HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ASH VS EVIL DEAD – SEASON 3

MAIN CAST

Bruce Campbell (Bubba Ho-Tep)
Ray Santiago (In Time)
Dana DeLorenzo (The Mad Ones)
Arielle Carver-O’Neill (Predestination)
Lindsay Farris (Gods of Egypt)
Lucy Lawless (Xena: WP)

Bruce Campbell, Katrina Hobbs, Ray Santiago, and Arielle Carver-O'Neill in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Katrina Hobbs (Home and Away)
Ellie Gall (Stargate: Origins)
Jeffrey Thomas (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Albertine Jonas (Dirty Laundry)
Samantha Young (Charlie’s Country)
Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man)
Chelsie Preston Crayford (The Code)
Will Wallace (Step Dave)
Jodie Hillock (Tracker)
Emilia Burns (The Shannara Chronicles)
Colin Moy (Spartacus)
Mikaela Rüegg (Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel)
Jessica Green (The Outpost)
James Gaylyn (Power Rangers RPM)

Dana DeLorenzo and Lindsay Farris in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)W00hen Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell first worked together on The Evil Dead, no one could have anticipated that this 1981 splatter-fest would snowball into not only a cult classic but one of the pillars of modern horror cinema. For decades after the trilogy’s final installment in 1992’s Army of Darkness, fans clamored for more of Campbell’s buffoonish badass Ashley J. Williams. After Raimi and Campbell helped shepherd director Fede Alvarez’s 2013 reboot/remake, hopes for more of their original vision seemed bleak. Then Ash vs. Evil Dead happened.Katrina Hobbs and Arielle Carver-O'Neill in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Since 2015, Campbell has reprised his titular role for the Starz series, giving an older but decidedly not wiser Ash a whole mess of gory shenanigans to get into. Now returning for season 3, the series complicates matters further, introducing a teenage daughter (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) Ash has never met and forcing him to become the reluctant hero once again. Meanwhile, Ash’s longtime compatriots Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) find themselves drawn back into the fight against evil, as the trio must protect Ash’s newfound progeny against the demonic Ruby’s (Lucy Lawless) latest plot. If that all sounds just wacky enough for you, you might be destined for a date with Ash vs. Evil Dead.Lee Majors, Bruce Campbell, and Arielle Carver-O'Neill in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Of course, the plot of the show isn’t the point. Not really. Rather, the joy in watching it unfold lies in the cringe-inducing carnage, over-the-top black comedy and surprise callbacks to both previous elements on the series as well as the films that inspired it. Even original Evil Dead co-star Ellen Sandweiss popped up in season 2 for a bit.Arielle Carver-O'Neill in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Naturally, fans have been reveling in having an iconic hero like Ash back in action, and the “Ghost Beaters’” — as Ash, Pablo and Kelly call their scrappy band — repeated visits to the cabin that started it all have only fanned the fandom flame since Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s premiere. Thanks to the show’s repeated efforts to develop the Evil Dead mythos and provide a hell of a fun time doing it, the series has remarkably persisted in the face of dwindling ratings.Perhaps that’s to be expected with a series like this, though. At this point, viewers likely are already onboard for what Ash vs. Evil Dead has to offer or know better than to tune in. Indeed, the show’s particular brand of blood-spattered lunacy — which clearly tries to outdo its own bizarre grotesqueries with every episode — isn’t everyone’s taste, nor should it be.Lucy Lawless in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)However, the series is so committed to its own ridiculousness that those who find this off-kilter tone appealing will probably only love it that much more for its niche properties. After all, the entire Evil Dead franchise was built on the back of a cult classic, a midnight movie that has somehow endured. So naturally, fans have been eating it up, while the uninitiated have turned a blind eye to Ash vs. Evil Dead. Those who have been watching know how much fun Campbell is in his signature role, and that appeal only continues with season 3. Giving Ash a daughter to care for challenges him to at least feign being a responsible adult, bringing out a side of him viewers haven’t yet gotten to know. Considering how much we’ve seen of the lusty, boozing, accidentally competent hero, it’s impressive that Ash still has layers to explore.Arielle Carver-O'Neill in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)Moreover, Lawless earns the runner-up spot for VIP this season. She’s always been a hoot as Ruby, who always seems to be pursuing multiple schemes at once. But this year, the character takes her dedication to deception to new heights. As far as arch-nemeses go, the former warrior princess remains a formidable foe for the Ghost Beaters.Ash vs. Evil Dead is the best it’s ever been this year, the series does feel as invested in these characters as ever before. Despite all the insanity going on, viewers can’t help but root for and care about Ash, Pablo and Kelly and the predictably horrific adventures they face with a wink, a nod and (very often) a chainsaw. Unfortunately though  Ash vs. Evil Dead was  on the Starz chopping block after this season making this season the last we will see, and with Bruce Campbell stepping down from his most famous role, thislooks like the last we will see of Ash Williams.

 

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: ASH VS EVIL DEAD – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Bruce Campbell (Jack of All Trades)
Ray Santiago (My Name Is Earl)
Dana DeLorenzo (2 Broke Girls)
Jill Marie Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Lucy Lawless (Spartacus)
Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, and Dana DeLorenzo in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Damien Garvey (Terra Nova)
Mike Edward (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Sian Davis (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys)
Bridget Hoffman (Frozen)
James Gaylyn (Avatar)
Mimi Rogers (Ginger Snaps)
Ben Fransham (Legend of The Seeker)
Jared Turner (30 Days of Night)
Hemky Madera (Weeds)
Kelson Henderson (Power Rangers SPD)
Peter Feeney (Black Sheep)
Rachel Blampied (Shortland Street)
Mark Mitchinson (Power Rangers Megaforce)
Milo Cawthorne (Power Rangers RPM)
Samara Weaving (Home and Away)
Indiana Evans (H20)
Ido Drent (Offspring)

Well, we’ve had to be patient for nearly a quarter of a century to finally see Ash wield his chainsaw again, but trust me: it was well worth the wait. Ash vs. Evil Dead fires on all cylinders.  After so many years had passed since Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead III) came out in 1992, it looked like a direct sequel just wasn’t going to happen anymore, yet apparently, the Raimi-Campbell gang had been working on one for some time. According to recent interviews with the show’s creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, what was first supposed to be a new feature film and the fourth entry in the franchise, over time turned into an idea for a TV-series, and I believe fans will be very happy with the result. Instead of a 2-hour film for a sequel, we now get 10 episodes  with Ash and the Deadites.Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)At the beginning of the show we meet Ash leading a lazy, but apparently happy slacker life, residing in a run-down trailer and working as a stock boy at a Value Stop (for some obscure legal reasons, the writers couldn’t use the name S-Mart from Army of Darkness’ iconic last scene). In the show, 30 years have passed since Ash’s last encounter with the Deadites, and while he might be well into middle age now, he hasn’t matured one bit. Ash is still the exact same guy we last saw fighting walking skeletons and other ghastly undead things in Army of Darkness, cracking wise and appearing as cock-sure of himself as ever. These days, he likes to spend most of his spare time either getting wasted in his trailer or picking up random ladies – or both . suffice to say that his rather irresponsible lifestyle ultimately won’t go too well with his duty as keeper of a certain  dangerous book, and  bloody mayhem soon ensues.In my opinion, Ash vs. Evil Dead does everything right. Instead of going down the “gritty drama” route of shows like The Walking Dead or taking the “straight horror” approach of Fede Alvarez’ Evil Dead remake, creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell fully embrace the over-the-top goofiness and playful tone of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, while still delivering the scares of the first film and plenty of gore. The Deadites are frightening. The production values in general are absolutely great; the writing is in the vein of the first three films (no wonder, since the episodes were mostly written by Sam and Ivan Raimi); the music, the pacing and the direction: really everything just falls into place. It’s clear that this wasn’t some lazy attempt to cash in on the name of a beloved cult-franchise, but a labour of love for all involved.Another great plus of the series is the cast. Seeing Bruce Campbell step back into this iconic character is simply hilarious fun; it still fits him like a glove (or, perhaps more accurately in his case, a chainsaw). But there was never a doubt in my mind that he would deliver (it seems Ash is a character Campbell was born to play); what really surprised me was how well the rest of the cast fits into the show. Ray Santiago as Pablo and Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly (they’re Ash’s co-workers at the Value Stop) are completely able to hold their own; they are fully fleshed-out characters and just as fun to watch as Ash. Also we have Lucy Lawless of Spartacus and Xena fame, who’s character is a mystery until episode 9 when all hell breaks loose and leads into a great Season One finale.Ash vs Evil dead brings back everything that we all loved about the original Evil Dead films, but it also manages to introduce interesting new characters and story lines which help maintain the element of surprise for long-time fans. And the show works just as well as a stand-alone story, so people unfamiliar with the original trilogy need not worry either: they will find just as much to love here as those who know and cherish Sam Raimi’s classics – as long as they have a certain affection for trashy, gory horror comedies and don’t expect serious drama. The good news its already been picked up for a season 2, so we got more blood and gore to come