Regardless of the brief cameo at the end of the reboot/sequel (has there been an official designation?), the onslaught of returning properties, and the intensity of the fan base, news of the return of Bruce Campbell playing Ash in a TV series for STARZ still seemed damn near impossible to believe. And while the news was exciting, it also brought with it some trepidation because of the high bar the previous beloved works by Sam Raimi et.al. had set since not everyone has the same low standards Star Wars fans do regarding milking the franchise. Thankfully, all involved can take great pride with the results as the 10-episode first season of Ash vs Evil Dead is a groovy, good time.
Set 30 years after his encounter with the Deadites (and skipping over the events of Army of Darkness), it turns out our aging hero as once again been involved in unleashing demons upon the Earth. This time due to his reading of the Necronomicon one stoned evening while trying to impress a chick he was looking to score with. Eventually realizing his responsibility, Ash is joined by fellow ValueStop coworkers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana_DeLorenzo) as they attempt to save the world. Not only are they pursued by demons, but also Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), a Michigan State Trooper who believes Ash is responsible for the death of her partner, and Ruby (Lucy Lawless), a woman with a connection to the past of both Ash and the Necronomicon. Over the course of the season, Ash’s journey takes him back to the cabin where it all started.
Directed and co-written by Raimi, the first episode showcases the blend of comedy and horror that made Evil Dead 2 a cult hit. Campbell is outstanding as the egotistical, occasionally clueless Ash. Santiago, DeLorenzo, and Lawless bring to life characters that are wonderful additions to the Evil Dead universe. Pablo’s crush on Kelly is especially adorable. The cast and their stunt people get quite the workout as they are thrown around quite a bit during the fights.
For those new to the franchise, the series is accessible and doesn’t require knowledge of the films, though you may not be filled with the same amount of glee upon first seeing Ash’s chainsaw. Also, one better like blood and gore because there is plenty of it, a combination of CGI and practical effects from a talented group of folks behind the scenes.
The video is presented in 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The image is sharp with fine texture detail, such as that seen on the Necronomicon cover. Color hues are rich and blacks are inky. One knock is the high resolution makes the digital effects a tad obvious. The audio is available in TrueHD 7.1 and offers one of the best aural experiences in a TV release. The music (both the rock songs and Joseph LoDuca’s score) and effects are the standouts. The sounds move through the system, and the bass rumbles hard. It’s a well balanced mix that showcases a wide dynamic range.
All the episodes have commentaries. Almost all feature cast members in various combinations, having a fun time reminiscing as they watch the show. The first episode gathers the original gang: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Rob Tappert, and Bruce Campbell. Longtime fans will love this as they talk about the various versions of Evil Dead 4, which eventually became this series. And they don’t just cover the show; they riff on a variety of things.
Other special features include “Ash Inside the World” (HD, 16 min) – EP/Showrunner Craig DiGregorio takes viewers briefly through each episode of the season and presets behind-the-scenes material. “How to Kill a Deadite” (HD, 3 min) – Campbell and a bunch of fans from Comic Con reveal, with clips, the best way to remove the pests. “Best of Ash” (HD, 2 min) – Since the entire series fits the description, this quick clip piece is obsolete. It’s a shame they didn’t include the San Diego Comic Con panel about the show.
Filled with laughs, chills, and a swig of Ayahuasca, Ash vs Evil Dead was one of the best shows on TV last year. The Blu-ray’s high-definition presentation makes the experience even sweeter.