After the pilot dropped us back into the world of demon killing dumbass, Ashley J. Williams and the gibbering hordes of the undead with a juicy selection of mutilation and mirth, it was time to turn this franchise into something resembling an actual show. Now, forging a continuing cast of charecters and an over arcing plot is something that the Evil Dead franchise had never really had to worry about before considering that three quarters of its runtime had been people screaming and bleeding in a cabin, but episode 2 attempts to give it a shot with the characters of Pablo and Kelly.
While Ray Santiago got a little more screen time to get under Pablo’s fabulously vertical hair and flesh out his adolescent hero worship of a man who thinks he’s God’s gift to monster killing (“That’s giving the man upstairs a little too much credit, this is all me, baby.”), Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly little to do except violent knock back Ash’s advances and worry about her mom – The Bait takes steps to rectify that.
After slaughtering a couple of Deadites in his trailer park home, Ash, Pablo and Kelly are already at an impasse. Kelly, who has just recieved a call from her father that her dead mother has returned home, obviously wants to go and protect her father while Ash wants to take the evil book known as the Necronomicon to a shop called Books From Beyond to try and find a way to send all the evil back with a simple incantation. Pablo, stuck between the girl he’s crushing on and the blood soaked doofus he looks up to, is unsure who’s side to be on, but when Kelly tears off on his bike after apparently swiping the Book Of The Dead, Ash and his new sidekick tool off, hitch the trailer up to his trusty Delta Oldsmobile and head off to Chainsaw some more Deadite ass.
However, they hit a couple of snags with the first being that Ash and Pablo’s possessed boss from the Value Stop has tagged along for the ride. No real problem there a broken bottle to the throat won’t cure, but the second problem is that upon arriving at Kelly’s house by kicking in the door while drenched in blood and reving a chainsaw, they find that her mom not only looks normal, but is exhibiting some very undeadite-like behavior. Kelly claims that her mother apparently only had amnesia after her car crash and the kindly Ms. Maxwell them invites to stay for dinner, but predictably, Ash ain’t buying a second of it and thus begins an agonisingly awkward dinner from hell.
Is Ash correct in his over-confident assumption that Kelly’s mother is indeed a snarling she-bitch from Hell, or is he about to make the latest in a long line of horrendous mistakes..?
Despite the great Sam Raimi making his return to the realms of bodily dismemberment with the first episode, it’s actually this episode that sets out how the series will play on with some noticable additions to the format.
The first one is the rotating director list, this is technically the first proper time Ash has been in the hands of anyone but Sam Raimi (although original producers Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert and Ivan Raimi are still on hand to keep the faith), but The Bait manages to keep the deranged style nicely intact with a never ending spray of killer one liners and arterial blood. In fact, anyone worried that Ash Vs Evil Dead would maybe tone down the carnage will be pleased to learn that the show is arguably the most grue-obsessed entry of the entire franchise with an astoundingly graphic bottling of a Deadite’s jugular soaking the characters with gore and fans with relief. The next item on the list is the episode run time for the test of the series which barely clock in at a welcome and brief 30 minutes. Even a fan like me would question whether an Evil Dead show would have enough going on to fill ten 40 minute episodes, but the reduced time makes the show fly like shit off a shovel.
Finally given more time to shine are the cynical Kelly and the childlike Pablo and the fact that Ash has a young woman and a Honduran man on either side of him allows him to be his un-PC self thanks to the occasional reality check and even allows the hideously un-self aware hero to get the odd introspective moment in here or there while giving Pablo a few uninspired fighting tips like admitting he can’t really get his head in the game until he takes a few shots to the face.
However, the crown jewel of the episode is the dinner scene where a suspicious Ash clumsily interrogates Kelly’s mother (unexpectedly played by Mimi Rogers of all people) much to the horror of Kelly herself. Opening with “Hi, you used to be dead, right?” and getting more obvious from there, Ash makes good his promise to Pablo by claiming “Oh I’ll be polite. Right up until I’m rude.” and finally ends proceedings with a right hook to the face. It’s a killer scene filled with laughs, gore and some cracking one liners (“Yeah? Well, your cooking was shit!”) and ends with a magnificent punchline that instantly dismantles the classic scenes of Ash making makeshift wooden crosses as he buries the victims – “You know they were Jewish, right?” states a not-impressed Kelly. “I… I did not.” stammers our epically flawed hero.
Managing to keep up the relentless pace and goofy quality of the pilot while gradually expanding Ash’s universe, The Bait brilliantly shows that Evil Dead may yet be much more than a one trick Chainsaw.