When Bruce Campbell first played Ash Williams back in Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult hit The Evil Dead, the character was considerably more restraint. In fact, I doubt many people even saw him as the standout player in the game, since most horror movies at the time always seemed to end with the virgin surviving, and the boyfriend left for dead. That wasn’t the case with this franchise, which subverted our expectations and gave us a hero quite unlike anything we had ever seen before. Three instalments later, Ash had become the charismatic figure we all know and love today. However, he’s been gone since 1992, leading many fans to speculate whether or not he would ever return to fight evil once again. Thanks to Raimi and Starz Network, speculations are now reality. Campbell is back for more, bringing plenty of thrills, guts, and hilarious quips.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead is everything fans could possibly wish for, and then some. The ideas have certainly not been watered down, and during the pilot we get buckets of gore, madcap humor in spades, and a leading man at his absolute peak. Age doesn’t appear to have taking its toll on Ash, who is just as exuberant and eccentric as ever. At the beginning of episode, we find him living in an old trailer park with other old people. He himself is not so ready to retire, still going to the local bar and hooking up with the cutest girl at the counter. But when he suddenly sees the face of evil for the first time in nearly 3 decades, he begins to suspect that something sinister is about to flourish. Of course he’s 100 % right, and so along with two of his convenience store co-workers, he now has to pull out the old chainsaw, fetch his gun, and send the dead back to where they came from.
One of the things I found really interesting about this particular pilot, is how self-aware it is. The general tone is perhaps a little lighter than in the films, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for inappropriate, explicit, and sometimes extremely violent scenarios. In fact, I’m surprised by how impressive the special effects were throughout this first episode. Like in the scene where Ash confronts a possessed doll in a warehouse, or when the two cops go to investigate a report on a screaming woman, which turns out quite brutal and gross. There is a lot going on, visually, from great cinematography to stylish action that is very reminiscent of Evil Dead II, but with better production value. It looks and feels cinematic, but still retains the grit and dirt of the universe.
The writing is fairly straight-forward, and the filmmakers never try to make the premise out to be more than it actually is; creepy, bloody, and cheesy slice-and-dice fun with a twinkle in the eye. That’s exactly what you get here. The dialogue is often hysterically absurd, just like the situation and the concept itself, and the storytelling is very minimalistic in nature. The less sense it makes, the more hilarious and entertaining it all is. That being said, they do plant tiny seeds that could grow into bigger and more elaborate arcs. Here I’m thinking specifically of the female police officer, who is haunted by the death of her partner, and seeks to find answers as to what killed him, and how it can be stopped before it gets to her too. I also suspect we’ll delve much deeper into Kelly’s relationship with her dead mother, as it seems like she has been resurrected by the book of evil. Whatever is going on, I don’t think we’re going to get a happy family reunion!