Ash vs Evil Dead debuted on Halloween, which is thematically appropriate. But this would be our new favorite show any time of year: it’s funny, raunchy, goofy, and awesomely gory. And, naturally, star Bruce Campbell slays. Hail to the King, baby!
As the Sam Raimi-directed pilot, “El Jefe,” begins, it’s been 30 years since that fateful night in the cabin in the woods. Ash is older and rounder but otherwise he hasn’t matured much; he lives alone in a (pretty sweet) trailer, rocks out to Deep Purple, still works in a big-box store (no longer at S-Mart, though!), and spends his nights in old-man bars hitting on ladies with fake tales of how he lost his hand. Oh, and on one particular night... he gets totally blasted and pitches woo with a reading from a certain Necronomicon Ex Mortis. Oops!
The premise of the show—that Ash is a buffoon who’s also somehow the coolest guy in the room, and the only person who can save the world from Deadite destruction—depends entirely on the appeal of its leading man. No problem there; Bruce Campbell first played Ash in 1981, and obviously he has the chainsaw-swinging character completely dialed. He’s as great as ever in the role. He appears to be having a blast, too:
Yep, that’s Ash vs. an evil princess doll. And that creepy-funny visual gag is just one example of the creative eye candy the show unfurls as part of its storytelling. Practical effects, like that horrifying doll, are used more than CG, and the fight scenes are squishy and splat-tastic. Two words: EXPLODING. HEADS. Then, when Ash finally reveals his long-held secret to his co-worker Pablo, scenes from Evil Dead appear projected on the warehouse shelves, bringing viewers who haven’t seen the film (??) up to speed on his past. When another co-worker, Kelly, receives a frantic phone call from her father that her dead mother seems to have returned from the grave, we see it happen through FaceTime on her phone, which makes it even more suspenseful. With Raimi at the helm, it’s no surprise how cinematic the show feels.
Pablo (eagerly) and Kelly (reluctantly) become part of Ash’s Deadite-fighting posse when they happen to be with him when the onslaught begins. (That famous zooming, swooping, Steadicam-simulating shot that Raimi used in the films works just as well here to convey rapidly approaching evil. And it’s just as freaky!) These younger characters bring their own intrigue into Ash’s world; Pablo is convinced Ash is the “Jefe” (the King, TCB) foretold to save humanity, while Kelly’s obviously got something supernatural going on back at home. Pablo’s puppy-dog crush on Kelly is one of few plot points that seems like it could get pretty tired, but we’ll hold off on worrying about that until it does.
Another major character is police officer Amanda, whose concept of reality is tested when she encounters Deadites at a most unusual murder scene. Clearly she’ll be investigating WTF is happening, though her connection to Ash and company isn’t yet clear. We also get a very brief look at Lucy Lawless’ character, Ruby, when she reassures a very shaken-up Amanda in a coffee shop. Can’t wait to see exactly how she’ll fit into this insane universe.