Review: In ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead,’ a Blend of Familiar Motifs and Humor

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Ash vs. Evil Dead': Bruce Campbell guarantees gore galore in new series.

Now Raimi and Campbell are back for the television series “Ash vs Evil Dead” which picks up where “Army of Darkness” left off — although for UK fans the third film had an alternative ending. “He’s the same moron he always was but it’s great to come back and play him when I have more acting experience now. Two-thirds of the way through the 1981 film “The Evil Dead,” one of the stars, a tall, handsome unknown young actor named Bruce Campbell, pauses in his flight from an undead former friend.

Evil Dead.” The promotional campaign for the horror-comedy series is peaking ahead of its Halloween premiere this Saturday, and the network said this week it had already renewed the show for a second season. “Ash vs. ET/PT), the arrogant, none-too-bright monster fighter battles his demons — literally — this time with Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), who also knows a thing about iconic characters, as a mysterious antagonist. As the camera pulls in tight on his face, he looks down at the gun in his hand and says, with surprising sang-froid, considering the situation: “Shells.

Stars including Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Jill-Marie Jones, Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo walked the carpet while VIP guests enjoyed an outdoor bar in front of the theater and hundreds of “Evil Dead” fans filled the street for a free Iggy Pop rock concert. Evil Dead”: Keep asking and you shall receive. “The fans have driven all this,” star Bruce Campbell told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Don’t expect Ash, still a Michigan stock boy, to have grown humbler or wiser in the decades since he accidentally summoned demons and then battled the human bodies they possessed in The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1993), cult favorites known for their a mix of horror, comedy and blood.

Guests were also invited to explore a replica of Ash’s trailer from the show and step inside a gif booth that gave chainsaw-wielding fans a chance to dispatch a Deadite with their friends. It’s based on the “Evil Dead” movie series, which started in 1981 with writer-director Sam Raimi (the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” movies) at the helm of a low-budget shocker that earned the praise of Stephen King and became a hit on home video. The characters — led by Bruce Campbell’s horror icon, Ash Williams — are so thoroughly splattered with a syrupy, orangey substance that they look more like Halloween-themed Jackson Pollock paintings than blood-strewn victims, and at least one replica head is shown doing enough “Exorcist” spins to rival a roulette wheel. The anticipation was palpable in the theater as the assembled army of “Dead” fans (many in costume) waited for their first fresh glimpse of Ash Williams on screen in 23 years.

Campbell was in high spirits as he introduced his fellow cast members and praised Starz for reviving the cult franchise — making note of the premium cabler’s uncensored approach to the bloody horror-comedy series. “What you’re seeing is unrestricted content. And he’s 30 years older,” Campbell says. “This is really just not the guy who should be saving the world.” The creakier, corset-wearing Ash brings the demon-inhabited bodies, known as Deadites, “back by mistake.

You’re gonna see what Ash does for a living: he saves the world!” Campbell declared, joking that he couldn’t imagine ever doing the show on network television. They haven’t shut up since,” Campbell said. “No matter what we say to them or what we give them, it will never be enough, and we’re very grateful for that.” In that spirit, the star and producers landed at Starz — where both Tapert and Lawless, who are married, previously worked on “Spartacus” — in an effort to stay true to their supporters. “It’s really important that we fulfill our obligations to the fans,” said Raimi. “But they have certain expectations. Starz showrunners including Bryan Fuller of “American Gods,” Steven DeKnight of “Spartacus” and Courtney Kemp Agboh of “Power” were also in attendance, along with Starz execs Chris Albrecht, Carmi Zlotnick, Glenn Curtis, Marta Fernandez and Jeffrey Hirsch. A group of college students vacation at a remote cabin in the woods, where they unwittingly unleash demonic forces as they play a tape recording of incantations from an ancient book of the dead. And so it was very important we found a network that was willing to go to the limit, really let us go anywhere we wanted with the humor, outrageous horror, crazy amounts of gore, which is some of the hallmarks of the ‘Evil Dead’ films.” Campbell promises things will get messy. “People ask how much blood is there going to be.

He works as a stock boy at Value Stop, he lives in the Mossy Haven trailer park, and he spends his off time cavorting with hookers, drinking, and smoking pot. We’d be promoting Spider-Man, and the fans would say, ‘We want Evil Dead.’ ” The revival started as a film project, but the shift to a weekly TV series required more characters to surround Ash, whose weapons of choice still include his chainsaw hand and “boomstick,” aka shotgun. “You have to have a bigger universe. Over the three Raimi-directed installments, we watched Ash morph from a relatively quiet lone survivor to a catch-phrase-fueled, rambunctious blowhard of the best kind. And his act — boyish but world-weary, arrogant but self-deprecating, a permanent twinkle in his eye — is central to nearly every moment; there would hardly be a show without him.

Soon the Deadites — taking the human form of people Ash knows — are after Ash, his young work buddy Pablo (Ray Santiago), and the woman Pablo is crushing on, Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo). He’s still missing his hand, but now he’s sporting a rosewood prosthetic—which he shows off to a woman in a bar, claiming he lost his hand saving a child from an oncoming train.

This probably has a lot to do with the pleasure the extended first episode affords; like the films, it’s clever, engaging, brisk and, crucially, unpretentious. The premium-cable show’s new characters illuminate Ash, Raimi says. “He’s such an incomplete person that it’s interesting to see him interact with people more,” Raimi says. “In the first Evil Dead movies, he’s just alone in his cabin breaking dishes over his head. We learn more about Ash – he works at a discount retailer called S-Mart – and we follow him through a time portal to the 1300s, where he leads the people of that time against the evil Deadite forces, including an evil version of himself. Campbell the last one standing), so there are supporting characters who seem likely to stick around and a subplot involving a Michigan State trooper (Jill Marie Jones) that’s still pretty thin after the two episodes provided to critics. Because I think what’s going to happen is, this series will force us to make more movies, because people will go, ‘Oh, that’s only 10 hours of programming.

In classic wordless Raimi fashion, the show pokes fun at its aging protagonist within the first 30 seconds—by displaying his struggle to tighten a leather girdle around his waist. The 10-episode first season of the show – produced by Raimi, Campbell and Tapert – premieres Halloween night on Starz with an installment that fans of the movies will likely welcome with open arms. Raimi lovingly piles on the familiar “Evil Dead” motifs, including the point-of-view shots that suggest invisible spirits rushing toward their victims — although here, instead of speeding across Appalachian hills, they’re moving through Michigan parking lots and trailer parks. Ash, now well into middle age, is living in a trailer while still working a retail job and trying to lie low, even if he acts with the swagger of a onetime high school football hero. She’s influenced a lot of women and (Xena) was an important link in the chain of female heroic figures.” Ash mixes the horror and scares of the franchise’s first film with the comedic tone of the second, Raimi says.

But in the blink of an eye, she’s transformed into her old self—long enough for Campbell to finish having sex with her, while making some very funny bewildered faces. However, his hedonist tendencies get the better of him, and he once again unwittingly unleashes the Deadites yet again after he gets stoned one night and reads from the Necronomicon. Particularly nostalgic is a scene in which Ash is attacked in the warehouse of the big-box store where he still works by a small doll that latches onto his face and bites him in the nose.

Although we soon find out how the dead have awakened for the first time in roughly 30 years, Raimi provides as little explanation of the curse’s actual mechanics as ever. A couple of his younger co-workers become his new allies in the fight against the demons, while Lucy Lawless (“Spartacus,” “Xena: Warrior Princess”) plays a mysterious character named Ruby. The dead love to bleed, and the only way to stop them is through bodily dismemberment.” Expect to soak up the signature humor of the aging ladies’ man, too, Campbell says. “People like Ash’s one-liners.

Campbell gets to do a little of the twisting, squirming, mock-terrified dance he made famous in “Evil Dead 2,” when he was attacked by his own hand. His humor and Campbell’s delivery are synced as ever in the pilot, and superfans will revel in all the callbacks and catchphrases peppered throughout—including a brief catch-up montage that incorporates story elements and footage from previous Evil Dead installments into Ash’s backstory. And this is one show that’s willing to throw everything at you. “Good or bad, you’re not going to see anything like this,” Bruce Campbell said. “This is not a cop show, a doctor show, a lawyer show.

But Raimi is not listed as writing or directing any of the nine episodes following the pilot, so it’s hard to say whether the series will continue to live up to its cult classic predecessors. The second episode provides a few typically funny fight scenes and plenty of the usual slapstick laughs, but without Raimi’s quieter humor, the transitions holding these raucous moments together can feel a little generic—some scenes almost feel like a standard procedural, albeit peppered with some supernatural goings-on.

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