I remember my first time watching the original ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy. Volume on low at the dead of night, unsure what I was getting myself into, eyes glued to a screen filled with white-eyed Deadites and a blood-drenched cabin. Film4 showed all 3 over consecutive nights and they’ve been my favourite horror films ever since. A sequel initially seemed impossible with 1992’s Army of Darkness looking like the last time we would ever see the character of Ash onscreen. Then in 2015, like the sunrise after a harrowing night of terror, our prayers were answered and Ash Williams returned in Ash vs Evil Dead. The television sequel is now fast approaching its third season and if you’re not watching it this is why you should be.
For all the horror and gore of Ash vs Evil Dead, the show is a comedy at heart. This is what stands the show apart from other current horror series; the depressing world of The Walking Dead this is not. Humour has always been a major part of Evil Dead whether unintentional in the first film, balanced in the second or being in the forefront of Army of Darkness and the character of Ash Williams is why. Played to perfection by cult-actor Bruce Campbell, Ash is a lovable idiot. He’s a buffoon with a “Boomstick” who cracks wise and generally makes a complete fool out of himself but he has a heart and cares for those around him with Campbell being able to switch between goofball and hero with a tortured past with ease. The special effects, writing and direction (Sam Raimi returns for the first episode and then his unique style is continued by a multitude of great directors in the following episodes) are all fantastic but the show just would not work without Campbell in the lead role.
The series, which is shot in New Zealand, uses an incredible mix of computer generated and practical effects for its horror sequences which still manage to be creepy despite the general tone of the show. After a great debut season, Season 2 mixed up the show with a variety of unique episodes that presented opportunities for different types of scares including a great psychological horror episode, a bottle episode and a killer car episode which is the best version of Stephen King’s Christine out there. One of the mainstays of the franchise is the exuberant use of blood and gore which often leaves characters covered from head to toe. Many of the show’s creepiest and funniest moments use the gore to its full effect and I can’t believe some of the moments the show has gotten away with. One of the most hilarious scenes pits Ash against a corpse’s possessed colon in a morgue which has to be seen to be believed.
Ash vs Evil Dead could very easily just throw gore and gags at the audience for 30 minutes a week but the writers and producer Rob Tapert, whose been with the franchise from the beginning, obviously care very deeply about the property and treat the mythology and story with great care. The films have fairly simple narratives of Ash and his friends finding the Necronomicon “The Book of the Dead” and having to try and survive the Deadites and demons it produces. The show begins with this premise too, as well as a handy flashback in case you haven’t seen the films, but the story grows from there. The show delves into the backstory of the book and makes some fantastic additions to the lore of the franchise that the films never cared to do. Primarily the show is a fun and gore-soaked ride but there is plenty of plot and ever-expanding lore that keeps the show fresh as it moves into its third (and hopefully not final) season.
While the titular Ash is very much the star of the show he’s not alone on his quest to rid the earth of “The Evil Dead”. Sidekicks Kelly and Pablo join with Ash to make up “The Ghostbeaters” and the trio are often pitted against or have to join forces with Ruby, a mysterious character whose motives often have her switching sides between the conflict of good and evil. One supporting role worth mentioning is Lee Majors as Brock Williams, Ash’s dad, whose scenes are among my favourite in season 2. Characters and places from the films also return including Ash’s beloved Oldsmobile, Ash’s amputated hand and the original cabin in the woods.
Overall the second season is superior to the first with it telling a more personal story with Ash as he is forced to return home and face his past demons, both metaphorical and literal. Due to some behind the scenes shake-ups the finale of season 2 is a bit of a mess but the overall arc of the show seems to imply that the third season of the show will be the best yet. Ash vs Evil Dead returns on February 25th on STARZ in the US and in the UK it’ll apparently be on Virgin Media on Demand but who has that? It’ll be purchasable on Amazon Video and Blu-ray soon after. If you’ve not already then check out the first two seasons; it’s some of the most fun television out there right now.
Do you watch Ash Vs Evil Dead? Have I convinced you to check it out? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.