Over the past decade or so it seems that every big horror news item pertains to some remake, reboot, rehash of cult and classic genre names and figureheads. Its happened to Freddy. Its happened to Leatherface. Hell, it even happened to the Leprechaun. Now its happening to one of the most beloved franchises of all time, Evil Dead.
Of course we had the 2013 Fede Alvarez reboot of the franchise and were teased with winks and nods to the original throughout (including a special cameo at the end of the credits) but it took the combined efforts of Sam Raimi, Rob Tappert and Bruce Campbell to resurrect the franchise fully. I had my doubts upon the initial announcement. I mean when has a reboot after this much time been any good? Could they possibly capture the same magic of their original trilogy? Could Ash still kick ass, take names and flub spells? The first trailer for the series pointed to yes but I needed to be sure. Now, after a special sneak peek screening of the first episode I can say yes. Evil Dead is back and its here to swallow your souls.
The series picks up 30 years after Ash’s fateful night in the cabin and our hero still finds himself as stock boy at the local Value Store. Things aren’t great for Ash. He’s living in a trailer park, he’s shaking up with whoever he can and oh
yeah, he’s outrunning an oncoming wave of evil that has found him again after 30 years. Armed with shotgun, chainsaw and necronomicon, Ash is forced to face his demons again now with new comers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) who will aid him on his quest to put an end to things once and for all.
First and foremost, Bruce is in top form as Ash. He’s slimmed down, toned up and its like no time at all has passed from the final moments of Army of Darkness. He still has the swagger and oafishness, heroics and cowardice. Its all still there and its a blast to watch. The pokes at his age and position in life are fun, I just found myself wishing they’d cut back a little on some of the cruder material. Being on Starz it feels like some of this may have been studio mandated but we’ll see.
The new cast of characters are just as fun as Ash. Pablo is great in the sidekick position but even in this first episode shows signs that he’s not going to just sit back or cower behind Ash the whole time. The same can mostly be said about Kelly as well although I fear that they may be trying to “damsel in distress” her when she is clearly a gal who can take care of herself. This runs in line with the secondary story of the show involving state police officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) who has an early run in with the deadites and is now on the search for answers. She and Kelly (along with the mysterious character played by Lucy Lawless) have the potential to be some great horror heroines that are sorely needed in this universe. Ash is great but he needs a cast of female characters who can stand shoulder to shoulder with him.
Having Sam Raimi back in the directors chair to do the pilot was an incredible thing. The weird angles, the pov’s, the extreme close ups, the gross out gags. Its all still there. The deadites look better than ever and I can’t help but wonder if they have some of the ferocity and sadistic tendencies of the Fede Alvarez demons or if this is just my own wishful thinking. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the episodes flow as they change directors but as of right now, it looks and feels like classic Evil Dead.
There aren’t a whole not of negatives here and any of the issues I had can be summed up to it being the premiere episode and can’t really be judged until we see more. As of earlier today the show was picked up for a second season, days ahead of its proper premiere and I can see why. It’s the the almost unheard of occurrence of a properties original creatives coming back to breathe life into it after decades and it being a total success. Ash Vs Evil Dead is truly lightning in a bloody bottle.