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Ash Vs Evil Dead: Season 2 (2016)

Starz
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/22/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/15/2017

The recent (re) re-release of Re-Animator on Blu-ray Disc, got me thinking about gore movies and how we simply don't see them like we used to. The 1980s was the heyday for movies which featured explicit, bloody violence, as the films offered buckets of grue and magazines like Fangoria not only celebrated the shenanigans, but showed budding special effects make up artists how things were done. Today, we occasionally get movies that deliver the gore, but with the advent of CG, Karo syrup and latex monsters seem like a thing of the past. Getting back to Re-Animator, not only did that movie feature gore, it did so in an incredibly over-the-top fashion which pushed the boundaries of good taste and reality. We certainly don't see things like that in movies any more. So, thank God we have television shows like Ash Vs Evil Dead, whose second season is now on Blu-ray Disc.

As Season 2 of Ash Vs Evil Dead opens, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his cohorts, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), having defeated the evil, are in Jacksonville, living a non-stop party. However, Ash suddenly feels that Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and her evil spawn are still around and that they've retreated to his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. (I'll admit, this part was a bit fuzzy.) So, the group travels to Elk Grove, where Ash must face two challenges -- stopping the evil and his past. You see, in this reality, everyone is aware of what happens at the cabin (as seen in The Evil Dead) and it's believed that Ash killed everyone there. (The locals refer to him as "Ashy Slashy".) Also, Ash is reunited with his estranged father, Brock (Lee Majors), who also thinks that his son is a murderer. As Ash deals with this, a new evil descends on the town, someone who is stronger than the Necronomicon and ready to destroy the world.

As stated in my review for Season 1 of Ash Vs Evil Dead, I still can't believe that they made a television show based on one of my favorite cult movie series, even if it is on a premium cable channel. But, every once in a while we get what we want and if Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert couldn't find a way to make an "Evil Dead 4" (and still allow us to ignore 2013 Evil Dead), then a television show is certainly a good substitute. Or at least that's how things seemed in 2015 when the show premiered. We had Ash, we had Deadites, and we had a wacky show. How could things get any better?

Well, Season 2 answers that question. With Season 1, Sam Raimi and Co-Producer Ivan Raimi clearly wanted to make a show which followed the standard narrative rules seen on other series. Season 1 was really good, but the structure was obvious. With Season 2, caution has been thrown to the wind in several different ways. First of all, with this season certainly has a story and a story arc, it's not a tightly plotted as Season 1. This may sound like a bad thing at first, but this simply means that the series has a better opportunity to fly by the seat of its pants and be surprising. Sure, it's a bit episodic, by breaking the mold to which similar shows adhere, the series is able to do its own thing. This season is also tied into the original movies in a bigger way. While Season 1 was all about Ash doing his own thing in the present, Season 2 is filled with references to Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 (but, again, not Army of Darkness), including clips from those movies. (This is also a con, as the last few episodes reproduce moments from Evil Dead 2 in a way which feels more like lazy then homage.) But, the biggest thing acting in Season 2's favor is the way in which it completely goes for broke when it comes to the gore and violence. You need look no further than the morgue scene in Episode 2 to realize that this show doesn't care what you think and you'll cringe as it dawns on you that adults are behind all of this. Stuart Gordon would be so proud.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Ash Vs Evil Dead is aimed at a very specific audience. But, if you like black humor, mixed with silly humor, and don't mind some gore, then you'll find something to like here. Nearing age 60, Bruce Campbell still clearly loves being the clueless wiseass who can't say no to the ladies and is always covered in blood. In fact, the entire cast seems game to do whatever it takes to make the show work, and, most of the time, it does.

Ash Vs Evil Dead: Season 2 may owe a debt to the "Smile Time" episode of Angel on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Starz. The 2-Disc set contains all 10 episodes from Season 2. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably reds and blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as is the depth. This rivals (if not beats) 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. The action sequences deliver strong subwoofer action, as well as detailed stereo and surround effects. There were several occasions where I picked out distinct sounds from the rear speakers. The sounds moves fluidly from the front to rear and side-to-side.

All of the special features for Ash Vs Evil Dead: Season 2 are found on Disc 2. "Season 2 First Look" (2 minutes) is sort of like a mini-trailer for the season, complete with a few comments from the cast. "Inside the World of Ash Vs Evil Dead" offers a brief (about 90 seconds) look at each episode, with Producer Robert Tapert and others providing details about the shows. "Up Your Ash" (2 minutes) takes us inside Episode 2 to see how some of the insane special effects were done. "Women Who Kick Ash" (2 minutes) profiles the female members of the cast. We get to see the actors and puppeteers enjoying "Ashy Slashy" in "Puppets Are Cute" (1 minute). "Dawn of the Spawn" (1 minute) explores the design and execution of Ruby's demon children. "Bringing Henrietta Back" (2 minutes) provides insight in the return of one of the monsters from Evil Dead 2. "The Delta" (2 minutes) introduces us to Sam Raimi's car which plays a central role in the series. "How to Kill a Deadite" (2 minutes) is a silly segment in which the actors basically explore the violence of the series.  "Fatality Mash-Up" (1 minute) is a reel of gory action from the show.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long