Honestly, I really wasn’t all that captivated, but EVIL DEAD II sealed the deal, basically retelling that first story but in a much more visually captivating way, one that practically required audiences shut up, sit up, and take notice 'cause somethin’ special was about to happen. And I was even one of the rare few who saw the oft quoted ARMY OF DARKNESS (occasionally subtitled as EVIL DEAD III) when it ran theatrically. Again – like so many – I ate it all up, reveling in Ash’s cunning with words and weapons as only the most dedicated fanboys do.
So do you think I was going to let ASH VS EVIL DEAD pass me by without a glance?
Not a chance in Hell.
Buckle up, deadheads. We're goin' for a ride.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
"Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity, and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons -- personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its 'Evil' grip."
There is a bit more -- much of it about the cast -- so let's leave it there. After all, what matters most is the story, and there's just enough of that in there to tickle the fancy of anyone watching.
Well, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell did the unthinkable here: they tapped right back into fertile ground and brought Ash back to life, complete with the Evil Dead still plaguing practically every one of his waking hours. They even upped the ante here by giving the glorious dead slayer not one but two sidekicks (Ray Santiago as Pablo and the comely Jill Marie Jones as Amanda) as well as a new kinda/sorta adversary in the guise of Ruby, played by everyone’s warrior princess Lucy Lawless herself.
But the real question here is: did ASH VS EVIL DEAD deliver the goods?
Meh. But think of that as a good “meh.”
VS takes a while to find its groove, as it were, but when it aims for the cheap seats it does generally hit at least a double, occasionally a triple, and from time to time even a home run. The trouble I had with it is that there’s a fair amount of time exploring and establishing what the Necronomicon is, isn’t, can, and can’t do (every incarnation of Dead does this, mostly for newbies, and VS does no less); that and the fact that Lawless’s Ruby kinda/sorta kept evolving into something a bit different than what had come the episode before made for some periodically frustrating developments. Again, I don’t offer this feedback up as complaint so much as it is just a justification for my minor quibbles with the storytelling; these elements always tend to slow down the pace, and a slow pace doesn’t work well when you’re counting the minutes between roadkill, if you catch my drift.
Still, Ash is a character that largely still fits Campbell like a glove, and the Master Thespian does the Academy proud by slipping so effortlessly into this crazy, hazy world once more.
That last few episodes wear a bit thin, especially given that the big idea ends up being a return to the bloody cabin in the woods where all of this started. A few of the last minute developments – such as a band of hikers showing up primarily to give audiences a body count – don’t feel all that organic here; so it’s best to think of the last hour (or so) as the creation of a writers’ room more than anything else. The cast and crew do give this perhaps an ending as unpredictable as anything else they could’ve come up with, but rest assured there’s always the lingering promise that blood can and will still be shed for the inevitable season two. And thank God for a soon premiering Season Two as I, for one, miss Ash’s merriment as much as the rest fan.
RECOMMENDED. Look, you already know whether or not Ash – as a character – interests you or not. If he does, then you’re likely to enjoy the wild ride at the heart of ASH VS EVIL DEAD. If you don’t, then what are you doing here? Why did you read all the way down to this? Why haven’t you surfed over to check out what’s left of the Merchant Ivory catalogue already? Quit bothering me and get on with your life, knucklehead: I’ve got dead to kill, and all you’re gonna do is slow my roll, homey.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment provided me with a copy of ASH VS EVIL DEAD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.