Ash vs. Evil Dead

Ash vs. Evil Dead ‘El Jefe’ Recap – 01.01

Ash vs. Evil Dead.

Straight up, this is a show that had a lot to live up to when it came to whether or not I really would give it a chance. If they screwed this up … well, my son is named Ashley and, yes, he is named after the Bruce Campbell character in the Evil Dead movies. In my senior capstone class in the film and video studies program at OU I actually did a full audio commentary for the first Evil Dead movie where I revealed how Sam Raimi pulled off every practical effect.

That original first Evil Dead movie is one of my favorite films of all time, horror or not.

Ash vs. Evil Dead had a lot to live up to.

It succeeded on every level.

Now, understand, there are people who will hate the show and those people will likely hate it for the same reason that I loved it. Ash vs. Evil Dead was dumb – but it was dumb in the tongue-in-cheek way that made Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness so great. The fact is that this show kept Ashley “Ash” Williams exactly how he should be. He is overconfident, he is a braggart, he is a complete dick, and he is a total coward – until he is pushed into a fight.

He is also the dumbest man alive.

The episode opens with Ash heading to a bar to pick up chicks. He puts on a tight girdle to hide the fact that he is about 30 pounds overweight. He uses a cheap line about losing his hand while saving an eight-year-old child who was in the path of an oncoming train. That gets him laid in the bathroom, and then the woman’s face turns into a Deaditte and he freaks out. It wasn’t enough to stop him from finishing off, but still…

See, Ash got stoned with a girl in his trailer and thought it would be romantic to read her lines out of the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. See, he figured that was close enough to poetry. Of course, after 30 years of living in a trailer park and working in a hardware store, he accidentally released the demons again because he got stoned and stupid. That brought back the Deadittes and the battle is on again, because this time they are after Ash’s soul.

Joining Ash for this battle is another employee from the hardware store, Pablo, and a girl that Pablo likes so much it hurts named Kelly. Pablo is interesting, a gawky Latino kid who idolizes the ground that Ash walks on. He at one point calls Ash the coolest thing about working at the store, which Ash of course agrees with. However, even after Pablo saves Ash from an attack from a Deaditte-possessed doll, Ash still doesn’t want to fight and runs away.

Of course, he can’t run and he can’t hide. Kelly’s dad is in danger when her mother, who has been dead for years, returns. Pablo takes her to Ash’s trailer because he knows that Ash is the only person who can help them. At this point, Ash still doesn’t want to help, but when the Deadittes attack, he has no choice but to find his boomstick and chainsaw and become El Jefe, the man who can dispel the evil once again.

Also in this episode we meet Amanda, a police officer who was attacked at an old cabin in the woods with her partner. When her partner dies and returns as a Deaditte, she is forced to kill him, as well as a Deaditte girl found at the scene of the crime. The incident gets Amanda suspended, investigated by the IA and she also faces possible homicide charges. She has a lot to figure out and returns later in the episode to learn that everything that happened there was true. I can’t emphasize enough that, with all the ridiculous moments in this premiere, the opening battle with Amanda and the Deadittes was truly a great horror moment.

Amanda also came across a mysterious woman named Ruby, who admitted that she knows there are things out there.

Bruce Campbell was perfect as Ash. It was like stepping back into an old pair of pants and realizing that they still fit, despite being 30 pounds heavier than the last time he wore them. His arrogant, chauvinistic, and ignorant attitude was a perfect call-back to the Ash from Army of Darkness and it was a joy to see him back on screen again.

Ray Santiago was fun as Pablo, although he was almost too generic of an awkward kid at times. Dana DeLorenzo showed more signs of life as the headstrong Kelly, and I hope that she continues to kick ass after recovering from the devastation of the Deaditte attack. Probably the weakest point of the show so far was the officer, Amanda. Jill Marie Jones wasn’t given much to work with, but she really needs to improve if she is to play a bigger role in the series. Also, we need more Lucy Lawless, and I have no doubt that we will receive that.

Anyone who loved the camera work of Sam Raimi in the original Evil Dead movies will love this series’ cinematography. The off-kilter angles are back. I would not be surprised if Raimi didn’t have the camera man hang upside down for some shots, alluding to the original movie. The Force traveling through the woods, originally done on a 2×4 is back. This show was shot with the same kinetic style that the original movies were.

The blood and gore was so spectacularly over-the-top as well. Heads were blown in half and then blown off. There was a scissor moment that was reminiscent of the body horror from the original movies. The effects were also disturbing and a real throw-back, from the Deadittes stilted walking to a scene where Ash almost floated through the air to retrieve his chainsaw. This episode was a total love letter to the original Evil Dead movies.

The season premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead is exactly what fans of the original series only dreamed of. It is mean spirited in a very, very funny way. It is ridiculous in a way that only Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi can pull off. The final battle in the trailer, where Ash finally goes all in to battle the Deadittes is the thing of dreams for all Evil Dead fans.

I am one of the biggest Evil Dead fans on the planet. My son is named after Bruce Campbell’s Ash. And, after watching Ash vs. Evil Dead, I am sold hook, line, and chainsaw. Welcome back.

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Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.


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