Feb 8, 2016

[TV] Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 1

The Sam Raimi Evil Dead movies are one of those weird cultural franchises that have maintained a dedicated fan following over the years. And I won't lie - I'm pretty sure that Tobie and I are definitely part of that following. And that made getting into this show pretty easy.

But it takes more than just a concept to make it work. You need the right kind of writing and ultimately proper execution. And Ash vs Evil Dead is precisely the right kind of show that celebrates the campy brilliance of the movies but presents things in a new way that works for the small screen. And since it's a Starz production, they also didn't have to hold back on the wanton violence, as is appropriate for the franchise.
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Despite my love for the movies, I was honestly worried that the TV series would not be able to carry the unique dark comedy that the series of movies is known for. And it was probably a bit help to have the likes of Bruce Campbell coming back for the series and really making this a proper continuation of the Evil Dead story world.

Synopsis: Ash vs Evil Dead is an American horror comedy series developed for television by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy for Starz. The TV series is set in the same Sam Raimi Evil Dead universe of stories and takes place about 30 years since the events covered in the movies.

So Ashley "Ash" Williams (Bruce Campbell) is still everyone's favorite ValueShop sales clerk, who is missing a hand and not especially good at his job. Things don't seem to be going all that well for him considering that he now lives in mobile home  and just seems to be focused on random hook-ups and other vices. But a drug-induced high leads to him reading lines from the dread Necronomicon that Paul has been holding onto for safekeeping. And thus one again the Deadites are able to locate him and the rest of his crew and the movie's action really kicks things into high gear.

I think the first smart thing that the folks behind the show did was to embrace the fact that Bruce Campbell is no longer the same young man who first entered that cabin in the woods in Evil Dead. A lot of time has passed and there's no point in trying to hide that. So instead they made sure to embrace the passage of time and what we have is a much older Ash who may not be as physically capable, but he's still the same sleazy guy when you get down to it.

But he's also joined by an interesting supporting cast in the form of other ValueShop employees, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo). At first I thought they were going to drop off the roster after the first few episodes and yet they end up seeing things through all the way to the end. But they fit right into the mix of things which includes jarring demonic imagery and almost slapstick moments of comedy.

Bringing in Lucy Lawless as some mysterious figure out to get Ash since he's somehow responsible for everything (which in a way he is) was another brilliant move. Really, this woman has been a near-perfect addition to any genre TV show she's been involved in. This warrior princess is one heck of an actress and we are made all the better for it as viewers.

The show will always feel a little over the top, both in terms of its comedic moments and the dark horrific moments. But for some reason it works time and time again and it's just brilliant how the show does this. The whole experience naturally feels quite familiar in terms of the antics and the situations and even some of the demonic elements. But it's also very new in how it presents things and how it takes things forward.

And for a comedy series, it's still scarier than some dedicated horror programs that we've encountered over the years. You can really feel that this project is a labor of love. And so it's hard to find a definite peg for why Ash vs Evil Dead worked for us, but it just did. And so the show gets a great 4 Deadites appearing out of nowhere out of a possible 5, or maybe a full 5 among fellow Evil Dead fans.


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