Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead saga has made the jump to television, and we here at CHUD couldn’t be happier. Each week, Drew Dietsch and Andrew Hawkins will be discussing the current episode, and we invite you to join in the conversation in the comments below. ***SPOILERS*** for each episode will probably be part of the conversation, so make sure to watch before you read.
Drew: For any of you primitive screwheads who don’t know what The Evil Dead is, here’s a quickie summary: Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his friends went out to the woods to do some vacationing. While there, they stumbled upon the Necronomicon ex Mortis, the Book of the Dead, and awoke an evil force from deep within the woods. It ended up possessing all of Ash’s friends, leading to him having to become an impromptu badass and cut them down to shreds.
As horrific as all of that sounds, Sam Raimi’s original film and its sequels were always filled with as much Three Stooges-esque humor as they were buckets of blood. It’s a combination of this manic energy, cartoonish fun, and the godly charisma of leading man Bruce Campbell that’s kept the franchise beloved by its fanbase.
So now we have Ash vs. Evil Dead, a television series acting as a sequel to the films (although it seems like the show might be excluding/remaking the events of Army of Darkness, but this series has always been very loose with continuity). To start off, I only have one question for you Andrew: Does Ash vs Evil Dead have the greatest pilot episode of all time? (Hint: the answer is yes)
Hawkins: This is the greatest pilot episode we could have hoped for. Having Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell return to continue Evil Dead this way is perfect. I could not have hoped for a better reintroduction to Ash and the force that possesses people and makes them into deadites. Just the way in which the Necronomicon is used makes this whole thing work. Ash is back in full force and it feels good. Damn good. Let’s talk about the cast that we’ve been introduced to so far. I’m a huge fan of Pablo and I’m rooting for him to stick around as long as possible.
Drew: He’s going to make a wonderful Sancho Panza to Ash’s dumb-witted Don Quixote. His low-key manner and bizarre admiration of Ash are a perfect combination for sweetness and giggles. What I’m really digging is how strong all of the show’s female characters are. They’ve come out of the gate well-formed, interesting and badass. Amanda Fisher looks to be something of a mystery (the deadites seem to know something about her), Kelly is tough but still young and vulnerable to the craziness going on, and the enigmatic Ruby (Lucy Lawless!) has me thoroughly intrigued, even though I’ve been spoiled on some of her character’s origins. This show set up a stable of characters perfectly, and considering most shows struggle with such introductions, it’s a real testament to Ash vs. Evil Dead that it only took me one episode to dig all of these people.
OK, let’s talk humor, because this show is like televised nitrous oxide. When Ash remembered how he summoned the deadites this time around (in order to impress some dippy girl who likes poetry) and let out a bummer-laden, “Fuuuuuuck,” followed by the title screen, I had to pause the episode because I was laughing so hard.
Hawkins: Of course Ash gets high trying to get laid and to impress her he opens the Necronomicon like it’s written in French. I laughed my ass off at that. The fact that Ash can lay such cornball game and still score makes me smile all day. God they did him right and absolutely nailed the kind of humor that Army of Darkness cemented. It’s so great I can’t stand it.
Amanda Fisher looks like she might have a connection to the deadites and I’m sure we’ll know a lot more about it soon. From the previews and the quick exchange in the diner, Lucy Lawless’ Ruby is in on the secret and that spoiler you mention I’m sure has quite a bit to do with it. What did you think of Kelly’s introduction and first encounter with evil. I still can’t get over the girl twisting her own head around.
Drew: That head-twist was a practical effect, and it’s such a perfect continuation of the wacky oddness that has always set The Evil Dead apart from its peers. The weird backwards walk? Equal parts unsettling and goofy, and that’s exactly what I want out of an Evil Dead experience.
And good Lord, that final sequence with Ash taking on the oncoming Deadites, including his own trailer park sugar granny. We get classic cheeseball one-liners (“Mama shoulda taught you to knock!”) that only Bruce Campbell could sell as genuinely badass but still delightfully corny. The superhero moment of Ash attaching the chainsaw in midair and chopping off Vivian’s head is one of the best sequences in the entire franchise.
I know that there’s some rights issues with Army of Darkness which is why they can’t acknowledge it as part of the show’s history, but I like how Ash vs. Evil Dead is using that to its advantage. The show can now play with the tone of Army of Darkness but in a present day setting, while also cramming in more Evil Dead gory goodness. The fact that this show might actually be building up to the Deadite apocalypse that many have always wanted seems too amazing to be real.
Hawkins: “I hope you took your geritol, CAUSE IT’S TIME TO DANCE!” The assault on the caravan was my absolute favorite sequence from this episode, as I’m sure it was for many other happy viewers. The whole episode was chock full of great bits and scenes that capture the humor and horror we’ve been eagerly awaiting. I was all about the moment when Kelly’s partner pulls the old bait and switch of seeming normal and injured before attacking her. That and the many other moments when we get callbacks to the earlier films really cemented that the Raimi gang have returned to top form.
The flashback part showing clips from Evil Dead 1 & 2 were executed really well technically and that brings up a point; everything from the lighting to the practical effects were done expertly. Sam Raimi is working at the height of his abilities as a director and Bruce Campbell is bring his full on A-game as an actor and comedian. It is rewarding to see blood get splashed in faces again, and even something as simple as a ceramic pot to the face or a box of broken lightbulbs comes across as familiar. No one does physical comedy like this anymore and we’re lucky to have it.
Drew: Even though it’s on a TV show budget, this is Evil Dead 4 in every conceivable way. The energy, the humor, the zaniness, the effects, the Bruce Campbell: it’s firing on all cylinders. If this pilot is any indication of the series as a whole (I’m very interested to see how other directors will try to adapt Raimi’s style), this is going to be an experience worthy of the films it has spawned from. Hail to the king, baby.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Next Week: Bait