demon and it’s mostly treading water story wise, and the ending cliff-hanger was a tad weak, but overall there is something good in each and every one of the shows first ten episodes to keep most fans happy. Though any qualms a fan could possibly have about this show will be abated when Ash finally returns to the cabin where it all started. The season finale showdown between our heroes and the Dark Ones is a gore filled nightmare that will have the stoutest viewer cringing and peeking through their fingers.
Ash vs Evil Dead was renewed for a second season, three days before it even premiered, so we can all look forward to more adventures with one of the world’s unlikeliest heroes. So keep your Kandarian Dagger handy and sit back and enjoy the ride in everyone’s favorite yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88.
Ash vs Evil Dead: Season One
Season Rank - 8/10
Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert all return to give us the Evil Dead experience we have been waiting for, and it’s just great to see Bruce back performing the role he was born to play.