Anyone who has read my writing for very long knows my love for the Evil Dead franchise. The first Evil Dead movie remains one of my all-time favorite films, whether it is horror or not. I actually did my senior thesis project over that first movie and the practical special effects that they used to create the film. While many consider Evil Dead 2 to be the better film, and one of the best horror films of all time, it was that first film that remains close to my heart.
Hell, I named my son Ashley – and yes, the name was based on Bruce Campbell’s character in the Evil Dead trilogy.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t also love Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness and I even had the privilege a few years back to cover Evil Dead: The Musical when it came to Oklahoma over Halloween in 2010 (check out that review here). However, when I heard that Ash vs. Evil Dead was coming to television, Bruce Campbell was returning as Ash, and it was on a premium cable network, I got really excited.
Once I finished Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1, I was really excited about not only the future of the show, but also the future of genre television on Starz. If Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is even half as great as Ash vs. Evil Dead, Starz might soon match up with AMC for geek-friendly genre television.
Basically, Ash vs. Evil Dead starts out years after the events of Army of Darkness (the S-Mart ending) and Ash is still working in retail. Brilliantly, Sam Raimi has gone out of his way to make Ash even more pathetic (or real, if you want to look at it that way) by starting off the first episode with Ash squeezing into a man-girdle and showing that he wears dentures. He is also still a complete f-up, and it was getting stoned one night that convinced him it was a good idea to read from the Necronomican one more time with the girl he brought back to the trailer park he lived in.
As always, Ash is the reason for the problems and Ash is the one who has to fix them.
Along the way, he joins forces with two of his former co-workers in Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) as he sets out to find a way to send the Deadittes back into the Necronomican and stop them once and for all. Meanwhile, he has a cop who has encountered the Deadittes named Amanda (Jill Marie Jones) setting out to arrest Ash for the dead bodies that are piling up and a mysterious woman named Ruby (Lucy Lawless), who knows a lot about the evil at foot, although her intentions are less than noble.
What results is blood and gore that makes the splatstick horror-comedy that Sam Raimi perfected work so well. Thanks to Strarz, the Evil Dead team was able to be as disgusting and over-the-top as Evil Dead fans have grown to expect, and thanks to the premium network, their hands were untied when it came to going as far as they needed without having to sink to the levels of network television, or even basic cable.
Ash vs. Evil Dead was everything a fan of the Evil Dead trilogy could have ever dreamed of getting on television and so much more. Ash got his boomstick and one-liners and fans got all the gore and splatistic fun they ever could have expected. This was a true winner and if it lasts the five seasons that Rob Tapert believes it could, Evil Dead fans will have a lot of groovy fun to still look forward to.
Blu-Ray Special Features
The Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Blu-ray is stacked. Upon first look, there are some basic features on the second disc of the set. There is a 15-minute documentary about the first season that pretty much flies by. Most of it has Rob Tapert talking about various episodes in the first season and what he thought was highlights, including looking at the story, call-backs to the original movies, anecdotes, and more. There is also a short two-minute feature where Bruce Campbell explains how to kill a Deaditte, and then there is an even shorter 1:27 feature with Bruce Campbell’s best lines from the season.
If that was all there was, it would be disappointing.
However, anyone who has followed the Evil Dead trilogy and their way too numerous double dips, triple dips, and more, realize that the best part of the DVD and Blu-ray releases are the commentary tracks. The Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Blu-ray is no different. The best commentary track comes on the first episode, because that includes Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell. It is always fun to hear Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the same commentary track and they don’t disappoint here. It was also fun to hear Raimi say that he had no idea Evil Dead had such a loyal fan base, and it was Campbell who kept everyone in the loop when it comes to fan demand.
That was the only episode with Sam Raimi, which was disappointing, however Bruce Campbell is on every episode’s commentary tracks. Joining him for various episodes are actors Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago, Jill Marie Jones, and Lucy Lawless, with Rob Tapert also appearing on Episode 2 as well. Honestly, listening to Bruce Campbell talk about anything is worth the money and having him on every episode here is worth the price of the physical Blu-ray edition of Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1.