Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October Nightmares III #10: Ash vs Evil Dead (2015 - ) - Hail to the King

By Sam Graham

Fewer things are more ravenous than a fanbase of nerds baying for a sequel. Of course, as we’ve seen in recent years, that sequel they’ve been begging for might not always go the way they want. It might be shit. It might break your heart. It might piss you off so much you can only express it by writing a massive review of it- I’ll just say it shall I? Alien: Covenant. There, I’m talking about Alien: Covenant...

Tell me how this sounds to you: Its 2015 and they’re making a TV show of a series of horror films from the 80’s and 90’s. Well if it sounds like it’s going to be as bad as the Exorcist and Omen (Damien, it was called) series, you’re thinking the same as I was.

My point is, Ash vs Evil Dead is one of those ‘should’ve been shit’ projects like The Blizzard of Oz, or Minecraft for consoles. Everyone expected it to suck. It’s nothing but a cash-grab, they said. It’s only because everyone else is doing it, they said. So no Army of Darkness 2 then, they said. I too was sceptical, but it just further advances my theory that if you put Bruce Campbell in something, it will be seen, no matter how bad it is.

We pick up 20-something years after 1992’s Army of Darkness, and the first thing we have to do is ignore both endings to it. In this series, Ash neither slept too long, nor fought more Deadites in S-Mart. He just went back to his normal life. He still works in retail though, and anyone who has worked in that field will know that that in itself is like battling demons and the undead. He lives in a trailer, has a pet iguana, likes his Deep Purple, and hangs out at roadhouses to hunt down cheap pussy.

The supporting cast are impressive and are just as funny, doing as good job taking the attention off Campbell while at the same time making sure they’re just as integral as Ash. The main ones are his shy best/only friend Pablo (Ray Santiago) who looks up to him like a hero, and the woman of Pablo’s dreams, Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), who has a voice like a thousand whiskeys, the snarky wit of Jack Dee, and who I’m going to assume has already been told she has a look of Amy Winehouse in her better years.  

When the Evil Dead is released in Michigan, these three band together to stop it, all the while, they’re tracked by a mysterious woman who seems to know all about the evil dead, played by Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess fame.

The whole program is as cheesy as it sounds, and continues to be as over the top as its predecessors.  On the ratio of comedy/horror, I’d say it’s in line with Evil Dead 2. Army was definitely more comedy and Evil Dead 1 was definitely more horror.  For many, 2 is the perfect equilibrium, which is probably why they went for it with this.

Though the tone is more like the second one, Ash himself is more like his Army of Darkness incarnation. He doesn’t scream like a girl at much anymore and in general he’s not surprised by anything, to the point where he’ll pre-emptively punch someone out on a hunch they might be a Deadite. Only when they reveal themselves to be undead does he smirk and say “Oh good. I was starting to feel like a real dick.”

Lucy Lawless has always been a great actress, so she’s always a solid performance, and relative newcomers Santiago and DeLorenzo must have known the scrutiny they’d be under. There is no scrutiny as pedantic and microscopically dissecting than that of a cautious neckbeard. Something as simple as a movement of the eyes out of place and the whole show is a write-off and it should never have been made; it’s a disgrace to the entire legacy, I’ve broken up with it, the whole franchise is dead to me now, a pox on it, a pox I say.
You don’t believe me? Just tell someone that Kylo Ren’s scar is in the wrong place. Santiago and DeLorenzo play their roles expertly, considering the weird shit they’ll have been asked to do.  Kelly, for example, gets her arse kicked by a handpuppet of Ash, then gets doused in piss. I’d go as far as to say that if this was just Ash on his own again, it wouldn’t be even half as good.

As series 2 carries on, the plot changes considerably, which it needed to do to stay fresh, and stay fresh it does. The ante is upped, things get worse for the heroes, and they even manage to give Ted Raimi a proper acting role. He’s Ash’s school buddy and they enlighten the team about a cocktail they used to enjoy that consisted of “a proprietary mix of liquors and spirits, garnished with orange rind and nutmeg oh and there’s a shit ton of ketamine in it”. It’s called Pink Fuck.

My only gripe with the show is Ash’s lack of responsibility. He caused the outbreak of deaditeitus this time, trying to impress a girl, so now every death is on him. He doesn’t seem to express any guilt about it though. The other dilemma of course, is which one is hotter out of Lucy Lawless or Dana DeLarenzo? On any given day Lawless wins, but DeLarenzo gets the upper hand when she’s covered in blood.

Enjoyed this piece? Then 'like' The Crusades of A Critic on Facebook. Sam also has a novel which can currently be viewed here, and features ten times the swears, snarc, and rage of the above piece.