When a series is picked up for a second season before the first episode is aired, the show better be bloody brilliant. Lucky for Starz, Ash vs Evil Dead is – with emphasis on ‘bloody’. Having never seen the original films and being almost entirely ignorant of the franchise, I went into this series cold (with only the rumours that it was well worth it). Personally, one beauty of the series is that viewers don’t need to be only of the previously initiated variety. Anyone can get into Ash vs Evil Dead without feeling lost or behind. It brings us up to speed quickly and without major info dumps.
The hype around this comedy horror series is well deserved. Who knew the phrase ‘so bad its good’ could ring so true? My creative teachers would cringe at the clichéd dialogue, but even they would love this show. The series is so knowing in its stupidity while racing the viewer along at super speed that you will never watch the show in silence – the audience will go from laughing to cringing for a full half hour without time to relax. Everything is over the top, from the excessive squirting fake blood (that looks more like tobacco sauce than actual blood), to deadpanned terrible one-liners, to the backwards Neanderthal mentality Ash clings to. This is the horror comedy of the year – move over Scream Queens, you ain’t got nothin’ on Bruce Campbell and his chainsaw.
Are you really going to use your fucking lizard as an excuse to get out of work again?
30 years ago Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his friends read from a very bad book – ugly on the outside and filled to the brim with evil incantations. The past has left its mark on Ash, he has remained stuck with the same mindset he had back then, never maturing or developing better pick-up lines. His life is dull but it is about to get a hell of a lot more exciting.
High as hell with his latest floozy, Ash makes the same mistake again – reading from that damned book. It doesn’t take long for evil to catch up with him. Soon Ash is running from and slicing up Deadites with the help of pals Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana Delorenzo). Meanwhile, state trooper Amanda (Jill Marie Jones) received her first taste of the terror lurking in the world.
Oh, I’ll be polite. Right up until I’m rude.
This series is evidence that writing isn’t everything when it comes to TV and film. If you looked at the lines of dialogue Bruce Campbell delivers on paper, entirely divorced from the performance of them, you’d think Starz had gone mad commissioning such a clichéd, misogynistic, ludicrous series. But the beauty is in the delivery. Ash is not a poster child for anything other than a guy with serious issues – he’s immature with outdated beliefs. He is the stereotype turned up to 11. For this kind of character to work, it requires an actor of a certain kind. Bruce Campbell has excellent comedic timing, the charisma to make such an asshole believably get laid, and the physical presence to legitimately take on the dead. He is truly glorious in Ash vs Evil Dead.
You’re kinda like a young me. Deadites ruined your life, and you’re hot as hell.
That’s not to say that the other ingredients for Ash vs Evil Dead don’t hold their own, but Campbell does have this shit nailed down. The supporting cast is great fun, with Jill Marie Jones bringing an earnestness that’s missing amongst the main trio and Lucy Lawless being plain awesome (or so I suspect she will be… so far she’s just a mysterious woman who is involved somehow…). Pablo and Kelly make great sidekicks for Ash, with Pablo wanting to be like Ash and Kelly being the straight man, pulling Ash down to earth.
The effects are ultra-stylised, so over the top it could never be said to be realistic or to encourage violence in any way. Blood doesn’t simply pour out of wound, it gushes and spurts in hilarious and ridiculous ways. This isn’t gore that will make your stomach churn but make you spit out the tea you just took a giant gulp of (unless that’s just me?!). The set design, lighting, and cinematography highlights the schlockiness in all its glory. Even the music (mainly 70’s) is used to further the characterization of the titular Ash, still stuck in his pre-trauma persona.
Hopefully the studio’s obvious faith in the series indicates a quality that continues throughout the first season as I’m excited to continue watching. My main concern is where it will go – part of Ash’s appeal (and the appeal of sitcoms in general, which this could be pigeon-holed as) is that he never changes. But the story is going to require change and growth in our characters as well as some interesting ways to raise the stakes. But hey, there’s plenty of horror clichés for the series writers to mine so I wouldn’t worry anytime soon.
Verdict: Bruce Campbell is on fire, his charisma is pants-dropping and his chainsaw and boomstick awesome. There are so many laughs, action sequences, and bloody killing sprees packed into each episode to make Ash vs Evil Dead utterly enjoyable watching.