Was I the last pulp-horror fan in the world to discover this little gem? Ash is back to battle some Deadites and kick ass?!? Sign me up!
Seriously, whoever at the Starz network green-lit this one is almost as much of a genius as creator Sam Raimi himself. After the incredibly mediocre and unfunny 2013 remake, I’d lost all hope for a 4th Evil Dead installment. It’s been 23 years since the immensely entertaining Army of Darkness, and 34 (!) years since the phenomenal trilogy began, so to have a TV show picking up the story 3 decades after the original movie is a pure treat. And yeah, it’s pulpy and over the top, with low-quality effects and campy acting, but that’s exactly how it should be. Just to put the significance of the genre into perspective, Peter Jackson created Braindead/Dead Alive and Bad Taste before he went on to achieve LOTR greatness, so take that, haters.
Where was I? Oh yeah. ASH is BACK! Notably older and a little bit pudgier, which the show doesn’t waste time making fun of by giving him a man-corset, but he’s still the badass with the rose-wood prosthetic hand, who kicks Deadite ass.
Well, not exactly the badass from the get go. Ash still drives his yellow Oldsmobile, but he’s now working a shitty job at an electronics store, where he manifests his utter boredom and incompetence by unceremoniously dropping a box full of lightbulbs and shatters them to pieces – because of course, let’s give the handicapped guy large containers of fragile objects to carry. He lives in a trailer park and has ostensibly been spending the last 30 years trying to forget the events of the horror classic, the Necronomicon now residing in the depths of a trunk full of useless stuff he keeps laying around. Apparently Army of Darkness is owned by another studio, hence the absence of references to that time-traveling business.
To kick off the events in the present, we see that he and a ladyfriend spent a night in his trailer getting wasted, in a hilarious flashback scene. After copious amounts of pot, and in an effort to one-up her when she recites a poem, Ash decides to whip out the Book of the Dead and read a few verses in the ancient language. The incantations awaken the evil forces in the woods, which have supposedly remained dormant for 30-odd years, and the Deadites are now back with a vengeance.
The story unfolds as you’d expect: people around him start turning into monsters, and he’s the only one who can stop them, along with his trusty chainsaw hand attachment.
This time, however, he has an eager little sidekick: his former co-worker Pablo, who brings along Kelly, who has apparently friendzoned the poor guy. Together they go about their adventures against the Deadites. Their first stop is Kelly’s childhood home, where the evil entity has taken over her dead mother, followed by a visit to the rare book dealer who might have the secret to unlocking the mysteries of the Necronomicon, and then to Pablo’s brujo uncle.
Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple for ol’ Ash and his buddies, as there are actual flesh-and-blood people after him along with the Deadites: Amanda, a police officer who had to kill her partner-turned-Deadite while investigating a case, is convinced Ash is behind this whole mess and goes after him. And who might join her on her quest but Lucy freaking Lawless? It’s Xena, people! How cool is that? Well, Xena noticeably older and with a normal person hairdo, but still: Xena is now Ruby, the daughter of Ash’s old girlfriend –
you know, the one who turned into a Deadite back in the 1981 movie, whom Ash had to kill? (*edit: Ruby was the daughter of Professor and Henrietta Knowby from the second Evil Dead installment). Yeah, she’s out for revenge and teams up with the lady cop to track him down.
Raise your hand if you’re super-excited about this show already. I know I am! The first season is merely 10 half-hour episodes, but the show got picked up for a second season before it even premiered, so it looks like it’s here to stay. Each episode is not only packed with cheesy lines, it also ups the ante on the gore and finds new, creative ways for our heroes to kill more and more Deadites. Fun, fun, fun!
In true Evil Dead fashion, this television iteration of the classic doesn’t take itself too seriously either. It retains the B-movie feel of the original in every aspect – from the bad make up to the even worse acting, down to the music (composed by long time collaborator on Raimi projects, Joseph LoDuca), the show has the look and overall effect of exactly what it’s supposed to be: a 2015 reimagining of the 1981 movie that knows not to fix what isn’t broken.
The show knows its target audience and doesn’t waste time on exposition, nor does it shove its updated production values down our throats. It doesn’t even try to somehow make the viewer disregard the fact that the hero is no longer the young badass we all remember from the movies, as is the case with many action hero movies treating their aging protagonists like they’re still their former, 30-something selves. More importantly, it stays true to the story, which needs no embellishment to be entertaining: evil forces reanimate the dead and possess the living, and Ash is the one who’s going to stop them.
At the end of the day, it’s as simple as the title would suggest: Ash Vs Evil Dead.
And really, what more do you need?