Back in 1981, writer/director Sam Raimi gave audiences one of the most memorable horror films ever made: The Evil Dead. Filmed on a shoestring budget, The Evil Dead used a bit of silliness as a counterpoint to the gruesome horror being depicted on screen. Seriously, if the movie wasn’t at least a bit silly, that famous tree scene could have taken things to an even darker place and the film may not have become the cult classic it remains to be over 30 years later. After an unsuccessful attempt to resurrect the franchise with the 2013 reboot/remake/sequel by the same name, long time fans wondered if they would ever see their favorite Deadite slayer, Ash (Bruce Campbell in a role for which he may have been created by the Gods specifically to play), back on the screen. After all, the last time audiences saw the hero and his boomstick was back in 1992’s Army of Darkness and while both Campbell and Raimi had been promising a follow up to the film, nothing has ever come of the rumors. Until last night. Starz premiered their highly anticipated Ash vs. The Evil Dead on Halloween night and for Evil Dead fans all over the country, it was a night to cheer. Was the return worth the wait? You’re goddamn right it was. Spoilers ahead.
The opening moments of the new series immediately alert the viewer to the fact that in almost 25 years (30, in the series continuity), not much has changed about Ash Williams. The swaggar that fans love is there, buckets full, despite the fact that the reunion with their favorite character in horror begins with Ash stuffing himself into a corset, of sorts, while loving the results in the mirror. Yes, it was a silly way to begin the series but after the absolute downer of 2013’s Evil Dead entry, Raimi needed to let fans know that it was back to business as usual. The series quickly returns to its roots as a woman that Ash is…becoming familiar with gives audiences their first view of the new Deadites. Only for a moment before Ash gets back to business, of course. After all, priorities.
After bidding his lady friend adieu, Ash remembers that the night before, while in a marijuana and alcohol induced haze, in what can be assumed to be an attempt to become familiar with another lady friend, he read a few crucial lines from the Necronomicon in leiu of French poetry, hoping that would do the trick. Whether or not he wound up succeeding in that endeavor is unknown (it’s Ash, so let’s just say, yeah, he got lucky) but if there is one thing that all fans of Evil Dead, and horror in general, know, it’s NEVER READ THE LATIN. EVER.
Things quickly escalate as Deadite activity begins to pop up through the city, leading to the creepiest scene of the episode, as a woman twists her own head around, before dislocating each of her limbs so she can walk backwards. Really, this scene was perfection and so very Evil Dead that even the most hesitant of Evil Dead fans cheered. Things get silly as a doll in the Value Stop (RIP S-Mart) in which Ash works becomes an instrument of evil, leading to a retelling of the original tale to Pablo (Ray Santiago), a Honduran employee that works with Ash. And, by the end of the first episode, things get real, as Ash makes the decision to take on the Deadite invasion and destroy the book of the dead once and for all. Groovy.
Longtime fans and new audiences alike should absolutely adore this new entry in the Evil Dead franchise. The first episode of the series is pure Evil Dead, down to the camera work and even the motions of the Deadites. The humor that fans love is spread throughout the episode, though, there are a few times in which the silly was a bit too silly, e.g. Ash rinsing his dentures then immediately showing off his winning smile. However, these moments are so few and far between that they hardly seem to matter. The creepiness of the original two films is there (Army of Darkness was fun but few would call it “scary”), made even creepier with a bigger budget than the originals. Bringing Lucy Lawless along for the ride is a real treat for Raimi fans and while she was only given a line in the pilot, there is no doubt that her character will have a much bigger part to play once all is said and done. The same could be said of Jill Marie Jones‘ Amanda Fisher, who, after witnessing her partner murdered and transformed into a Deadite, has a few questions about what the hell is going on.
At the end of the day, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have finally delivered on a promise that they have been making for decades: a true Evil Dead sequel. Hail to the king, baby.