ASH VS. EVIL DEAD
The Complete First Season - Blu-ray Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Dana LeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Jill Marie Jones, Lucy
Executive Producers: Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 294 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2016
“I just want things to go back to the way they were when the Dark Ones ruled over evil forces on earth.”
“Well, I just want to bang Maryanne from Gilligan’s Island…but that ain’t gonna happen.”
Ash vs. Evil Dead had to be my most anticipated television event of the last decade. As a huge fan of the original trilogy of movies, and as someone who knew that director/producer Sam Raimi and star/co-producer Bruce Campbell always envisioned a fourth movie, knowing the two were reuniting to bring this classic horror series a new chapter in the form of a weekly series was almost too good to be true. And thankfully, it found a good home on the Starz network, where the vision of glee and gore did not have to be compromised in any way.
The original vision, as seen in the director’s cut of Army of Darkness, had our intrepid hero Ash (Campbell, in the role he will never NOT be known for) in the future. Who knows what might have happened there? But the theatrical cut had “the king” safely at home, so this series picks up some 30 years after THAT ending.
Ash, as it turns out, has been doing some reading in the Book of the Dead (does he ever learn?), which, of course, brings the undead back to life to do battle with the living. It wouldn’t have been much of a series, otherwise. And somehow, our beloved, clueless-but-groovy reluctant moron of our hero is all that stands between us and the vile deadites.
This time, he has more than just the taunting dead to deal with. A police detective, Amanda Fisher (Jones), loses her partner to Ash’s now demon-possessed ex, and believes Ash to be ultimately responsible for the murder.
He does, however, have some good folks on his side in co-workers Pablo (Santiago), who thankfully, like any good Hispanic character in a horror story, has a mystic grandfather, and Kelly (DeLorenzo), a beauty with fight.
They set out on the road to find the spell that will return the dead to the ground, and encounter many ghouls and a lady named Ruby (Lawless), who came in to lend…um…a hand to the proceedings.
Over the course of the season, each character deals with some possession issues, trust issues, and there is plenty of action and over-the-top gore…everything you’d expect from Raimi and Campbell. The sad thing is, as the series progresses, some of it starts to wear a bit thin. It feels a little repetitive, and not quite as imaginative as what we’ve seen in the past. Though the gore factor is high, the fun level seems quite a bit down. Once the initial celebration of the return of Ash and the dead wears off, they start feeling more like old friends who DON’T know when to go home.
Campbell is terrific, as always…aging a bit, and amusingly enough, dreaming of a retirement here in my hometown and the office of DVD Movie Central (“I always wanted to live in a place so nice, they named it Jacksonville!”). But as the chainsaw roars and the shotgun shells fly, it just gets to feel more and more like there’s not much new in the world…though the obvious CGI skyline of my city IS actually lovely and pretty accurate.
Maybe that’s the point…maybe most fans just wanted more and more of the same…or maybe we just THOUGHT we did. While Ash and his dead enemies and new friends are certainly welcome back in my home for another season, I’m hoping they’ll bring a little something more to the party this time.
Starz and Anchor Bay deliver a highly satisfying high definition presentation of this show, with extreme lighting schemes always in crisp, vivid detail, and no motion blurring or artifacting. Colors are natural and well-contained throughout.
This is a LOUD series, with lots of action and energy and plenty of jarring noises to keep you in the mood. This 7.1 mix is tasteful and engrossing, with great use of the rear stage and .1 channel for eerie effect.
There are commentaries for all episodes, plus three short featurettes.
Ash vs. Evil Dead was certainly a welcome continuation to a great movie franchise and a bumbling idiot we’ve all come to love, but it needs to find some fresher ground to cultivate if it’s going to truly be a solid new chapter.