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Review: Ash vs Evil Dead: El Jefe

Ash vs Evil Dead official poster Image: © Starz

Ash vs Evil Dead official poster
Image: © Starz

Thirty years ago in the Evil Dead movies, the world was introduced to Ash Williams, a snarky loudmouth played by Bruce Campbell who takes his girlfriend on a very ill-fated camping trip. It turns out that the cabin he and his girlfriend crashed in was the property of an archaeologist who had uncovered (and, of course, read from) the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (Book of the Dead). Bound in human flesh, and inked in human blood, its incantations call forth an “evil” that pursues them, looking to possess/devour their souls. It kills everyone but Ash, turning them into white-eyed demons called Deadites. It does get into Ash’s hand and “turns it bad”, so he is forced to lop it off with a chainsaw (as you do) and eventually mounts the chainsaw on the stump for demon-killing purposes. Ash alone eventually escapes, and the show picks up from there in the present.

Our first glimpse of present-day Ash doesn’t bode well for him: it involves squeezing into a girdle to cover up his extra ten (or thirty) pounds and trolling the local bar right before closing time. He now wears a wooden hand where the chainsaw was once mounted, and lies about having lost the hand saving a child from a speeding train to hook up with the only woman still sitting at the bar. We find out that his career prospects aren’t great either: he’s a stock-boy at the local Value Mart. And yet, we aren’t really supposed to feel bad for him, because Ash is actually an awful person. I do appreciate that they didn’t soften his character at all for the show (if anything, he’s gotten a bit worse): at one point, he’s trying to hit on Kelly, the new girl at work, and gives her a line about thanking her mother for passing on all the right genes (ugh). When she tells him her mother passed away six months ago, his response is to scold her for not disclosing that up front. Fortunately, Kelly gets in several jabs (both verbal and physical) so it’s clear we’re not supposed to be on Ash’s side here. Rounding out their trio is Pablo, who also works at the Value Mart and is from Honduras. He tells Ash that his father is a shaman, and that there is a legend (of course) about El Jefe, who is prophesied to save the world from the evil.
Ash's ex-girlfriend, now-Deadite Image: © Starz

Ash’s ex-girlfriend, now-Deadite
Image: © Starz

How is the evil back after thirty years, you wonder? Well, it turns out that Ash, while trying to impress a girl (and also while stoned), pulled out the Necronomicon and sounded out a few of the passages as “poetry”. Said girl shows up later in the episode as a Deadite, going after local cop Amanda Fisher and her partner Carson (whose ultimate fate involves being impaled on a set of antlers, being possessed, and ultimately killed by Amanda). Amanda also starts seeing the white-eyed Deadites lurking inside otherwise seemingly-normal people, like a little girl at the local diner. After that apparition, Lucy Lawless’ character, Ruby, tells Amanda that “sometimes what you think you saw is exactly what you saw”. Ruby is a bit of a cipher at this point, but I’m excited to learn more about her.

Ultimately, Pablo, Kelly and Ash have a showdown with a Deadite that has taken over his elderly neighbor Vivian. After the heroic “suiting up” involving Kelly’s belt, his shotgun holster, and a flying leap to re-mount the chainsaw, Ash swings back into action against his old enemy. Choice Ash quote: “Yo, Granny. Hope you took your Geritol, ’cause it’s time to dance!” And of course, once he decides not to run, Pablo asks him how it feels. Ash: “Groovy.”
Pablo (Ray Santiago), Ash (Bruce Campbell), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) Image: © Starz

Pablo (Ray Santiago), Ash (Bruce Campbell), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo)
Image: © Starz

For having to set up everything a first episode has to, and especially to get new viewers up to speed who may not have seen the movies, this first episode is a brilliant return to form for Campbell and writer/director Sam Raimi. Now that Raimi has a budget, he’s able to produce some actually creepy effects with the Deadites (rather than the stop-motion of the movies), and the overall aesthetic will be joyfully familiar to the fans who have been waiting thirty years for this. Overall, I think this episode succeeded in setting up the world of the show and introducing us to the characters. My only quibble would be that in the future, I’d like more Ruby, Amanda and Kelly, and maybe just a smidge less Ash. Or maybe just more scenes like the one in which Ash is attacked by a tiny “Little Lori” doll that attaches itself to his face and won’t let go. Either way, I’ll still be watching!

Watch Ash Vs Evil Dead on Starz, Saturdays at 9pm or streaming.

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