The first time I saw Sam Raimi’s debut feature film, “The Evil Dead”, I had rented a VHS copy from a 7-11 that I had ridden my bike to at the young age of 13 (what can I say, renting videos in the early 80’s was the wild west of video rentals and the 16-year-old part-timer behind the counter couldn’t have cared less about my age). I fell in love with the manic and unrelenting pace of the film and the uncensored and (for the time) gruesome effects.
By the time Evil Dead 2 hit theaters in 1987, I was there opening night and fell in love with the new form of horror Raimi & Co had dubbed “Splatstick”. By 1992, I was working at a coffeehouse/movie theater in Pittsburgh, PA where I convinced the owners to screen Army of Darkness just so I could watch it for free to my heart’s content.
The reasons I’m telling you this is to give you a bit of my own personal history as a fan of the Evil Dead franchise so that you know when I say, that as a fan, that Starz’ new show Ash vs Evil Dead is exactly what I’ve been waiting 23 years to see. And it was TOTALLY worth the wait!
From the very first scene Raimi, Tapert, Campbell & Co make it clear that this is the same Ash we last saw in 1992 – a crass, foul-mouthed dolt that apparently hasn’t learned a thing from all his encounters with the demon spawn of Kanda. But that is where the similarities to ARMY end, with Ash’s character. The rest of the look, mood and feel are drawn heavily from my personal favorite installment in the franchise, Evil Dead 2. That tone is cemented firmly in the first scene when we encounter a deadite with series newcomer Jill Marie Jones (playing Michigan State cop Amanda Fisher) that is played as straight horror and is possibly the creepiest moment of the entire episode.
But worry not screwheads, the show’s creators know exactly which side of their bread is buttered and that butter is Ashley J. Williams. Every second he is on screen is pure Bruce Campbell gold! But seeing Ash in action again wasn’t even the best part of this show for me. That honor belongs to Pablo Simon Bolivar (played brilliantly by Ray Santiago). Serving as Sancho Panza to Ash’s Don Quixote, Pablo is the perfect way to not only introduce new audience member’s to the world of the Evil Dead, but he is also the only person that believes chickenshit Ash is actually “El Jefe”, the only man that would rise to stand against the evil (as predicted by his mescaline-fueled Shaman uncle).
Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t just a rehashing of three films from 30-ish years ago. Sure it’s great to see Ash mouth off again, it’s great to see deadites in all their gruesome revelry, and it’s great to see “the evil” camera work that goes all the way back to the first film. But this is EVIL DEAD for the 21st century. The show may feature Ash and Pablo may be my favorite character, but those are just two of five main leads on the show. The other three are all women, and each of them are more than capable of taking care of themselves (at least I can only assume that for Lucy Lawless as she was only present for a quick 20-second dialogue scene).
Basically, this pilot delivered everything I as a fan of the franchise wanted while also re-establishing the mythology for newcomers and I am excited to see where Raimi & Co take us from here. Which brings me to my only genuine concern about this show; can other directors bring the same kind of unique magic to the screen that has been signature Raimi/EVIL DEAD for over 30 years and will the short episode run time hamper the show’s ability to tell the story they want to tell? With this pilot, we got both Raimi directing and a longer run time so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out from here. All I know is after seeing one of my personal heroes in action for the first time in 23 years my response is simply – GROOVY!!!
4.5 out of 5
Fritz Striker is an artist and graphic designer. Fore more of his work you can visit his website: www.fritzstriker.com