HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ASH VS EVIL DEAD – SEASON 2

MAIN CAST

Bruce Campbell (Jack of All Trades)
Ray Santiago (My Name Is Earl)
Dana DeLorenzo (2 Broke Girls)
Lucy Lawless (Spartacus)
Michelle Hurd (Daredevil)
Ted Raimi (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Pepi Sonuga (Famous in Love)

Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Joel Tobeck (Young Hercules)
Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man)
Stephen Lovatt (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Stephen Ure (Deathgasm)
Ellen Sandweiss (Oz The Great and Powerfui)
Campbell Cooley (Power Rangers Ninja Steel)
Sara West (Dead Girls)
Nicholas Hope (Soul Mates)

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Though not without a few stumbles, Ash vs Evil Dead’s second season was a definite improvement over its freshman year run. Not that Season 1 wasn’t fun and ferocious gooey gory goodness, but it didn’t quite have a handle on Ash, as a character, like Season 2 did. Last year, Ash seemed to bounce back and forth between total doofus and a more earnest sort of hero who was in the midst of a transformative arc. What was needed — and yes, it’s tricky — was a blend of the two. Ash needed to become less of a reluctant savior while still being fundamentally, you know, Ash.This is where Season 2 really nailed it. Sure, we got some truly awesome action set pieces involving rampaging killer cars, diabolical devil trees, and all sorts of evil minions of hell — sequences that awesomely pushed us to our hardcore gore, and good taste, limits — but what resonated the most about this second year was how well Ash came off as a character. Ash was allowed to be smart, but in his own goofball way. For example, he’d have ideas to track down books and demons that involved raging alcohol-infused parties and his iguana’s pet tracker. Plans that sounded totally asinine but fell into that “so dumb they actually worked” category. Even Ruby, Ash’s biggest critic, constantly had to admit that Ash, for better or worse, could get things done.Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, and Dana DeLorenzo in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Bringing Ash back home and revealing that he’d been ostracized by his town and family after the blood-soaked events of the Evil Dead films was a crucial part of this blending. Ash was given, of all things, an off-screen backstory and through this he could be afforded spare moments of vulnerability. Ash could bicker with his bigoted, bitter father (infused with wonderful crotchetiness by Lee Majors) while we, the viewers, could know that he secretly longed for his love and approval.Bruce Campbell and Ray Santiago in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Pablo’s story this year, as a wannabe warrior-turned-living version of the Necronomicon, helped give the season a nice flow. Season 1 was a road trip. Not every stop along the journey hit the mark. This time, even with the time travel, Ash sorta stayed put in Elk Grove and it was Pablo’s connection to the book, and the rise of Baal, that moved us groovily through the story. Pablo’s death also really added a cool exclamation point that the final two episodes needed. Sure, Ash’s little burrito would come back to life by the end, but Ash’s grief over losing his friend is what led to the final defeat of Baal.Lucy Lawless in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Another thing that Season 2 brought to the table was a better take on Lucy Lawless’ Ruby. Essentially the straight-laced reactive character in the group (though everyone side-eyes Ash), Ruby joined the Ghostbeaters this year as a half-demon who’d made a horrible mistake. Season 1 never gave us her origins or (well explained) motivations, so it was fitting to see her change completely and get rebooted for the good guys. Unfortunately, this Ruby died in the finale and was replaced with 80s evil Ruby..Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Ruby was in Kelly’s ear all season, talking destiny and taking matters into her own hands. Then Kelly even had her own “Ash Fight” when Ash was supposedly under the control of Baal and she got to throw down with the demented therapy puppet (which was amazing). She became even more of badass than season 1 and it will be interesting to see what becomes of Kelly in season 3.Lucy Lawless and Dana DeLorenzo in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)I’d be remiss if I closed this review without mentioning Ash being dragged up into a possessed corpse’s butt. This season definitely went above and beyond when it came to, um, orifices and fluids (of all kinds), but this moment, back in the second episode, was really one of the most gag-worthy and “out there” moments the show has ever done, finally taking full advantage of being on an anything goes network like Starz. It was magnificent and, though the show may try, it’ll probably never be topped.
bp1o7i3a6alalclalucbAsh vs Evil Dead: Season 2 gave us a fully realized Ash, who was both hilarious and valiant, while also fleshing out his character more with a great “town boogeyman” backstory. It would have been nice to see Kelly’s arc land somewhere more significant, but overall this was a raunchy, gloppy good time filled with grit and guts.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: LEPRECHAUN RETURNS

Starring

Taylor Spreitler (Amiityville: The Awakening)
Pepi Sonuga (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Sai Bennett (Mr. Selfridge)
Linden Porco (Littleman)
Mark Holton (The Naked Gun)
Heather McDonald (White Chicks)
Emily Reid (Curfew)

Linden Porco in Leprechaun Returns (2018)The gold obsessed pint-sized Leprechaun at the center of this horror franchise has been to Vegas, the hood, and outer space before getting an abysmal reboot in Leprechaun: Origins. Now he’s back to battle eco-friendly sorority sisters at the very site where it all began in the 1993 film Leprechaun. Following the same trend that began with this year’s Halloween, this sequel ignores everything that came after the first film and centers around Lila, the daughter of Jennifer Aniston’s character Tory Redding. The Leprechaun is revived anew, back with more puns, limericks, and B-movie thrills all for the pursuit of his gold. And over the top gory kills, of course.From the outset, Lila (Taylor Spreitler) is introduced as our lead heroine, but a familiar face quickly outshines her; original film survivor Ozzie (Mark Holton). Ozzie’s affable charm hasn’t faded one bit, despite the 25-year gap between films. He does seem a little wiser, and he provides enough exposition to bring anyone who may not have seen the original film up to speed. Unfortunately, he’s not a main character, and we’re handed off to the rest of the college kids that will later become Leprechaun fodder. Besides Lila, there’s the neurotic leader Rose (Sai Bennett), perpetual drunk Meredith (Emily Reid), and the most likable character aside from Ozzie, Katie (Pepi Sonuga). Along with two fairly disposable male love interests, this is the group in which we spend most of the runtime with.Really, though, you didn’t sign up for another Leprechaun movie for these characters, you signed up for a murderous little green monster. Linden Porco assumes the role made popular by Warwick Davis, and he does an admirable job. Porco is clearly relishing every tongue-in-cheek rhyme, limerick, and sexual innuendo-filled pun, and this version of the character also brings with it a meta-awareness. In one of the Leprechaun’s earliest scenes, he’s admiring himself in a shard of glass and asking, “When did I get so good looking?” An overt wink to the passing of the torch. More importantly, the gore delivers.leprechaun-returns-picture-e1543346459254Director Steven Kostanski, an Astron-6 member and one half of the duo behind The Void, is also a talented special effects artist in his own right. Between his directorial experience and extensive special makeup effect experience, Leprechaun Returns is easily the most polished and most aesthetically pleasing sequel of the franchise. The kills are every bit as outlandish as you’d expect from this series, and they’re practical effect driven. If you want gory irreverence, this is it.DSCF9304-e1543861852609Writer Suzanne Keilly brings that same splatstick sense of humor she honed in her work on Ash vs Evil Dead, and some of the same gags crossover here as well. Outside of tried and true B-movie horror and humor that pummels its characters with gross-out gags and guts at every turn, Keilly also tries to subvert the sorority girl stereotype with her characters. These eco-friendly girls are far more power tool-wielding brainiacs than outright hippie, with only faint traces of familiar airheaded behavior.leprechaun-returnsDespite the splatstick humor and the surprising polish, it still doesn’t quite work. These girls may defy cinematic definition of a stereotypical sorority girl, but they’re still not very interesting characters. When we’re spending most of the runtime with them, it can get a little tedious. The rules of the Leprechaun’s return and his overall goals are also a little loose and vague, making the narrative feel sloppy. More importantly, this film spends a lot of time nodding to the original, but never even attempts to move the series forward. In other words, Leprechaun Returns feels like a more lighthearted redo of the original, but doesn’t add anything new. It even recycles some of the same jokes and visual gags.leprechaunIf you’re a fan of the Leprechaun series, then there’s a lot to appreciate in what Keilly and Kostanski have created in Leprechaun Returns. It never takes itself seriously and delivers on the splatstick gore and outlandish death sequences. Tie-ins to the original film, including the return of Ozzie, serve as loud echoes of why this series has 8 entries. But while there’s a lot of charm to be found, it’s also sloppy in its world-building and doesn’t give us anyone to truly root for. It doesn’t feel like anything we haven’t already seen before, either.