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Ash Vs. Evil Dead: The Complete
First Season (2015-2016)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/23/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/16/2016
What movie have you seen the most times in the theater? For me, that film is Evil Dead 2, which I saw four times at the cinema when it was released in 1986, which includes seeing it three times in one week with three different people. So, if you haven't guessed, I like that movie. If you had told me at that time that there would one day be a television show based on theEvil Dead series, I would not have believed you. It simply fell too far outside of the mainstream for something like that. If you had told me that this mythical show would pick up right where Evil Dead 2 left off in terms of tone and gore, I would have certainly thought that you were crazy. And yet, here we are, thirty years later, and Ash Vs Evil Dead has picked up the torch and run off into the woods with it.
The time is the present, 30 years after the events of Evil Dead 2. (The show plays as ifArmy of Darkness did not happen, which may anger some purists, but it makes the narrative flow much more smoothly.) Things haven't changed much for our here, Ash (Bruce Campbell). He works as a stockboy at Value Stop and he spends a lot of time in his trailer, and chasing women. Oh, and he's still in possession of the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. During one of his drunken rendezvous with a female friend, Ash decides to read from the book and once again awakens the evil Candarian demons. Soon, Ash finds himself besieged by possessed individuals who want to kill him. Enlisting the assistance of co-workers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), Ash decides to get rid of the book and end things once and for all. Little does he know that a mysterious stranger is following him.
Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, which received a stamp of approval from Stephen King after an early showing, became infamous for its bleak tone and relentless gore. Raimi decided to change things up with Evil Dead 2 and created a film which was still heavy in carnage, but also featured slapstick comedy and a "hero" who had no idea what he was doing. As noted above, Ash Vs Evil Dead doesn't miss a beat in bringing these ideas to television, creating a show which is decidedly not for everyone, but should delight fans of the series.
Saying that the show picks up right where Evil Dead 2 left off may sound like an exaggeration, but it's truly not. Campbell has aged, but the show hits the ground running and lets you know that it won't be pulling any punches. While we've violence on shows like True Blood and Dexter, those pale in comparison to the buckets of blood which are strewn about on this show. Heads are shotgunned, limbs are hacked off, and a surprising number of antlers are driven through people. And at least once per episode, someone gets completely drenched in blood. Ash may be a buffoon (more on that in a moment), but he has not lost his touch with killing deadites, and those who can't take violence may want to look elsewhere.
And yet, with all of this mayhem occurring, Ash Vs Evil Dead is a very funny show. Again, the show overlooks Army of Darkness, but Ash's personality here comes directly from that film, as we get a man who is truly an idiot, but comes across as cocky and confident, as he has found his true calling. Ash is also a racist and a misogynist. All of these things make him sound like a truly repugnant character, and he should be, but he's so unaware of his own ridiculousness, that nearly everything which comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Some of the other characters get some funny lines as well, but Ash clearly steals the show here, and while he's never become a household name, Campbell shows that he can play cocky idiot like no one else.
As a long time fan of the Evil Dead series, I didn't know what to expect from the show, but given the debacle which was the 2013 remake ofEvil Dead, I was prepared to be disappointed. However, I immediately realized that I was back in familiar territory and the show quickly won me over. While most any characters would pale in comparison to Ash, Pablo and Kelly come off as a bit flat and weak at times, but the show's sheer bravado helps to make up for this. Sam Raimi himself directed the pilot and it was great to see him working in this world again. If you enjoy gallows humor and are tired of the same old TV shows, then definitely give Ash Vs Evil Dead a shot. It's unapologetically crass and gross, but it also knows how to have a good time.
Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season should have explained the supernatural power behind Pablo's hair on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The two Disc set contain all ten episodes of the show's first season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. There are some moments here where the image is so crisp, I could have sworn that I could have walked into it. The colors look great and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is impressive, as if the depth. I would say that this surpasses HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a TV show, even a modern one, this is a muscular track. We get impressive stereo and surround effects here, most notably with the famous sound effect which accompanies the approaching evil force. These sounds are very well-mixed with the subwoofer, creating a palette of sound which truly adds to the on-screen action.
The Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Disc is chock full of extras. Each episode contains an AUDIO COMMENTARY. I've broken down the list to the episode titles and those who speak on the commentary tracks:
-- "El Jefe" -- Creator/Executive Producer/Director Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Rob Tapert, and Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell.
-- "Bait" -- Tapert, Campbell, Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago.
-- "Books From Beyond", "Brujo", and "The Host" -- Campbell, Delorenzeo, Santiago.
-- "The Killer of Killers" and "Fire in the Hole" -- Delorenzo, Santiago, and Jill Marie Jones.
-- "Ashes to Ashes" -- Campbell, Delorenzo, Jones, Santiago.
-- "Bound in Flesh" and "The Dark One" -- Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago, Lucy Lawless.
The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "Ash Inside the World" (16 minutes) offers brief looks inside of each episode. Anchored by Executive Producer/Showrunner Craig Digregorio, this offers clips from the show and on-set footage. It focuses on various elements, such as special effects make-up, the tone of the show, and specific props and sets. Despite the title, we don't hear from Bruce Campbell here, but Sam Raimi does chime in with a brief comment. Campbell does show up in "How to Kill a Deadite" (3 minutes) where to addresses the topic sentence, with additional comments from Evil Dead fans. "Best of Ash" (90 seconds) is a reel of dumb Ash quotes from the show.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long