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Tuesday, April 3, 2018 | Review

What do you get when you combine Starz’s envelope-pushing programming and one of the most beloved dark comedy franchises in film history? A match made in horror heaven, that’s what! When EVIL DEAD creator Sam Raimi encountered difficulty financing the franchise’s fourth installment, he found a television partner in Starz that was willing to afford him and his team free rein on creative content, no matter how messy. Once producers had Bruce Campbell onboard to reprise his role as the titular, chainsaw-brandishing, boomstick-wielding, slick talking Ash Williams, the series was off to the races.

Premiering Halloween night 2015, the pilot episode of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD drew in nearly a half million viewers and became an overnight phenomenon. With gore galore and a premise not entirely unfamiliar to the franchise’s faithful, it looked to be a winning formula from day one. The same couldn’t necessarily be said for entries in the film franchise, which received several scathing reviews from critics claiming the concept was unabashedly reprehensible and morally iniquitous. Well Ash must have severed the right nerve this time around because critics are loving this series. With an averaged 99% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes split between the first two seasons, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD looks to be a buzzing, booming triumph. But don’t take it from some algorithm pulled from a website with a decomposing fruit (yes, a fruit) as its moniker, take it from a fellow fan:

Season 1 Recap & Review

Set in present day, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD has our middle-aged hero stocking shelves at a retail store when all hell breaks loose upon a chance reading of the Necronomicon by a drunken Ash in an effort to impress a woman who soon attempts to…what else…”swallow his soul.” It isn’t long before two newcomers to the series, Kelly (portrayed by Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (played by Ray Santiago), join up with Ash and embark on a perilous quest to retrieve and destroy the Necronomicon and send all of its unleashed deadites back to the hell from whence they came.

Season one breaks some new ground for the series, which is an admittedly difficult thing to accomplish given that three films already exist in the canon. The mix of over-the-top violence and humor sets the bar pretty high as far as dark comedies go, and there are more than a few moments when disbelief can’t help but be suspended throughout the ten episode story arc. Set dressing and production design looks fantastic, and the writing stays true to the source material while putting a fresh spin on a classic. If there is a criticism to make, though, it is in the acting. In particular, Santiago’s portrayal of wide-eyed and eager sidekick Pablo leaves you at times wondering if he is trying too hard to appear overly sophomoric, or if that is simply the direction he receives on set. Some of the dialogue can be cringe-worthy at times, what with all the unnecessary “hefes” thrown around, but it doesn’t detract from the general effect of the scenes. Additionally, while there is plenty of gore to go around, the level of violence does seem, at times, a bit unnecessary given the context of some scenes. With a finale that leaves you wanting more, though, season one offers the perfect cliffhanger to fans of the 1981 cult classic.

Season 2 Recap & Review

If you thought season one had some wild storylines and gore like you had never seen before, buckle up because season two offers a much crazier ride. With villains turning heroes, some heroes turning villains, and more than a decapitation or two, ASH VS EVIL DEAD hits its stride with its encore season, which has our trinity facing off against the very author of the Necronomicon!

Season two definitely delivered the goods—goods that included more substantive storylines, richer character development, and even the potential promise of a budding romance, believe it or not. With the violence cranked up, the cheesy one-liners flying this way and that, and some impressive special effects for a television series with a budget on the lighter side, season two was a decided improvement over the show’s debut season. With everything seemingly wrapped up at the conclusion of the tenth episode, the anticipation for what the next ten episode arc could possibly hold in store for fans has reached its boiling point. Fortunately for those fans, the wait is over. Here’s looking ahead to season three, currently airing Sunday nights on Starz.

Overall Score

Sonny Morgan
Contributing columnist with a focus on the business of horror, from financials to production operations and everything in between.