Has it really been 23 years since Ashley J. “Ash” Williams last battled the Deadite menace in ‘Army of Darkness‘? How time flies. Despite an attempted franchise revival a couple years ago that didn’t involve him, our smart-assed, one-handed hero is back – not in another feature film, but in a TV series, ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’. Hail to the king, baby!
Star Bruce Campbell returns to his most famous role, a little older and a little fatter but still as lovably smug and cheesy as ever. The series is also produced by original creators Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, and Raimi directed the pilot episode. As an official follow-up to the original trilogy of films, the show ignores the reboot. It also mostly ignores ‘Army of Darkness’, but that’s probably because the rights to that entry are owned by a different studio and negotiating for them may have been more trouble than it was worth. For story purposes, our main point of reference is 1987’s ‘Evil Dead II‘ (which was largely a remake of the first film). However, Campbell’s portrayal of the character seems to be primarily drawn from the goofball lothario ‘Army of Darkness’ version.
A couple decades have passed since Ash last fought a Deadite, and he’s… well, he’s still a loser. He lives in a trailer park, he works as a stock boy at a low-end discount chain called Value Stop (the name “S-Mart” was presumably tied up with the ‘Army of Darkness’ rights), and he spends his nights at a seedy bar trying to pick up chicks with fake stories about how he lost his hand while saving a child. After one such unexpectedly successful attempt, Ash experiences something he hasn’t in years – he has a vision of a Deadite taunting him.
Freaked out, Ash returns to his trailer to ensure that the evil ‘Necronomicon’ book is still safely where he left it. Although it is, he suddenly remembers that he recently got high and read from it to impress another girl. Whoops. Now the Deadites know where he is and they want revenge.
Ash’s first instinct is to get the hell out of town. First, he needs to stop by work to pick up his paycheck. While waiting for that, he gets attacked by a possessed doll and the Deadite invasion starts to affect other people. Without really wanting to, Ash begrudgingly picks up a couple of his co-workers as sidekicks: Pablo (Ray Santiago) who worships the ground Ash walks on, and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) who decidedly does not. They all return to Ash’s trailer, where they’re accosted by a Deadite-possessed old lady, and Ash has to finally cowboy-up, strap on the ol’ chainsaw, and once again become the hero he thought he was done being.
In a side story, we’re introduced to State Police officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), who encounters Deadites at a domestic disturbance call and has to kill her partner when he’s possessed by one. Afterwards, Amanda runs into a mysterious stranger (Lucy Lawless) who appears to know what’s going on.
Episode Verdict / Grade: Groovy
At just shy of 40 minutes, the pilot episode is very short and has to cram in a lot of plot to set up the premise. Even so, the brisk pacing never feels rushed. As director, Raimi does a terrific job managing the wild tone swings from silly slapstick to shocks and scares. The Deadite attack on Amanda is genuinely creepy and suspenseful.
Campbell feels right at home in his old shoes. The sidekicks and other supporting characters are surprisingly appealing and likeable. The episode is uproariously funny and gory as hell, and Raimi directs it like a real ‘Evil Dead’ film, complete with tons of crazy POV shots.
I’ll be honest that I’ve never been a huge ‘Evil Dead’ fanboy. For my money, this premiere episode is better than any of the three movies. The question, of course, is whether subsequent episodes helmed by other directors can keep up the momentum. I look forward to finding out. The Starz network has enough faith in the show that it’s already been renewed for a second season.
This first episode was fantastic…by far the most fun I’ve had watching any TV show in 2015. Sadly, I’ve heard subsequent episodes aren’t as good (Raimi only directed this one), but I’m onboard for the ride, regardless.
That’s my concern as well. I have horrifying visions of directors attempting to copy Sam Raimi’s manic visual style and having it come across as a poor imitation.
-“For my money, this premiere episode is better than any of the three movies.”
Wha? Yes, and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles smoked the Indy Movies…
Sorry, I’ve never really been in love with the Evil Dead movies. I think the first episode of the show did a better job of balancing the goofy comedy with the suspense and scares.
I would not equate this to Indiana Jones on any level. For me, it’s more like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show versus the original movie.
That will no doubt sound like heresy to fans of the movies.
(GASP) Blasphemy! How dare you disparage the perfection of the original trilogy! Be gone you heretic!!!! 🙂
“I’ll be honest that I’ve never been a huge ‘Evil Dead’ fanboy. ”
“Sorry, I’ve never really been in love with the Evil Dead movies.”
So you couldn’t get someone more in touch with the original movies, to write this recap instead? …or how Ash would say it: “Don’t touch that please, your primitive intellect wouldn’t understand alloys and compositions and things with… molecular structures.”
No, no one else was available. (And yes, I caught your Army of Darkness reference.)
Sam Raimi is hit-or-miss for me. I really enjoyed Drag Me to Hell, but I think Darkman is garbage and I didn’t like any of his Spider-Man movies. You couldn’t force me to watch that Wizard of Oz prequel thing he did with James Franco.
I feel the same way about Sam Raimi. His best work was Definitely Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell, and the first 2 Spiderman movies (number 3 is a mess).
I think the only reason I like the Evil Dead Trilogy is mainly because of Bruce Campbell. These guys make a good team though. It’s a shame they waited so long to come back to it. So I’m truly grateful to them for doing this show now, even after all these years of waiting. It’s really a gift to all the die-hard fans.
Raimi directed a great little crime thriller called “A Simple Plan” back in the 90’s. It’s one of his best movies IMHO.
I’m not a fan of either EVIL DEAD or EVIL DEAD II, but I really liked ARMY OF DARKNESS and I really like this series (so far) as well.
It’s very easy to dismiss the movies that started it all, isn’t it? …modern special fx, better production values, plus older and wiser Raimi and Campbell, can make you easily forget their B-movie roots. But without the original movies, there wouldn’t be any Ash Vs. Evil Dead show. So all Hail the King baby!!!
As a big fan of the series (I know, shocking right?), I also really enjoyed this first episode. I don’t think it’s as good as the original trilogy, but there’s an awful lot this episode gets right. However, I must express some disappointment that they didn’t go full practical effects for all the makeup. What was the point of incorporating bad CGI to blow off a portion of a Deadite’s face when they already had a great looking (I’m assuming) puppet that they could use to create the effect in camera. It can’t imagine it was to save money. I will admit that the CGI used for kewpie doll bit was pretty terrific though with that whole sequence feeling very much like something that would have been right at home in Army of Darkness. Still, what really matters here is the fact that Bruce Campbell is back and watching him spout Ash’s hilariously cheesy one-liners and eventually kicking a little Deadite ass makes for a pretty entertaining 40 minutes. Kind of a shame that I’ll have to wait for the series to show up on blu-ray or VOD to catch the rest of the season since I’m a cord cutter who has no access to Starz.
PS – For those interested in watching the first episode, Starz has it available for free on Facebook. That’s how I watched it.
And by “fan of the series” I mean “fan of the original movies”.
Likewise, I am in for the whole season but . . .
There seems to be some series concept when it comes to pay channels like Starz!, HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime that every episode of a series has to have some gratuitous sex scene. So here we are, 1st episode, and Ash is having his way with some gal in the bathroom. This was in the first 5 to 10 minutes and I was like thinking “really Starz”? I mean I don’t recall any of the other Evil Dead movies having to resort to this. No, it really did not show anything, to speak of, other than the act itself, or anything that I really wanted to see. Maybe it was supposed to be funny? It just seemed a little out of place for Evil Dead.
Look, I am not a prude, but it seems like these pay channels think nobody will watch their series if there isn’t sex of some kind in every episode. Some shows, like Game of Thrones on HBO, when they finally realized they had a hell of a series, finally tapered off the gratuitous sex scenes and actually concentrated on the storyline. Remember, S1 and S2 of GOT? It was like every episode. If anything, GOT viewership has now increased consistently over the past few seasons.
Hopefully, future episodes will concentrate on what Evil Dead is famous for, its odd ball sense of humor and gore. But, knowing Starz!, it probably won’t. We will see what future episode brings.
There was a sex scene between Ash and Sheila in AOD, but it was very subtle. Remember Ash is now older and fatter, so he has to try harder to get some…that’s why the stories of how he lost his hand, and him restraining his big belly. I think Ash having sex and the woman saying “I’m coming” …For you” and even after the glance of the deadite in her face, he’s still wants to finish up with her. It definitely fits with his cheesy/smug personality of 30 years ago.
Also what do you expect? Sex sells! 😉
That scene was great!
Starz is probably the most overt and ridiculous network when it comes to this. They basically have a “Minimum Boob Count” per episode standard that their shows are contractually required to meet. I found the gratuitous nudity and sex in Outlander really distracting.
The sex in this episode was pretty PG-13. The only nudity I noticed was the cover of a dirty magazine in Ash’s trailer.
I just reviewed OUTLANDER and agree the nudity was pretty gratuitous. I didn’t mind the scene in the first episode though…it seemed to fit the character, and I don’t think Sam Raimi would include it ‘just because’ Starz demanded it.
I enjoyed the original “Evil Dead” the most, didn’t think much of ED2, and got a laugh of out AOD. I did, however, truly enjoy the “remake/reboot” and still have hope they’ll release the uncut edition. And I’m definitely in for this series.
Button love this was f’n awesome!! I loved every second of it. It has the stupid slapstick of AOD and the tense horror of ED1. Perfect mix. It’s like it’s Evil Dead 2.5.