Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete Season One is now available on home video. It has everything an Evil Dead fan could want: average-schmo-turned-hero-out-of-necessity Ash Williams; grandmothers and booksellers turned deadites; human-sized demons that erupt from a doomed character’s mouth; gallons of fake blood and even a new crew to keep Ash from screwing up too badly.
Created by Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi and Tom Spezialy (doubtless with input from B-movie legend Bruce Campbell), Ash vs. Evil Dead rocks as hard as it should (and note the Michigan bands whose music closes each episode – legendary!).
The Evil Dead Trilogy (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) has, over the years, accumulated a large fan following who have long clamored for an Evil Dead 4/Army of Darkness 2 – which never happened because each of the three movies was handled by a different distributor (Can you say ‘legal problems?’ I knew you could!).
Thanks to untangling a host of legal problems (but not all), Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell were able to work out a TV series – but no one was willing to do it with the kind of humor, violence and gore Dead fans would expect… until they approached premium channel Starz. Who ordered it to series from their pitch.
When we meet Ash, he’s about what we’d expect – a middle-aged guy with a beer gut who has pry himself into a girdle and put in his dentures before going into town to pick up lonely women a decade/decades younger than him. We also learn that he’s still a clerk/stock boy at a very familiar big box store in a small town.
After a really good night of toking and getting it on with a hot blond, he shows off his prized possession (yes, he’s kept the Necronomicon in a storage bin in his well-worn Airstream). Showing off his ability to read from it, he manages just enough to unleash the evil dead once more and hell comes to his trailer park.
Before you know it, his boss is possessed and it’s only with a bit of help from his co-worker, Pablo (Ray Santiago, Raising Hope, Touch) that things work out.
Ash, Pablo and their fellow co-worker Kelly Maxwell (Dana Delorenzo) are off in Ash’s ancient Delta 88 (Campbell claims in a commentary that it’s the original in some scenes – the noise the door makes when it creaks open being the giveaway clue) to do battle with the supernatural.
Ash vs. Evil Dead makes use of practical effects – to keep the feel in tune with movies – to great effect (one particular demon is just a guy in a loincloth, grey paint and facial appliances).
Weird angles, eerie music (from Joseph LoDuca – who’s worked on all incarnations of the Evil Dead franchise) and strange sounds all contribute to keeping Ash vs. Evil Dead true to the spirit of the movies.
The scripts are uniformly off the wall and filled with future classic Ash-isms (‘That was appalling and amazing!’ ‘Everything I’m good at.’). The plots are pretty straightforward but the characters are not.
There’s the mysterious Ruby (Lucy Lawless), who saves the life of a police detective who is still reeling from having seen her partner possessed (she had to kill him) and facing a demon that Ash accidentally summoned (he was trying for something much smaller…).
Then there’s Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), the aforementioned detective, who is stuck in the unhappy position of knowing that there’s supernatural evil afoot while desperately wishing she’d stayed in bad that morning.
While Ash, Pablo and Kelly are hunting deadites, Ruby and Amanda are hunting them.
The result is the kind of witty mayhem we haven’t seen in such large doses since Army of Darkness (though not because others haven’t tried – it’s just that they’re not the Raimis and Campbell, are they?).
Ash vs. Evil Dead is The Real Deal.
The first season DVD/Blu-ray comes with three featurettes: Inside the World of Ash (brief looks at each episode with executive producer Craig Digregoria); How to Kill a Deadite, and Best of Ash (some of the many great lines uttered by Ash in season one).
Plus – and this is the real bonus – audio commentaries on every episode.
El Jefe: Sam Raimi (co-creator, executive producer, director), Rob Tapert (co-executive producer), Ivan Raimi (co-creator, executive producer) and Bruce Campbell (star, co-executive producer); Bait: Tapert, Campbell, Dana Delorenzo (Kelly), Ray Santiago (Pablo); Books from Beyond: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago; Brujo: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago; The Host: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago; The Killer of Killers: Delorenzo, Jill Marie Jones (Amanda), Santiago; Fire in the Hole: Delorenzo, Jones, Santiago; Ashes to Ashes: Campbell, Delorenzo, Jones, Santiago; Bound in Flesh: Campbell, Delorenzo, Jones, Santiago; The Dark One: Campbell, Delorenzo, Lucy Lawless (Ruby), Santiago.
Grade: Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete Season One – Grade: A-
Grade: Features: A+
Final Grade: A