Hail to the King, Baby
Boomsticks, chainsaws, ugly deadites, and a whole lot of blood. Ash vs. Evil Dead’s pilot episode “El Jefe” was a crowd pleaser that brought Sam Raimi’s world into the 21st century with style, even if some characterization leaves much to be desired.
The triumphant return of Bruce Campbell as the demon slaying Ash is set to a backdrop of fuzzy Deep Purple and old-man jokes, a cheeky nod that shows this character is being dragged from another point in time, while setting the tone and style of the series, the likes of which Supernatural and Reaper could only dream of. Ash squeezes his belly into a corset, replaces his dentures, and uses his fake hand to get laid.
This is a much cruder Ash than we’re used to seeing. Maybe there’s a certain contractual obligation with Starz, but the raunchy bathroom sex and colorful language are new additions to the Evil Dead’s repertoire. These moments mostly hit, but can sometimes make Ash a bit difficult to like.
However this is most likely the intention. After all, despite three films, we still don’t really know Ash. He was never given the downtime to explore his own wants and needs, other than survival or to get sent back home. Yet here he is, cocky, self-absorbed, dirty, and living in a trailer park community by himself. Is this the Ash from the first Evil Dead? Or is this someone who has been shaped by his circumstances? Either way, his chemistry with the growing cast are where the goofs, gags, and one liners hit the hardest, and it’s a thrill to watch Campbell return to the character in such an energetic way.
Overall, Ash vs. Evil Dead manages to just be plain fun. It feels like a continuation of Army of Darkness, not necessarily in terms of plot (it still seems a bit unclear what timeline this follows), but in terms of the style established by Ash’s last outing. Frenetic, dynamic direction, practical effects, and an overall sense of “cool” that pervades Ash and his friends are exactly what we wanted in the next Evil Dead iteration, and boy is that what we got.
The sequence involving state trooper Amanda Fisher was the hallmark of the episode. The practical effects of the backwards girl, the tense, spinning flashlight that gave the menacing deadite encounter a comic book flair, and the gory, blood soaked result was classic Evil Dead. We know all the deadite’s tricks. We’ve seen the fake outs and the sudden turns before, but every time they were employed in “El Jefe,” they were executed perfectly. This is what we asked for, and Raimi delivered.
“El Jefe” really serves as a reintroduction to the Evil Dead. Ash has accidentally opened the portal to another world (again) and has to come to terms with his acceptance as its sole redeemer. Playing into the barebones myth of Pablo’s grandfather, the pilot sets up a simple premise that will propel us into the next nine episodes.
It’s thin on plot, but that’s not why we came here anyway. We craved the one liners, the invasive camera, the bloody encounters, and that’s what the show brought us. It’s schlock in the best way possible. In an age where people crave B-movie cheese and fun nonsensical action, Ash vs. Evil Dead is just what the doctor ordered.
Odds and Ends:
- Yeah so Saturday nights are a terrible time for shows to air. These reviews are going to trickle in over the next week until my weekends clear up. Remember, we volunteer. You get what you pay for.
- Sam Raimi is only directing this episode, and I’ve heard rumors that the next few episodes don’t have the same dynamic direction. If that’s the case, it could really put a damper on the show. We’ll cross our fingers though.
- I also wasn’t really a fan of the squeaky clean cinematography. It had that certain Dexter quality to it that I’m not a fan of. I want to see some grit in the frame. This is the Evil Dead we’re talking about. The graininess of the original films is part of the experience.
- Ash isn’t working at an S-Mart, and his recap avoided Army of Darkness altogether, so I’m assuming that timeline isn’t canon for the show.
- Those deadites look incredible.
Steve tweets. On Twitter.