Digital Popcorn: Ash vs Evil Dead (Season One)

Over the long weekends for the holidays, I was able to finally watch the entire first season of Starz’ original series Ash vs Evil Dead on dvd. I’d seen the original Evil Dead movie, along with Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, back in my college days and the movies had become a personal favorite along with a source of countless references and inside jokes among my college friends. The original movies have a cult following for sure and the star Bruce Campbell has managed to reach legendary status among horror fans like me.

So, a few years ago when I heard various rumors of a remake of the original with every one from Ashton Kutcher to Bruce reprising the role, I was disheartened. I’m not a fan of remakes and the idea of seeing an aged Campbell as Ash drew up dreaded memories of another childhood hero trying to resurrect his role, unsuccessfully, that being Harrison Ford’s godawful ‘Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull’.

At the time my position was that I’d much rather rewatch the original Evil Dead films than see it butchered with a reboot. Fortunately, when the Starz series came out I was pleasantly surprised.

The Ash vs Evil Dead series takes all of what made the original movies a lot of fun but avoids being merely fan boy service and nostalgic.  What I liked the best about the series is that rather than simply being trapped in a cabin in the woods the entire time by himself, the series provides Ash (Campbell) with a pair of younger partners that are more than mere cannon fodder for the Deadites as was the case in the original movies.

Instead of being campy and annoying, Pedro and Kelly are enjoyable characters that provide comic relief as well as give the character of Ash a way to develop beyond the snarky jack ass he tended to be in the movies. That’s not to say that Ash is a completely changed man, but over the course of the first season you do get to see a side of him that the movies didn’t get into too much, the fact that Ash is capable of caring about other people and willing to put himself in danger for them.

Kelly quickly proves to be the bad ass of the two new characters, and is a fairly strong character. Unlike the original movies, she’s a woman that can stand her ground against the Deadites and tolerate Ash’s antics without being a stereotypical ‘bitch’. Her backstory and motivation to help Ash is definetly believable, albeit simple, and is an adequate explanation for her growing blood-lust as the series progresses.

Pedro may lack self confidence around the ladies and is not as capable in combat as Kelly, but what he brings to the series is some knowledge and experience with the supernatural. Given that his uncle is a brujo and Pedro himself studied some of his people’s mystical ways gives him an important role in the show. The movies never delved too deeply into the origins and supernatural aspects of the Necronomicon and the Deadites , but with Pedro’s background the show taps into that side of it a bit more which makes the world a bit richer. The scenes with Pedro’s uncle add a lot to the supernatural aspect of the Evil Dead world and set Pedro up to fight the Deadites in a different manner than Kelly and Ash.

The show itself is in thirty minute episodes, aside from the slightly longer pilot episode, which I think works well with the whole comedy-horror genre. The plot of each episode is brisk but contains just enough backstory or character development to keep things from being too shallow.

Fortunately, unlike like some series like The Walking Dead, the writers of Ash vs Evil Dead stray away from the drudgery of characters ‘developing’ a la sitting around and talking about their feelings despite the ever present danger of their situation.

My favorite episode from Season One was the one that involved Ash and his companions going to Books From Beyond and summoning a demon to ‘help’ them put an end to the Deadites. It’s a convoluted plan that’s doomed to fail, like most of Ash’s ideas, but it delves into the origin of the Necronomicon and the demons/Deadites in more depth. The proverbial bloody icing to the cake is the introduction of a new enemy in the form of a demon that proves to give Ash and company a whole new set of trouble unlike anything they’d faced before.

I enjoyed Season One very much, it had the right amount of humor and gore to make it an entertaining series. I would recommend it to any fan of the original movies, and I’m defintely looking forward to catching up  with Season Two.

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