There is only one word that can aptly describe Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s latest collaboration, Ash vs Evil Dead. That word is… Groovy.
The tone is undeniably nostalgic. The Raimi brothers have successfully recreated the movie magic of their first two Evil Dead films for a smaller screen. This is Starz’s answer to the wildly popular The Walking Dead, with the added benefit of already having a devout fan base. For decades, fans (like myself) have wanted more Ash. We had video games, comics and even talks of a crossover or two. Nothing has come close to quenching that thirst, until Ash vs Evil Dead. Fans will be beyond satisfied with the show’s start while newbies will enjoy the show’s irreverent comedic style and gallons of blood.
Bruce Campbell brings the same foolhardy bravado that Ash is known for, never missing the opportunity for a one-liner or a tasteless joke. Even though decades have passed, Ash hasn’t matured even one bit, even after a few of his original parts had to be replaced with prosthetics. His man-child everyman routine still proves to have the same humorous kick as we see that he is still ultimately the cause (and coincidentally the only solution) to all of his current problems. Campbell’s revisiting of this career-making character shows just how the two are still in sync. It still fits like a glove that may need to be widened a bit more, but fits nonetheless. Campbell uses Ash like an extension of his arm, with the same comical cutting power of a chainsaw.
With all the nostalgia already in play, Ash vs Evil Dead has made a few changes to their old formula. This time around, not all the female characters are disposable characters or men in fat suits. Several of the lead protagonists are women who look like they will play a greater, still unknown part in the story and saving of the world. They are the perfect foil to Ash’s rampant sexism and womanizing nature. Another great improvement comes in the form of much needed diversity in their universe. Along with greater female inclusion and de-villainization, there are actually different ethnicities represented in the majority of the cast, like Ray Santiago and Jill Marie Jones. Aside from all the Easter Eggs and nods to past films, Ash brings a blast from Raimi and Campbell’s past by casting Lucy Lawless in a role where she will likely get to kick a lot of Deadite ass.
With great power comes great responsibility, but we all know Ash is anything but responsible. Not every change was for the better. Fans will agree, that one of the greatest aspects of the Evil Dead franchise is their use of practical effects like gratuitous amounts of fake blood and even their (cheesy) use of claymation. Most of the effects in the TV show do stick to that same formula, but unfortunately there are several stand out moments where the CGI overwhelms the scene and kills the spirit set up by the previous effects. If the entire episode were done using only computer generated gore, it would be much less noticeable, but trying to mix both styles just comes off as distracting.
Like their undead, Ash vs Evil Dead will continue to have a long, blood-soaked life on television as long as it continues to deliver key nostalgic elements while contemporizing the humor and social messages. With season two of the show announced even before the premiere of the first episode, we can expect to lengthy and probably satisfying trip down the fast-paced highway to hell.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)