The Holy Grail of this year’s New York Comic-Con for me was Saturday’s Ash vs Evil Dead panel held at the Hammerstein Ballroom several blocks from the convention center. While decked in one my four Evil Dead t-shirts topped by my Evil Dead sweatshirt, I waited with thousands of eager Deadites to get in to the event. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m an Evil Dead fan. After years of trying to get a fourth film in the franchise made, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell got the go-ahead from the Starz cable television network and now ASH IS BACK. And what could be better than having Kevin Smith, one of my favorite writer/directors, as moderator of the panel, and seeing Bruce Campbell in a shiny purple jacket? How about Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi giving us a surprise screening of the pilot episode of Ash vs Evil Dead! YES!!!
Here’s my thoughts on the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, titled “El Jefe” and directed by Sam Raimi, airing on Starz this Halloween.
And obviously… SPOILERS.
As seen in the trailer, the show opens with Ash (Bruce Campbell living in a trailer park, using a specially designed corset to suck in his aging gut as he gets ready to go out. He screws on his wooden hand to go out to pick up the lady… the one lady at the bar… ten minutes before closing. Middle-aged Ash is kind of exactly what we imagined he would be: a creepy confident lothario willing to woo anyone who gives him the time of day. Except during this tryst, he starts seeing demons! Turns out he might have accidentally smoked too much good stuff, and read out loud from the Necronomicon, which coincidentally he keeps in a locked trunk in his trailer.
As Ash is beginning to realize that he may have stirred the Deadite pot once more, we meet officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones). She and her partner are investigating a scary house at night, because… well, who cares. They are promptly attacked by a Deadite in a deliciously violent and bloody scene that will make any Evil Dead fan happy. There are even a pair of antlers on the wall that get involved. Raimi loves antlered animals in horror (see Evil Dead II, Drag Me To Hell).
Ash meanwhile is ready to get the hell out of dodge. He plans to finish his day of work at Value Mart (S-Mart was bought out, we learned during the panel) and then leave town. When a toy deadite attacks him — in a scene that borrows heavily from Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness — Ash is saved by his co-worker Pablo (Ray Santiago). Pablo believes in Ash as a mentor. Pablo’s friend Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) isn’t convinced. But Ash assures her, her opinion of him will change, in all the right ways.
The three end up at Ash’s trailer where the Evil Dead attack. This sequence is a great homage to the scenes in the cabin in Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say, Ash is forced to decide whether he flees or fights… and well if he fled there’d be no show!
Ash vs Evil Dead proves that the magic Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell created 30 years ago is still flowing strong… like the blood from a severed limb. This premiere episode captured all the nostalgia of the trilogy while creating new fun characters and stories. Pablo, Kelly, and Fisher are interesting supporting characters each with unique stories. The girls are badass, and Pablo is more than meets the eye. Plus, we’ve only glimpsed Lucy Lawless as Ruby. I’m sure that the ver 2,000 fans in attendance at the Hammerstein will concur that Ash vs Evil Dead’s premiere was, in a single word… GROOVY.
Ash vs Evil Dead debuts on the Starz network on Halloween night, October 31, 2015 at 9pm. Watch it and have a bloody great time.
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