There are not many long-running heroes in horror, and scores of recurring villains; masked men who seemingly can’t be killed and can’t get enough blood to sate them. Occasionally horror heroes like Laurie Strode or Nancy Myers reappear, but the baddies are there for every step of the franchise. That is not the case with Ash Williams. Ash has been front and centre in nearly every iteration of The Evil Dead franchise (he even appears after the credits of the 2013 remake). The Evil Dead series isn’t the story of the titular villainous deceased, but instead it is the story of Ash, a store clerk who just wanted to have a nice weekend away at a cabin in the woods and instead became the saviour of mankind.
The trology’s narrative took Ash from teenage horror monster fodder to quasi-medieval hero, and the style of the trilogy itself went from grungy lo-fi horror to straight up comedic horror with some sci-fi underpinnings. Following Army of Darkness, Ash’s story continued in video games and comic books and the persistent rumours of a fourth Evil Dead proved harder to kill than Henrietta in The Evil Dead 2. That movie never came to pass but in its place, we got the fantastic Ash vs Evil Dead, a TV series which continues Ash’s story twenty years later.
The show follows Ash as he accidentally raises the dead again—this time while stoned and trying to impress a girl—and must try and stop them with the help of fellow S-Mart workers Pablo and Kelly.
Pablo idolises Ash and has a crush on Kelly, who thinks very little of them both. Once the Necronomicon’s creatures attack S-Mart the trio find themselves on the road looking for a way to send the Deadites back to Hell and close the portal. At the same time, a cop is chasing them along with a mysterious character played by Lucy Lawless who carries around a familiar severed hand that points the way to the Necronomicon and knows an awful lot more than she’s letting on.
Over the course of two seasons, the show has gone from a road trip story to a story about Ash and his past. We get to see where Ash grew up and what happens to the horror hero when they return home telling everyone that monsters from beyond the grave killed their friends and sister. Spoilers: they get shunned and everyone calls them Ashy Slashy.
Tonally the show leans more towards the slapstick, heightened violence of The Army of Darkness, but there is also no shortage of genuine scares. The pilot, directed by Sam Raimi, sets the tone for the whole affair by beginning with a scene in which Ash is having sex in the bathroom of a seedy bar, only for the older lady he’s with to turn her head around 360 to give him a monstrous warning that the Deadites are coming for him. The woman’s make-up is the same level of gross and terrifying as the original but the setting and action surrounding the scene are absolutely ridiculous. Throughout the show’s run they’ve so far managed to tightrope those tonal differences to make something that is at hilarious and absurd, and at others actually frightening and uncomfortable to watch.
Anchoring this whole thing is a wonderful performance by Bruce Campbell who is a little wider at the waist but can still drop a fantastic one-liner, swing a chainsaw, and get the shit kicked out of him. Ash is such a wonderful and enduring figure because of Campbell and he manages to take a character that should be completely unlikable—he’s stubborn, stupid, sexist, a little bit racist—and makes him the hero I want to see succeed. It helps that his two partners, Pablo and Kelly, are such incredible sidekicks and charming presences on the show. Ray Santiago’s Pablo begins the show following Ash around like a puppy dog but as the show goes on he finds his own strength and his own story. Kelly, played by Dana DeLorenzo, is a delight and manages to steal the spotlight quite often away from Ash in terms of dropping a great line and dishing out blood-soaked punishment.
The amount of blood and gore on this show is incredible and every fight scene (there’s usually one per episode) will involve oceans of blood covering the walls, ceilings, baddies, goodies, and, especially, Ash, who spends so much time caked in blood they must just take Bruce Campbell out at the end of the day and hose him down like’s he just left the site of a virus outbreak.
Ash vs The Evil Dead is a worthy successor to The Evil Dead and everything that came after. It manages to be both its own creature as well as a sequel, prequel, and reboot of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. It has a great lead, strong female roles, great scares, lots of blood, cheesy jokes, good jokes, nudity (of the living and dead), great villains, Lee Majors, and each episode is under thirty minutes long so its prime for binging. The only reason not to watch the show is if you’re dead, and if you are, get brought back to life and watch it!
Featured Image: Starz