Where does one begin?
I suppose it started with the debut episode that literally floored me upon arrival. I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of receiving a special “Ash Vs Evil Dead” promo kit that included all sorts of cool promotional materials, Though materials aside…I was more interested in the Starz channel and their brand new under-taking. Yes, fans of Ash, the “Evil Dead“, and Bruce Campbell himself would soon be delighted with a ass-kicking new series that would push the boundaries of broadcast TV (yet again). Starz channel were reported to have been chosen for their ability to present the series unrated and unrestricted paving the way for horror to be seen as it was intended.
I said it before when “The Walking Dead” crossed over with its ultra-gore (that didn’t seem to bother interested viewers who claim that the characters made it all that much more viewable). I said it with the arrival of the “American Horror Story” series and “Hannibal” which to this day seem to also push the boundaries of “dark TV” to the point that we don’t need to wait for theatres to get our fix. and yet…like a special gift bestowed upon horror viewers and fan-boys/girls alike, we were swept off our feet with the sweet sounds of chainsaws, Ash-isms and Evil dead possessed corpses spewing out hatred, vomit and dark times….Let it be known, “Ash vs the Evil Dead” has arrived and it was about damn time!
Now let us to flip back a bit, Ash was last seen in the 3rd Evil Dead film and theater release “Army of Darkness“. This was 1992, 24 years ago from today, that Evil dead fans have had to read about how a “new film was on the way”…and “get ready for the next round”…blah, blah, blah…….. we became disbelievers.
Meanwhile Bruce Campbell went onto other gigs to pay the bills and even dropped a “hint” with “My Name is Bruce“. Simply it was not enough. Then Sam Raimi graced us with is most excellent “Drag me to Hell” which almost felt like it “could have been” another Evil Dead” film (with a few character changes)
Low and behold out of the darkness arrives not a film, but an entire series chock full of “Evil Dead” franchisal offerings almost making up for a 24-year gap. If you didn’t get the gist already…this series is one bad ass mother-f*ucker. “Ash Vs the Evil Dead” manages to stand on its own lineage, its own merit and its own universe pathing the way for a whole new story to embellish and parade. 2015 marked the year that Ash and Bruce returned like they never missed a beat.
It was also announced soon after debut that a season 2 had already been green-lit due the overwhelming horror fan reception . Yes…Starz may have just found their own “Walking Dead” – like success story to send some excitement their way.
This new comedy horror series debuts with a thrilling 10-episode run. The series was developed by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy (with its first episode also being directed by Sam Raimi). Episode 1 is especially powerful as a stand alone episode that was highly worth the wait.
The premise is set 30 years later after the horrific cabin-based sequel “Evil Dead 2“, often making use of familiar sets and flashbacks from that era. The film “Army of Darkness” is not entirely excluded with later episodes throwing a few “hints “towards the studio production story that fans of the franchise will be sure to pick up on. The “Book of the Dead” is the series centerpiece and fuel for a whole smattering of demons and antagonistic confrontations. Like the series “The Walking Dead”, you can expect a few characters to fall victim to the evil ways of the deadites thru a variety of horrific scenes and circumstances.
Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ashley J. “Ash” Williams, the one person alive equipped to battle these demons “properly” while doing it with style, saviness, snark. His right hand still dismembered at the wrist provides a base for his trusty battle chainsaw beheading more than 1 demon along the way. He is joined this time by 2 co-workers (Ray Santiago) Pablo Simon Bolivar and (Dana DeLorenzo) Kelly Maxwell who have enlisted to do battle.
The 2 of them manage to learn real fast about the ancient curse that was released 3o years back (thanx to Ash). Willingly they both decide that supporting Ash in his quest to finally put all this demon unleashed to rest is how they want to spend their future. It doesn’t hurt that the world could soon fall way to pure evil giving them incentive to fight.
Fans should expect “plenty” of gore, bloodshed, and possessions in typical Evil Dead fashion. While the series does aim to incorporate comedic elements throughout, it also manages (in the same respect) to invoke a few worthy and creepy scares in storyline. All the while, we are privy to the inside joke that Ash messed up by awaking the demons once again. Ash who otherwise would lived the pathetic existent of a retail store clerk living in a van has found his true-calling in demon extinction. This also seems to plant the seed of inspiration for his new colleagues who have joined him for the ride.
Lucy Lawless joins the cast as Ruby Knowby, a warrior herself on a mission to further push the world into darkness in support of the books “dark ones”. Daughter of Professor Raymond Knowby and sister of Annie Knowby (original characters from previous films), Ruby has a stake in this story which places her well before the book was first discovered 30 years ago. Lawless is kept only to short appearances at the start of season 1 to provide a proper build up for her confrontation with Ash.
Jill Marie Jones plays the role of Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher, a cop trying to make wind of the new underworld she has just become exposed to also in pursuit of Ash and his legacy. Amanda becomes a surprisingly momentary love-interest. They all soon become more than familiar with the undying world of Ash and the “deadites”.
What works best with this series now directed under the much capable hands of Michael Hurst, Michael J. Bassett, David Frazee, Tony Tilse and Rick Jacobson, is its ability to completely define itself rather than borrowing from other horror shows. The Evil Dead universe proves to be more than enough to support the weight of its origins while paving the way for new ideas and directions in the series. Actor Bruce Campbell proves that his particular Ash character never gets old for fans of the franchise often dropping one-liners like a natural while giving us plenty in the way of physical comedy bits. We are caught up thru flashbacks and incidents that cement his often immature look on life with Ash still feeling quite responsible for the evil mess he unleashed on he world. Ash is both idiot and savior rolled up into one which is the show’s biggest irony
The series was often presented with small behind the scenes clips after each episode. This certainly provided some insight into the process making us all hunger that much more for the inevitable bluray release. “Ash vs Evil Dead” is a hands down winner in my book giving me one more reason to look to TV channels for quality content. The show is fun, inventive, scary, personable and grotesque making for a perfect blend of horror, comedy and adventure. I not only look forward to season 2, but look forward to re-watching the entire series again.
Ash vs. Evil Dead Bluray Bonus Special Features:
Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete First Season contains audio commentaries on all episodes and additional supplements on disc two. No DVD or digital versions of the show are included.
- Audio Commentaries
- El Jefe”: Creator/Executive Producer/Director Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Bob Tapert, and Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell.
- “Bait”: Executive Producer Bob Tapert, Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell, and Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago.
- “Books from Beyond”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago.
- “Brujo”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago.
- “The Host”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago.
- “The Killer of Killers”: Actors Dana Delorenzo, Jill Marie Jones and Ray Santiago.
- “Fire in the Hole”: Actors Dana Delorenzo, Jill Marie Jones and Ray Santiago.
- “Ashes to Ashes”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo, Jill Marie Jones and Ray Santiago.
- “Bound in Flesh”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo, Lucy Lawless and Ray Santiago.
- “The Dark One”: Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actors Dana Delorenzo, Lucy Lawless and Ray Santiago.
- Ash Inside the World (1080p, 15:59): A fun piece that runs through the basics of each episode. The piece examines story, visual effects, gore, Sam Raimi’s direction in episode one, making various scenes, anecdotes from the shoot, filmmaking methods, characters and performances, and more.
- How to Kill a Deadite (1080p, 2:31): Bruce Campbell discusses the process of killing, and the piece features a quick look at the weapons and methods necessary to do so.
- Best of Ash (1080p, 1:27): A montage of Campbell’s best moments from the season.
Ash vs Evil Dead season 1 bluray set is now available Anchor Bay
Some of us have been waiting forever for a return to the Evil Dead universe and I’m damn happy it has finally happened. Having said that the series is hit and miss (with a much higher percentage of hits). I think it’s important that the producers learn from the first season and help channel more of what works into the second.
Firstly, Raimi should direct at least one episode, secondly other good directors are desperately needed. The first season Michael J. Bassett showed he’s the right man for the job; give him at least three of the episodes this time around. Deathwatch, Wilderness (and even parts of Solomon Kane) showed his potential; keep him busy with the second season. The other directors didn’t have the creative visual chops to hang with Raimi and Bassett so it might help to snag at least one more talented horror director. Because the series is shot in New Zealand it’s probably easier to attain homegrown talent. I’d suggest making an offer to Gerard Johnstone who made the excellent ‘Housebound’. If English directors are possible beg Neil Marshall to helm one or two and Christopher Smith would also be an amazing option. More film directors with strong horror voices. Also, let them contribute to the writing of the episodes.
The worst thing that can happen is if the show’s intensity ramps down and that would be the fault of Hercules/Xena directors who simply don’t have the creative heft to inspire the material.
Other suggestions: Like the Walking Dead the show needs a talented practical F/X guy…. What we got in the first season ranged from very good to adequate. I think they can do better. Paul Hyett would be a great choice and he could even be drafted to direct an episode.
Finally: Starz needs to up the budget and shooting time by a bit. You could see how many of the episodes could have benefited from some more shooting time/pick up shots etc… Give them a more leisurely schedule. Remember you’re making a classic and this series will be visited and revisited by horror fans of the here and now as well as the future.