When the news of an Evil Dead series struck me like a self inflicted blow from my own possessed hand, I honestly didn’t know what to think – but when Campbell’s ludicrously chiseled jawline made a confusing cameo in an after credits sting of the far more serious 2013 remake, speculation rose like a Deadite after the utterance of a particular incantation. A self confessed, Evil Dead fanatic (Dead Head, anyone?), I myself was understandably intrigued as to what the hell a show based on Sam Raimi’s deliriously energetic film trilogy could possibly be like: could this new golden age of television hope to do justice to the frenetic style, the overly generous gore and, in Bruce Campbell’s legendarily idiotic protagonist, make Ashley J. William’s as groovy as he always was?
Only one way to find out. Yo, she-bitch, let’s go.
Decades after the climax of Army Of Darkness seen in the US version (the S-Mart ending, not the “I slept too long!” ending), we catch up with a girdle wearing Ash as he slaps on some aftershave in his and heads out to his local watering hole to get him some action. However, a poorly timed vision of a Deadite warning him that the terror will start all over again has him antsy (especially when he belatedly remembers that it’s all his fault) and his first instinct is to get the fuck out of town, but not before he swings by his workplace to see if he can grab his paycheck early. Having being forced to work a whole shift, Ash breaks the news to Pablo, a young man who sees his older counterpart as a source of admiration, who confesses of his feelings for co-worker Kelly whom Ash promptly attempts to chat up – but a run in with a possessed, crazed dolly reminds Ash of the reasons why he needs to leave town, pronto. Meanwhile, Detective Amanda Fisher is in disgrace after she shot her possessed partner in self defence during a run-in with a woman directly involved when Ash inadvertently raised evil once again – they were both fucking stoned and he read from the Necronomicon to impress her with some “poetry”. While she vows to get to the bottom of matters after a meeting with a mysterious woman, Kelly gets a video call from her father claiming her mother, who’s been dead for six months, has apparently returned home and Pablo suggests they go to Ash’s trailer home to get help as he believes that his doughy hero is “El Jefe”, a mystical vanquished of evil – but upon arriving both Ash, Pablo and Kelly are beset by Deadites. Can Ash dust off thirty years of doing fuck all to be the Deadite killing hero that Pablo believes he is?
While the first episode of Ash Vs Evil Dead has the usual teething problems you’d expect with a pilot episode of television, the primary goal of bringing a whole new audience up to speed with a hero who is cowardly, stupid, thirty pounds overweight and is generally an overconfident, toxic piece of shit is impressively achieved. Before the credits sequence has even started we’re gifted not one but two instantly golden Ash moments that rank insanely high as all time greats. Introduced as he rocks out to Deep Purple’s Space Truckin’, he heads out to a bar 10 minutes before closing to make pulling whatever haggard, already-drunk barfly he can impress with bullshit about how he got his prosthetic Rosewood hand. Horrified by her temporarily Deadite transformation while he bangs her in the bathroom, he actually fulfills her request to “finish off” after see returns to normal – which he does while looking terrified. As introductions go, it’s overwhelmingly perfect and it’s made even better by the revelation that he’s the actual cause of all this after idiotically breaking out the Necronomicon in order to get laid. Swaggering around the place like major shit-heel, convincing his elderly neighbour Vivian to empty his septic tank for him and describing his dire need for better cardio by describing his heart as “Jack hammering like a quarter back on prom night”, it’s a genuine pleasure to welcome Bruce Campbell back to his most famous role and it’s made all the more better by the fact that Sam Raimi’s come with him to direct the pilot.
Serving up some long overdue servings of his trademark lunacy such as Ash smashing flowerpots over his own face to dislodge a viscous killer doll and our hero diving across his trailer to be reunited with his beloved chainsaw as it soars through the air, Raimi hasn’t scratched this itch since the criminally underrated Drag Me To Hell and his reuniting with his battered and bruised muse is something truly wondrous to behold.
Elsewhere, the show is slightly less confident, having to introduce numerous characters into the breakneck pace, who, for now, are mostly screaming archetypes, but the teaming of Raimi and Campbell comfortably papers over any cracks, for now.
Loaded with exploding heads, decapitated pensioners and some contorting, backward headed creature schtick long before James Wan did it in Malignant, Ash Vs Evil Dead explodes out of the gates as a practically perfect continuation of all the explicit gore and doofy tomfoolery that made the Evil Dead movies so fucking great to begin with.
This is the true return of the king, baby. Hail.