The Evil Dead trilogy, is one of the rare horror movie franchises which I can continuously revisit, always finding something new to appreciate about each film in the series. In some ways, I have always wished for the world of Evil Dead to be resurrected, but I also felt that it was perfect in it’s current form. Fans have speculated for years that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were working on a new Evil Dead film, and neither of them ever did anything to dispel those rumors. Hell, several of those rumors were started by these very two people, explaining in great detail what they would do with the series, if time and money made bringing the series back a viable option. A “reboot” of the franchise caused some people to talk again, and the word was that there would be a sequel to Army of Darkness, and that it would tie into the “new” universe created by the reboot. Some time passed, and that turned out to be just talk as well. Then it was announced that a TV series, starring Bruce as Ash might be coming to premium television, and then it was confirmed. Evil Dead would be resurrected at Starz, and it would be titled Ash vs. Evil Dead.
This new, premium television incarnation of Ash, and his eternal foes, the Deadites would premiere on Halloween night of last year, and Starz did a damn-fine job of letting all of the fans know about it. The premise, its star, the production team, and a legion of loyal Evil Dead fans guaranteed that this show would be a success, regardless of fanfare, but the Pay-TV channel went to great lengths to promote it. They bombarded the internet with a series of promotional videos, images, posters, video clips, and interviews, and even made the premiere episode free-to-watch for all on the Starz website. It’s safe to say that Starz was aware of what they held in their hands, as well as the loyal fan base that comes with it. It’s certain that they were banking on the notion that Evil Dead fans would make the transition to Starz Subscribers en masse. At the time of this writing, I was unable to find any data to confirm or deny that that was the case, but it’s safe to say that some of them did just that.
The premiere episode of the show would be directed by Sam Raimi himself, with others stepping behind the lens to shoot further episodes. Some were worried that this would be a bait-and-switch, suggesting that once the phenomenal pilot episode was behind us, subsequent episodes would take a huge dive in quality. I’m happy to report that this is far from the case. As good as our introduction to this new incarnation of Evil Dead was, the ride gets even more fun as the season progresses. Some found fault within episodes eight and nine, and maybe it’s because I saved episodes seven-through-ten for a rainy day marathon, but I thought it was perfect from start to finish. At least as far as storytelling go. Never did I feel bored, and always was I starving for more. If I could complain about anything at all, it would be the short episode length. Under 30 minutes, if you take into consideration all of promotional footage and behind-the-scenes stuff they added after the end of each episode, and I have to question why they didn’t feel the need to do 40+ minute episodes. I will say, it certainly worked as far as starving me for future episodes.
Whether or not the formula of Evil Dead would translate well to a TV drama, involving characters other than Ash, was one of my early concerns. I have complete faith in Raimi, despite the war crime he committed against Spider-Man, but it was pretty clear that there were going to be other hands in this cookie jar. The first two Evil Dead films consisted of Bruce Campbell, in a cabin, alone, almost entirely. Ash VS. Evil Dead was going to have a broader scope than that. In a lot of ways, it’s almost like a “road movie” type of deal, though most of the show takes place in the same town, it slowly progresses until the entire ensemble ends up back at that same Cabin. I honestly thing they did a really good job, updating the material, expanding it so that it was more than Ash in a cabin for 30 minutes per week, but also painstakingly recreating every single little nook and cranny of that Cabin for when it does become involved in the show’s story.
Another thing I – and I’m sure all of you – was concerned about was the special effects. Yeah, Sam Raimi would be involved, but this is a PAY TV show, and not even on one of the more popular channels like HBO or Showtime. This is on STARZ. They’re not going to have the same kind of budget to work with, would this have been a movie relaunch of the series. Sam is known for being the great wizard of no budget filmmaking, but it’s not 1978 anymore, and it’s much cheaper to CGI an exploding head than to do a practical rig. While there were some spots of unquestionably iffy shots of CG effects, they did a great job blending it with practical, so almost everybody walks away happy. Purists get upset at any usage of CG at all, but in this case, it was unrealistic to expect all of the effects to be practical. Hell, if you want me to be honest, we were lucky to have gotten any practical at all. A lot of the time, when a shot was going to be heavy on the computer graphics, they’d tie it into the opening of the show, bleeding into the title, giving it a comic book look, instead of something that came from the SyFy channel.
So, at the end of a ten episode season, did this TV resurrection of Evil Dead stay entertaining, and remain true to its roots? In my humble opinion, it absolutely did. The week-long wait between episodes was gnarly. For a show this entertaining, a running time of 25 minutes or so – excluding promos and previews – was just not enough. Bruce was better than he’s ever been as Ash J. Williams. I never doubted him. Sure, he’s been in some terrible movies, but if you’ve been following his career, he’s only improved as an actor. If you’ve seen a single episode of USA’s Burn Notice, you’ll know that despite that already being a really entertaining show, Bruce’s character is one of the best things about it. With more one-liners and bravado than ever, Bruce successfully returned to a character he hasn’t portrayed for twenty years, and even managed to improve upon it. The new characters were all pretty good as well. Some of them you had to get used to, or at least allow their arc to play out, before you could decide. As much has I love dirty, badass Bruce, alone in that cabin in the woods, staving off the end of the world like a superhero, it was nice to see him have other characters to get some back-and-forth, and see how the character of Ash reacts to being around someone other than the recently-deceased. It has been confirmed that Ash VS. Evil Dead will return in October of this year for a second season, and I can’t effing wait.