Ash vs Evil Dead

AshvsED1It’s not been an easy life for Ash Williams. It’s over thirty years since he survived the darkness in the woods which claimed the lives of his friends including his girlfriend Linda, a sequence of events which saw him battle demons, cut off his own possessed hand and be thrown into a time warp which took him into the past to battle a zombie horde raised by the Necronomicon.

Like its lead character, much of the time since the release of 1992’s Army of Darkness has been spent in development hell with various proposals for continuations of the cult film series in various formats failing to germinate other than a pointless and best forgotten 2013 remake which would have been better named Evil Dreary, it’s eventual rebirth has been in the form of a cable television series.

AshvsED2Having managed to return to the present by means undisclosed (legal shenanigans preventing direct reference to the third film which is principally owned by Dino De Laurentiis Communications), Ash himself still works in a hardware store, the schmuck who has somehow risen to the level of supervisor while incurring the wrath of his manager and the admiration of his co-worker Pablo (In Time’s Ray Santiago) who sees him as “el jefe,” the leader who gives the pilot episode its title.

Developed by Sam Raimi, writer and director of the original film, his brother Ivan and Desperate Housewives’ Tom Spezialy for the Strarz network, after the forty one minute premiere directed by Sam and co-written by the trio the remainder of the ten episode season will follow a thirty minute format, though each episode will likely run less in consideration of commercials for import sales.

AshvsED5Though that might not allow much in the way of weekly plot development, in practical terms it might be an asset as plot was never the driving force of Evil Dead so much as generous amounts of shenanigans, slapstick and splatter whose richness is more digestible in small portions, and certainly that is the focus of the El Jefe as the events of three decades back are awoken by a stoned indiscretion, first as visions then with horrifying physical manifestations.

Returning to his most famous role after a twenty three year break, Bruce Campbell has never taken himself seriously before and shows no indication that he is keen to settle into a sedate middle aged state of grace, prancing about in his underwear, twirling his shotgun and reuniting with his beloved chainsaw.

AshvsED4Handling the undead better than his day job, joining Ash and Pablo are Kelly Maxwell (Dana Delorenzo), another co-worker drawn into the fight, state trooper Amanda Fisher (Sleepy Hollow’s Jill Marie Jones), following the trail wherever it will lead to clear her name in the aftermath of the death of her partner and the internal investigation, and with only a brief appearance so far Ruby Knowby (Battlestar Galactica’s Lucy Lawless), a character possibly linked with the translation of the book prior to the first film.

Hitting every target the remake woefully missed, the manic movement of the deadites and the racing camera of the eighties version recreated perfectly but with superior production values, the violence is overblown and ridiculous and the screen frequently saturated with blood, though the overly obvious digital effects are somewhat less effective than their fortunately dominant practical counterparts.

AshvsED6Surprisingly atmospheric in Fisher’s encounter with the evil in an apparently abandoned house, the possessed using their familiar tricks of eliciting sympathy to draw their victims close, teasing before the kill, the modern filmmakers’ toolkit is used more effectively in the sudden drop in colour saturation which presages Ash’s premonition in the trailer park.

With a second season confirmed by Starz even before the first had been launched, this premiere episode is certainly a hugely enjoyable entry point, but the question will be how much the undeniably flimsy premise of what was once regarded as a notorious video nasty can be expanded upon over the coming weeks in order to establish Ash vs Evil Dead as a viable proposition in the fiercely competitive television market, the one point it has in its favour being that there is genuinely nothing else like it on the airwaves.




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