Article first published as ASH VS EVIL DEAD Review on Seat42F.
Starz’s newest series, which premiered last night, is sure to make fans of one horror franchise happy. In ASH VS EVIL DEAD, viewers catch up with Ashley “Ash” J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) thirty years after the events of the original movies. The Evil Dead have left him alone for a long time, but now they’re coming back for him and for others. Is Ash the ‘El Jefe’ foretold to stop this wicked force?
I have to admit up front that I don’t like the Evil Dead films. They are way too gory for me. I’m not a fan of the horror genre in general, but can handle those with a very good story and not too many body insides on display. The Walking Dead is my favorite show, but I watch it because of the truly excellent character development, not because of the zombies. In anticipation of this show premiering, I attempted to watch the movies in the series, but could not get very far in them, the effects of the violence far too outrageous for me to handle.
That being said, I enjoyed the pilot of ASH VS EVIL DEAD a lot. Not enough to get past the exploding heads and spurting necks (how does a little bullet explode a head?), so I won’t be giving it a second try, but the parts of the hour without that stuff, I found very entertaining. So for those of you not bothered by the gross element, or who may even celebrate the campiness of it, I think this will be a show worth watching.
Campbell is terrific as Ash, arguably the defining character of his career. He’s a lazy, manipulative moocher who is too full of himself. Yet, Campbell still makes him sympathetic and likeable, and not just when he goes into heroic action. Ash is a character fans will want to see stay alive, and root for him as he does the bad ass stuff that he does.
Ash’s missing hand, an event that occurred in a big screen installment, is a minor issue for the production. The Walking Dead (SPOILER ALERT) television series purposely chose not to have The Governor cut off Rick’s hand as he does in the comics because it provided a significant challenge to impart on their show’s lead. ASH VS EVIL DEAD uses the stump mostly effectively, giving Ash a way to lock a weapon on it and pick up girls by lying about it, but there are still times where it kind of gets in the way. I swear I saw the fingers move when Ash closes a car door with it in the opening sequence.
Of course, as charming as Campbell is, he can’t carry a whole TV show himself. Others have to get involved, too, if for no other reason than to provide cannon fodder. I doubt they will kill off Ash’s friends quite as quickly in this new incarnation, given that TV shows typically have at least a few main players, but eventually, some or all of them will have to die and Ash will have to replace them.
His initial team includes Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago, Touch, Raising Hope) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo, Impress Me, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), co-workers of Ash’s at the retail store in which he works. Both are considerably younger, which makes sense, given the audience Starz is hoping to attract. Pablo is comic relief and Kelly is a possible love interest. A triangle between the three could make things messy later, but I have the feeling ASH VS EVIL DEAD thrives on messiness. Neither sidekick is much more than a typical archetype, but that could change over time, if they live long enough.
Elsewhere, we are introduced to two other women. Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones, Sleepy Hollow, Girlfriends) is a cop who has her own run-in with the evilness. Ruby (Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, Parks & Recreation) is a mysterious lady who seems to know something about what’s going on, but who is barely glimpsed in the first installment. Amanda is a relatively familiar type of personality, but Ruby is intriguing, especially in the hands of Lawless, a brilliant performer. I look forward to seeing how the two tie into Ash’s journey, the latter more than the former. It occurs to me, though nothing in the pilot supports this, that Ruby could make a more age appropriate love interest for Ash, freeing up Kelly for Pablo.
Overall, while I don’t appreciate the gore, I think most of the target audience will. ASH VS EVIL DEAD seems more fun than the bits of the movies I glimpsed, and should make for an enjoyable romp, giving the television landscape something it doesn’t quite have currently.
ASH VS EVIL DEAD airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.