It’s been 23 years since Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert depicted horror’s greatest sad hero, Ash Williams. Fans, such as myself, have been waiting 22 years for another adventure with the booze hound and his trusty chainsaw. That wait is finally over and despite much skepticism I’m happy to say that the violence and comedy are back in epic fashion.
Ash vs. Evil Dead ignores Fede Alvarez’s grisly 2013 reboot and picks right up with the original trilogy’s mix of rampant gore and groan inducing one liners. Taking place about 30 years after he ended the Deadite threat, an aging Ash lives alone in a trailer, spending his days working at big box retailer Value Mart (sorry, Army of Darkness fans, not S-Mart) and his nights listening to Deep Purple and trolling bars still using his missing hand to pick up chicks. How the Deadites actually return is one of the best jokes of the premiere that is too good to give away. Simply rest assured that the strained logic for the evil spirits in the woods to once again rise all but guarantees that Ash is already television’s greatest fool, and he isn’t even on episode two. Along for the ride are two of Ash’s coworkers Pablo (Ray Santiago), the naive one that sees greatness in Ash, and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), a young woman who recognizes him for the failure that he seems to be.
The opening scene of the premier episode is Ash Williams preparing for battle in the morning with severe intensity and the rapid-fire editing of extreme close-ups. Except instead of donning plates of armor, and that elusive chainsaw, he is popping on a man-girdle and dentures with a smile. It seems as though the war is now with middle age and he is losing it badly. A few other characters gracefully step into the spotlight during the first episode. Jill Marie Jones as Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher is instantly likable during the shows first big bloody (and eerily exorcist worthy) scene. Lucy Lawless also makes a brief but notable appearance that makes us want to know her story immediately; because she seems to know things…..
As for the carnage, the team go above and beyond the original films, but not in the same way that Alvarez does in the remake. Rather than going dark and turning the Deadites into grim, realistic looking zombies, Raimi manages to honor the cartoonish quality of the original monsters but while adding a slightly more realistic texture to them. Ash vs. Evil Dead feels cut from the exact same cloth as the films and they nailed it. This is what the continuation of a franchise should look like, something that embraces what made the original a standout but while expanding the lore and upping the production value. This is honestly one of the best pilots I have ever seen and Starz thinks so too. They renewed the show for a second season three days before the premier episode even aired. Welcome back, Ash Williams, you magnificent bastard.