Hit or Sh**: STARZ’s ASH VS. EVIL DEAD

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

ash vs evil dead

I’ll be honest here: I’ve never seen THE EVIL DEAD, nor it’s sequel. I didn’t even see the 2013 reboot. The only movie of the bunch that I saw was ARMY OF DARKNESS, which I vaguely remember liking, but that was only one time six years ago at summer camp, where I was also entertained by a phenomenon involving exposed plumbing known as “The Poo Pipe.” Needless to say, I had zero expectations one way or the other walking into the pilot for STARZ’s new original series ASH VS. EVIL DEAD. Once again helmed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, the show picks up where the original trilogy ended 23 years ago (though, ironically and for legal reasons, it cannot acknowledge ARMY OF DARKNESS).

ASH VS. EVIL DEAD follows Ash Williams (reprised by Campbell), an aging, one-handed store clerk who likes picking women up at bars and smacking them with his wood (HAND). While high and trying to impress a girl one night, Ash recites an incantation from the Necronomicon, the cursed book of the dead from the original film that he for some reason thought was a good idea to hold onto. Once the words are spoken, a host of murderous Deadites and other spookies are summoned and it’s time for Ash to go to work.

ash vs. evil dead boomstick

“Something, something, boomstick”

The writing in ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s pilot episode is a little odd. Like ARMY OF DARKNESS, it’s hard to tell just how campy Raimi is taking it. Yes, the hero is a man with a chainsaw arm who spews ridiculous one-liners, and the Deadites themselves crack wise and are far more entertaining than your average zombie. But then there’s also “horror” segments involving lots of slow walking through dark hallways. I get that it’s all part of the farce, but how long must a cliche be milked for the sake of satire? Like its predecessor, I’m struggling to classify ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s genre, as the line between camp and comedy has been blurred beyond recognition. For now, the tone is tentatively set to “fun.”

Campbell is just as delightful as he’s ever been, and Ash is certainly an amusing character for him to run wild with. He’s put on some years and pounds since ARMY OF DARKNESS, but he returns to top Deadite-slaying form. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the supporting cast. Ray Santiago and Dana Delorenzo play Pablo and Kelly, Ash’s coworkers, and offer up few qualities aside from “doofus” and “bitch,” respectively. Jill Marie Jones plays Amanda, a cop whose partner is killed by a Deadite, and gets more of the pilot’s screen time than she probably deserves. Amanda’s scenes are way too boring and dour (aside from a fight where the Deadites first make their appearance) for the ultra-campy tone of the show. The only side character I enjoyed from the pilot was Ash’s asshole boss, and his days among the living are numbered.

ash vs. evil dead lead pill

Some headaches can only be cured with a lead pill

None of this matters too much, since what you came for here is in the title. Ash’s skirmishes with the evil dead are the show’s main attraction and they play out with bombastic flair. Choreography is equal parts goofy and gratifying, as Ash, despite his experience, dispatches his foes with the drunken grace of Jack Burton from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. The trademark chainsaw arm and sawed-off shotgun make a triumphant return, splattering Deadites in showers of gore. And I cannot stress how good the gore in this show is. There isn’t a show on TV right now with more gallons of spilled blood than ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, and this is only the first episode. A lot of the digital effects are par for the course for TV, but it’s hard to complain with what they’re rendering. Heads burst in crowd-pleasing explosions and tongues rattle out from their spurting stumps. If you like seeing things that are red and belong inside of bodies, this show has you covered.

ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s premiere was a giddily entertaining exercise in televised ultraviolence. I’m not sold on the side characters, nor do I have a clue as to where the show is going, but I am hoping that all of these concerns will be addressed as the series progresses. ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s opening act is guaranteed to please the casual and hardcore horror fan alike, and it is definitely worth a gander.

Verdict: Hit

ASH VS. EVIL DEAD airs on STARZ on Saturdays

Ed Dutcher

Ed Dutcher is the Video Games Editor here at Crossfader. The last time Ed had a meal that wasn't microwaved, George W. Bush was president. He only learned to read so that he could play Pokemon.

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