It is the end of the Halloween weekend, so of course, it’s the perfect time for Starz to premiere its new series, Ash Vs. The Evil Dead. This new series, a direct continuation of Sam Raimi‘s seminal splat-stick horror comedy, is a welcome diversion from what can only begrudgingly be called horror comedy (looking at you, Scream Queens — what, with your inability to figure out that horror comedy existed 30-years before you were even conceptualized).
Having loved the original three films, expectations were high (if tempered) that with returning star Bruce Campbell, and returning writer/director Sam Raimi, that some of the anarchic glee would make an appearance. Thankfully, nothing major seems to have changed, and the small screen seems to be a great fit for Ash and his new adventures through evil.
By all accounts, this series is a perfect continuation of the tale, and has plenty of blood, scares, deadites, and laughs throughout. Thirty years on after the events of the first film, Ash is continuing a quiet, lonesome existence still working at the Value Stop, and living a simple life in a mobile home. He wants none of the adventure and excitement of his past escapades, and generally seems to not be adjusting too well to the events of the first three films.
At the same time, he seems to not have changed at all. He is his usual glib, slightly irresponsible self (an extended shot of Ash trying to get out of work, and accidentally destroying an entire box of light bulbs, was so perfectly staged and performed, it worked as a great example how adept an eye for visuals Sam Raimi has when he is engaged with his story). Ash has changed so little, it seems, that the plot is set into motion through his own recklessness: after meeting a young woman and getting particularly high with her, Ash drunkenly reads from the copy of the Necronomicon he kept stashed safely away in his…unlocked foot locker.
With Bruce Campbell being the standout (and rightly so; it’s been great to see him taking center stage and investing fully in a great character), the supporting cast is great as well. Jill Marie Jones, as officer Amanda Fischer, manages to sell the idea of a professional being well out of her league while fighting off a deadite (the scene in particular being well-staged: with one deadite twisting her head and limbs to face her back; and another deadite being partially obscured by a rotating flashlight), and it’ll be interesting to see how professionals deal with the supernatural going on out. Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo get considerably more screentime than Ms. Jones, as Ash’s coworkers-cum-sidekicks Pablo and Kelly. Ray embues Pablo with a goofy naivete, but seems able to hold is own and go with the flow once the insanity starts kicking in; but it’s Kelly who seems to be hiding something, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see where she winds up going.
All in all, it’s a great start, and a hell of a lot of fun to catch on this spooky weekend. It’s obvious that Raimi and company are fully invested here (and I gotta say, his deadite-POV shots were sorely missed. He’s updated them a bit, as well as his callbacks to the earlier films: the Oldsmobile. Ash fighting a tiny, evil doll…much like his dozen or so clones from Army Of Darkness. The droll, deadpan humor). If the rest of this season is as energetic and fun as the premiere, then we’ll be happy to have Ash traipsing around our TV screens for the next couple of weeks.
Now if there was only one complaint, it would be that the CGI — if it had to be used — didn’t look so poorly rendered. While the episode is certainly violent, it doesn’t have the gore or feel of the earlier films, and some of the more explodey kills in the episode are, for some reason, rendered in CGI, despite the fact that it looked possible to have done the exact same effect practically (two major set pieces end in CGI-rendered blood-splosions). And in at least a visual sense, the series looks a bit too polished when compared to any of the prior three films. If the only complaints are about visuals, though…that’s something I can overlook.
All in all, it’s good to have the main man back.