Ash vs. Evil Dead Brings Humor Back to Horror
Spoiler and Content Warning: This article contains spoilers for Ash vs. Evil Dead and mentions violence and gore.
Ash vs. Evil Dead is ridiculous in what I can only describe as the best ways possible. Those who have devoured and savored the original series—and all it’s complicated ridiculous history—should be able to swallow Ash vs. Evil Dead with glee.
The first episode opens with Ash as an older man struggling with one of life’s greatest challenges: a girdle. Instantly the tone for the episode that follows is set and brings fans back to the series’ original tone of ridiculous harebrained humor, something that was lost in the disappointing 2013 remake of the series. Evil Dead, as a series, has always been an unintentional (the original Evil Dead was meant to be straight horror)—then intentional (Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness went full dark comedy horror)—mix of comedy, practical special effects, and horror. The first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead includes all these specific aspects.
When the audience is first introduced to Ash, he’s shown trotting about in an utterly normal existence that is at odds with his previous wild adventures. In what is a nice change of pace, however, Ash appears to be very happy living a quiet life in a trailer park, working a dead-end job still at Value Mart, and having sex with strangers in bar bathrooms. Normalcy doesn’t last long as Ash sees the image of a “Deadite,” demons from a hell dimension who possess the living, he fought against thirty years ago.
What is also a nice change of pace, is that the Deadheads have returned to enact revenge against Ash not because of some mystical prophecy, but because Ash got high one night and read from the Necronomicon, a book bound in human skin that opens portals to the Deadites dimension.
Apparently, the Deadheads have returned to enact revenge against Ash not because of some mystical prophecy, but because As got high one night and read from the Necronomicon, a book bound in human skin that opens portals to the Deadites dimension. Ash, realizing the Deadites have found him, tries to predictably run, but not before getting his last check from Value Mart. There we meet two of our main supporting characters, Pablo and Kelly, two of Ash’s coworkers who get snagged along his evil deadventures.
Meanwhile, the addition of a new element appears in the form of Amanda Fisher, a Michigan detective who finds herself face to face with the Deadites. After killing one, they possess her partner and she is forced to kill him as well. This series of events is gloriously gory while still retaining an artistic approach to build suspense. While the Deadite plays on Amanda’s compassion for her partner, a flashlight circles behind them casting both characters in light and darkness over and over as if mirroring Amanda’s conflicting feelings. It’s a highlight of the episode, and props to Jill Marie Jones (Sleepy Hollow) for pulling off the tension and conflict required for the scene.
As Amanda attempts to recover from her ordeal, we find she is under investigation for the murder of her partner and has begun to see images of Deadites. An absolutely luminescent Lucy Lawless appears dressed in white and offers Amanda some mysterious advice before fluttering off screen like the beautiful, flawless queen she is. I’m not sure what role Lawless will be playing in the series. Her characters is only listed as “Ruby” on IMDb and she hasn’t given her name in show yet. Currently, she’s operating as the Mysterious All Seeing Woman to Amanda’s potential Chosen One, which I’m rather fine with.
Back to Ash and his newfangled crew, with Pablo’s encouragement, Ash decides to embrace his destiny as the ultimate Deadite monster hunter, and in a truly hilarious action sequence, he impresses Kelly, validates Pablo’s belief in him, and saves the trailer park. The action sequences is a series of physic defying antics that will make old fans squeal when they see the beloved chainsaw of old return to the fold. There is no logic in this scene. Pablo is magically able to kick a huge chainsaw across the room, five feet in the air, while Ash hurtles towards it, prosthetic hand outstretched and somehow—magically—they connect. What?
It makes no sense, but the following action, where Ash cuts the head off of Granny Deadite, makes you not care because, wow that was cool! This is Ash vs. Evil Dead in a nutshell. It’s a series that embraces all things illogical, humorist, and cool. There is a sense of tension and urgency that grounds the episode, but that isn’t with Ash himself or his team. It’s with Amanda, the new character unconnected by events of the past series. Amanda is a completely new element to the Evil Dead series that it needs. As fun as it is to watch Ash battle Doll Deadites or his trailer park neighbors and be generally useless in all aspects of life outside of demon hunting, it’s also emotionally empty.
I love Ash; he’s a hilarious bumbling oaf of a character that is the anti-thesis of typical action heroes, especially now that Bruce Campbell has aged, which the show readily embraces. He’s no longer the chiseled man on the cover of Army of Darkness, and that image was never what the movie portrayed anyway. Ash has always been a bit of a useless goof who was only good at one thing: killing Deadites. So Amanda becomes a welcomed and needed addition to the story because Amanda provides emotional balance to the story.
The episode isn’t perfect; there’s an ableist term used by Ash’s disgruntled Value Mart boss, and Ash and Pablo’s casual misogyny of Kelly was extremely off putting. She’s introduced, essentially, as an object that Ash objectifies on sight, and Pablo lusts after. Kelly has her own storyline set up, but her introduction was bothersome to say the least. I also found the way Pablo was portrayed troubling. He apparently exists to validate and encourage Ash into action. That’s all he’s done—with the exception of lusting after Kelly—so far. Sure, it’s only one episode, so I shouldn’t judge to harshly, but come on. Pablo is one of the two characters of color we know to be in the main cast, and so far his main purpose has been to encourage Ash. All the other characters at least have clear-cut storylines in play, Pablo doesn’t.
There’s lots of callback goodies for old fans, including the original footage of the first two movies as Ash tells his story to Pablo. There’s a great callback to the original woods along with the frightening fast-paced evil camera of the first two movies, and the return of both Ash’s boomstick and chainsaw. Sam Rami, for his first venture into television, has established a clear tone for the series that is also inclusive of new fans as well. That being said, the series isn’t for people who aren’t comfortable with extreme violence or gore.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead. It was funny, embracing the same dark horror humor of the original trilogy, delivered on every gory category, and was able to establish some sense of emotional tension with the brilliant addition of Amanda.