Early Review: ASH VS. EVIL DEAD (Episode 1-2)

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SHOCK spits out an early (relatively spoiler-free) review of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, episodes 1 and 2.

Though the press notes that accompanied the screener sent to SHOCK forbade us (the great unwashed horror media) from revealing plot points from the first two episodes of the hotly anticipated STARZ series ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, we’re going to attempt an early, (almost) spoiler-free review, based exclusively on our impressions thus far.

Suffice to say, we are more than a bit enthusiastic about the program. In fact, for horror fans, this may be the most important television event since the premiere of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD. And we’re ecstatic to reveal that, based on the pair of opening, 30 minute episodes screened, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD is bloody (and we mean bloody) brilliant entertainment, with nary a misspent minute. That’s right, EVIL DEAD fans…this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

It goes without saying that Bruce Campbell returns as the absurdly-abused, single-handed, demon-killing wiseacre Ash, who we find in the opening episode in a sort of professional and personal limbo. Like an old boxer whose best fights are behind him, Ash is still holding on to memories of his adventures (the film follows the events of ARMY OF DARKNESS, sort of, but could easily serve as a stand-alone narrative), still wasting his days working at S-Mart and filling his nights with cheap booze, cheaper women and other forms of slow-death, self destruction. That is, until one night, after a binge of sex, drugs and hazy bravado, Ash, in the throes of coitus, foolishly opens ye olde Book of the Dead, babbles some passages and wakes up with the mother-lode of morning after (mourning after?) regret.

Pretty soon, those nasty Kandarian Deadites are popping up everywhere and Ash, joined by a pair of younger accomplices, rolls up his sleeve, sticks a chainsaw on his stump, and gets down to the nitty gritty of monster mashing.

Like Sam Raimi’s original EVIL DEAD trilogy, the joys of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD aren’t in the revolutionary twists of plot, but in the manic style that Raimi, Rob Tapert and Campbell (along with their wealth of FX co-conspirators) bring to the party; this is the most manic-thing-masquerading-as-a television-series I’ve ever seen. It most certainly is EVIL DEAD 4, presented in a sliced and diced, long-form fashion but – and again, this is early in the game – it might be the best offering in the franchise thus far. It’s certainly better than the silly ARMY OF DARKNESS (don’t hate me but I’m not really a fan) and it has nothing to do with the grim remake. What we have here is the ultimate hybrid of the terrifying original and the THREE STOOGES-steeped style orgy of EVIL DEAD 2 but with an added dose of a contemporary noir bubbling and evolving in the peripheral. Literally, in every sense, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD is an evolution of substance and form and that goes for returning composer Joseph LoDuca’s fine work, an amplification of his original themes that pushes the action forward (and speaking of music, Deep Purple fans will get a few extra kicks out of the soundtrack).

The central joy of the show is, of course, Campbell, and the seemingly endless ways in which Raimi and pals beat the living shit out of him (watch out for a killer Deadite dolly bit for a worthy companion to EVIL DEAD 2’s punishing bad-hand-battle). The actor aint no spring chicken either, but Campbell is so committed to the role and obviously so overjoyed to be back in the blue shirt, coated in blood and snarling bon mots, that he pushes through, delivering a physical performance that actors half his age would cringe at (and they do as Bruce out-badasses virtually every person in the show).

The lads know that the fans want this, that they NEED this and there’s a feeling that no matter any of their successes elsewhere, all that matters is this, here, now. All that matters is ASH VS. EVIL DEAD.

It’s like the hometown band leaving town, conquering the world and then coming back for another gig at the local dive, playing faster, better, stronger and with more urgency than ever before.

Welcome back, boys…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unnLg1TPCYM