Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead (Season 1, Episode 1)

In many ways, Sam Raimi has rectified the tonal problems of Army of Darkness and glum period piece atmosphere with this extraordinarily decadent, riotously funny and rollicking beginning of what I hope is going to be a long-running series. Of course, Ash Williams would be a vainglorious elder statesman who resides in a trailer at this point of his life. Ash was a stoic, but unremarkable hero in the first Evil Dead and with the advent of his affable haplessness in Evil Dead 2, he became an indelible creation.

Our introduction to a girdle-cincturing Bruce Campbell reminds me of Rocky in Rocky Balboa. It’s a familiar face with a few visible signs of aging- no camaraderie outside of a pet (a lizard), stranded in a cocoon of the past and still relishing life despite the setbacks (a rosewood hand prosthetic). But just like Rocky, we are overjoyed to see Campbell cavorting in the role again. In signature Raimi olive-black humor, Ash is a Lothario who fabricates a story about rescuing a boy from a speeding train in order to have sex with a gullible barfly.

Once again Ash is a clown who unwittingly unleashes the hounds of Hell when he recites passages from the Necronomicon while intoxicated. Raimi hasn’t lost any of his contagious anarchy. The Dutch angles and low camera dollies through the woods are back with a vengeance. For a Starz original series, it is very cinematic and the demonic-possession attacks might be more operatic than before. I love how a revolver bullet’s exit wounds shed light from them. In this day and age, the CGI blood sprays are the norm but luckily they are brief interruptions when squibs aren’t available.

Pablo (Ray Santiago) is a perfectly sycophantic sidekick to Ash who idolizes his Value Stop elder’s seemingly impossible tales of grandeur. Sometimes the minuscule details elicit laughs like the fact that the middle-aged Ash’s title on his nametag is stockboy. Campbell’s penchant for Three Stooges physical comedy is evident when he drops a box of light bulbs on the sales floor and cluelessly attempts to sweep them under pallets. He might be lark during the workday but he is a “groovy” gunslinger when the unstoppable forces are on his trailer’s doorstep.

For fans of the lore, the reprise of the chainsaw is a canny allusion to King Arthur and Excalibur. Fans of the Evil Dead needn’t worry about renewal of the show though. With the gangbusters reception for the lightning-paced pilot, Ash will return for Season 2.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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