Bruce Campbell is awesome. It’s a fact. His autobiography is awesome. That time he played elderly Elvis in an old folk’s home battling a mummy is awesome. And you can be damn sure that the Evil Dead is awesome. It’s great to know that we’ll be getting that Evil Dead awesomeness on a weekly basis (at least for 10 weeks). Ash Vs. Evil Dead captures that deranged feeling of Evil Dead II and delivers it to us on STARZ.
There is a very specific feeling to Evil Dead II that can only be expressed by Campbell, Sam Raimi, and the rest of the Dead crew. While horror comedy might seem easy, it most definitely is not. Ash vs. Evil Dead picks up the pieces of Ash Williams’ (Campbell, in his signature role) life as he muddles about in middle age. He’s rocking out in a trailer, avoiding the real world and his trauma. The fake hand that looks like he stole it from Chubbs? Oh, he picked that up saving an 8-year-old boy from a train. Certainly not fighting off Deadites.
Campbell captures all the appropriate swagger of Ash, who even thought he was hot shit when he was trapped in medieval times showing off his boomstick. The guy is using a fake hand to pick up ladies. But there’s that fear. It comes back as soon as a woman he’s spending some quality time in bathroom with briefly transforms into a Deadite and issues a warning. It’s been 30 years, how could the Necronomicon be pulling its tricks now, after all this time? Naturally, Ash just got high with a woman he was trying to impress and read some key words from the Book of the Dead.
Thusly, Ash has to face a whole horde of new threats with his companions Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana Delorenzo) from his big box store job, as well Amanda (Jill Marie Jones) a state trooper who had a bad run-in with a Deadite that may have ruined her career. Because, really, you couldn’t just have Ash run around solo for 30-40 minutes each week, getting slapped around lopping off heads.
The important thing is, Ash vs. Evil Dead contains the fun, creepy spirit of its source material. The Three Stooges-type gags are most definitely still there, as are the gallons of blood and hideous creatures. While there might be a few rough CGI effects in the show (it is television after all), the pilot is well-filmed, due to the benefit of having Sam Raimi in the director’s chair for the first one. There is an especially impressive bit where Ash fills Pablo in on the events of Evil Dead II with the movie playing on the boxes that surround them in the warehouse. It’s a surprisingly elegant way to show a flashback.
Ash vs. Evil Dead is everything you want it to be, with Campbell at his best portraying Ash Williams as he girdles up and straps on that chainsaw hand for one more go with the Army of the Dead. You can even go check out the pilot, “El Jefe”, over here on the STARZ website for free, which is pretty damn groovy. Best of luck getting “Space Truckin” out of your head.