Review: "Ash vs. Evil Dead"

By: Heather Seebach

 Some folks are waiting for Led Zeppelin to reunite again. Cubs fans are still hoping for that World Series win. Sci-fi geeks are holding their breath for Firefly to come back. But for Evil Deadheads, our Holy Grail has already surfaced! It may not be the fourth official film we fans have been demanding these last two decades but it's Raimi and Campbell back in the saddle and it is everything. What follows is my review of the first two episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead - "El Jefe" and "Bait."

 I cannot believe I am even writing this right now. I never thought this day would come. As the dork who turned the wall of her room into an Evil Dead shrine, and who traveled many States and stood many hours in the freezing rain just to shake Sam Raimi's hand, I mean it when I say this is the most personal review I have ever written. Still, despite my girl boner, I promise to be honest and unbiased in my assessment of THE MOST IMPORTANT TV SHOW EVER. 

 When Ash vs. Evil Dead was announced, the first reaction of fans everywhere (once the masturbating had subsided) was, "A television series?!" After much whining and crying for a cinematic sequel to Army of Darkness, nobody really saw that announcement coming. For some reason, the concept of MORE hours of Evil Dead material put fans off. Let's face it: most television today is better than mainstream movies. AMC and HBO alone have been cleaning up with their brilliant television series. Starz may not be as heavy a hitter as those but it has provided some fantastic originals like the wildly underrated Party Down and the brutal, bloody Spartacus. So in order to maintain the level of unbridled creativity and bloodshed we expect from this franchise, Starz is a fitting choice. 

Now that you've hopefully accepted this is not an Evil Dead movie (which, by the way, may still happen if this show succeeds), let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? Two episodes in, this show has already given me most of what I could ever ask for as a fan - gore, slapstick, one-liners, deadites, and Ash in all his glory! For those less studied in the franchise, the show is just plain fun. Ashley J. Williams is ever the selfish blowhard he was back then. Our first glimpse of the man in decades has him squeezing into a man girdle, jamming out to 80s metal in his trailer home, and picking up desperate ladies in the bar at closing time. It's exactly how I imagined him after all these years! To quote Sam Raimi, "Ash really hasn't grown as a human being. They say art imitates life."

Back in the blue denim and chainsaw limb, Campbell chews scenery as only he can. He has effectively dashed his own worries that he is "too old" to reprise the role. Try not to get chills the first time Ash grabs his boomstick and dispatches a deadite! Joining Campbell for this adventure are Ash's co-workers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana Delorenzo). Needless to say, Ash is who we really care about here, but Pablo and Kelly are great side-kicks thus far. I imagine their roles will expand further as the series goes on but they are a likable pair already. 

There is a developing side-story with a cop named Amanda (Jill Marie Jones) who encounters deadites first-hand and sets out to find the source. Her narrative will seemingly join forces with Lucy Lawless' Ruby in future episodes but so far it's a bit of filler. In the first episode, however, it does give rise to some of the BEST Sam Raimi-directed moments! Sammy busts out all his old tricks (and some new ones) for a particularly fun sequence starring Amanda and her police partner. The pilot episode, sadly the only one Raimi helmed personally, is full of "classic Sam" moments, including the famous Sam-O-Cam through the woods - if that doesn't make you stiff, you might be a deadite. 

Raimi torturing Campbell, behind the scenes

That Raimi/Campbell humor is ever-present as well, including some delightfully familiar slapstick sequences. So too are Ash's one-liners back in force - all new ones, with the exception of one famous quotable (I bet you can guess which). Even Raimi's beloved Oldsmobile Delta 88, better known as "The Classic", is back! So the series has the laughs, the nostalgia, and the hero, but how is the gore? Well, firstly, there is TONS of it. There are a few brief moments of CG gore that may make the hardened snobs wince (I count myself in that) but mostly it is utilized for campy purposes. Where it counts, the blood is very real and abundant! Furthermore, the deadites are GREAT! The make-up is updated a bit but they look very much like the Evil Dead 1 & 2 creations. They also behave exactly as they always did, tormenting emotionally as much as physically.

What more can I say? I fucking LOVED it. For Sam Raimi to direct anything Evil Dead-related again is pretty much all I've ever dreamed of, and the pilot episode did not disappoint. I was a little worried about what would follow, without the direct contribution of Sam and his brother Ivan, but episode two was just as fun! Showrunner Craig DiGregorio and the writers seem to have a good grip on what makes this franchise so great and I trust they will do it justice with the rest of this show. 

ASH VS EVIL DEAD premieres on Starz on Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 9PM ET/PT. 

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