TV Review: Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 1 “El Jefe” (USA, 2015)

The Evil Dead trilogy is a god damn institution for me. Not only is the 1981 classic my favourite horror movie, it is also hands down one of my most beloved movies of all time. So imagine my elation when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell announced that they were bringing their wacky creation to the small screen. Well the first episode has aired and my god if this review comes off as a gushing outpouring of fanboyism then I apologise – there are 9 more episodes, let me have this one.

Taking place 30 years after Evil Dead 1 & 2, Ash vs Evil Dead sees Ash as somewhat of a loser. He lives in a shitty trailer, still works at a convenience store and concocts elaborate stories in order to fornicate with women in bathrooms of dingy bars. It’s so bad that he recited the Necronmicon again during a weed smoking session with a girl he was trying to mack on. And just like that, the malevolent forces that killed all of his friends three decades earlier are back and hunting Ash.

It really is a perfect setup. In lieu of some convoluted twist whereby a new character reads the book, it is in fact Ash, giving rise to evil manifested simply as a result of his own carelessness and inability to do anything right. I love the 180 of that mild mannered gentleman we saw in 1981. Bruce Campbell became a god in pop culture over the years and no one is better suited to enacting such sleazy charm as he does here.

However with a transition of mediums, comes the necessity for sub-plots and additional characters. As fun as it would be to watch Ash murder deadites for 10 episodes, it would certainly overstay its welcome.

So in a wonderful trip down memory lane, two police officers visit the old cabin to investigate it and following a gloriously gory fight with a particularly violent demon , Amanda (Jill Marie Jones) emerges as a survivor who winds up under fire from internal affairs for murdering her partner.

Pedro (Ray Santiago) is Ash’s co-worker at Value Stop and if Bruce Campbell wasn’t so funny,  he would definitely be labelled comic relief. He has an obsession with Ash, and after seeing first hand what Ash’s moronic hands have wrought, he insists on joining his crusade.

Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly, another Value Stop worker and friend of Pedro. Following an unsuccessful attempt from Ash to get in her pants, she soon finds out that her father is in danger following the emergence of evil and sets out to save him.

Also, Lucy Lawless shows up in a coffee shop to drop a cryptic one liner to Amanda and then leaves. Highly intriguing.

Sam Raimi not only penned the pilot but returned to direct it. The man hasn’t missed a beat. He drops his 30 year old narrative into 2015 with ease and still manages to make the pilot feel like an extension of his first film. That swooping, tense tracking shot of evil making its way toward hapless victims makes a return.
And his toying with the camera is back. At one point it zooms in on the ceiling of Ash’s trailer while simultaneously spinning. It harks back to those moments in the first film when Ash is slowly going insane and each shot mimics his mind state.

Raimi and Campbell have a palpable chemistry and its blast to see them have fun like this again.
For one, Ash vs Evil Dead is absolutely hilarious. Ash is just a mess – a scene where he drops a bunch of light bulbs on the shop floor and tries to clean them up quietly is a highlight. Much of it could very well be because its Bruce but isn’t that why we’re here? To see the best jaw in the business spank a girl with his prosthetic hand while asking her if she “likes his wood”. It’s a riot, the writing is snappy and delivery from everyone involved is top notch.

The blood flows quite rapidly as well. Starz is the production company who brought us Spartacus so censoring themselves isn’t really part of their repertoire. The make-up is just fantastic; one scene in particular sees a deadite with its recently shotgunned, twisted head walking towards Amanda in the cabin and it feels ripped directly from the print of the original film.

The closing scene is its coup de grâce though. Ash spends much of the episode tying up loose ends before he commits to fleeing but when everything comes to a head in his trailer, he heeds Pedro’s words (“you cant outrun evil”) and he turns into a bad MF again. Boomstick equipped and chainsaw attached he dispatches deadites in a hail of detached body parts and viscera. And when asked how he felt about it, he simply says “Groovy”.  And that my friends is when I knew that Ash vs Evil Dead was going to be something special.

The last thing that Ash vs The Evil Dead tries to do is reinvent itself. It has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek from start to finish and delivers fan service in spades. Delightfully gory and and ridiculous in the best sense of the word, Ash vs The Evil Dead is entertainment at its finest. Moving forward, the show won’t be directed by Raimi but with a solid foundation and a very clear vision, it may not affect it at all.

Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights:

      • Brilliant make-up & gore
      • Bruce Campbell exhumes cool
      • Feels like 1981 again
      • Fantastic camera work
      • Ridiculously funny

Lowlights:

        • Not yet guys…

To find out more about the show, click here.

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