I would like, if I may dear reader, to paint for you a picture called 1983. I was a youth of 10 years of age and my love of horror was but a murmur in my pre-pubescent heart. I needed to have two teeth pulled by the dentist and had reached an agreement with my mother (no contracts were drawn up, a firm handshake was good enough in the 80s) that for each tooth pulled I would be rewarded with a Betamax videotape of my choice from the shop over the road. Having allowed Gary the dentist (dubious mustache, ginger) to extract said teeth, mother whisked me off to the video shop, whereupon I made my choices.
My first selection was a movie called THE HOT ONE. No, not a porno, but a film starring Mark Hamill as an idiot, who fashions a Corvette Stingray from a wreck he finds in a junkyard in order to appear less of an idiot and make friends with a hooker played by Annie Potts. I chose this because of my love of Mark Hamill, Corvettes and hookers. My second choice, I made based purely on the box art. My second choice was THE EVIL DEAD.
I instantly fell in love with the way Sam Raimi moved his camera. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, and although the film scared the living shit out of me, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. In the years that followed, Betamax would become obsolete, and Mary Fucking Whitehouse would see to it that i couldn’t get hold of a decent copy on VHS. Anyway, we fast forward 32 years and things are massively different. Mary Fucking Whitehouse is long dead, VHS is now a series of disappointing anthology movies and THE EVIL DEAD is a TV show.
Having had it’s series premiere on Halloween night, the new Starz TV show ASH VS EVIL DEAD has been an instant hit with both critics and fans. To be honest though, such adulation was entirely expected. Since we last saw him via a teasing post-credits cameo in Fede Alavrez’s EVIL DEAD reboot, fans have been clamoring to see more of Ashley J Williams. The pilot episode could not fail to delight. Written and directed by Raimi and starring the amazing Bruce Campbell playing Ash in his full on ARMY OF DARKNESS persona, mediocracy was simply out of the question. The final 5 minutes, where Ash snaps on the chainsaw and takes on his now Deadite neighbor Vivian, made me smile so hard I cried. However, the real test of the show’s staying power came with last Saturday’s broadcast of “Bait”, the second episode. This marked the first time we would see this universe through the eyes of another writer and director.
Thankfully, director Michael J Bassett doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to emulate Raimi’s style. Although it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t a Raimi, that’s not because of any failing on the part of the director, just that Sam Raimi’s work is so distinctive.This, from a chap who’s most significant contributions to entertainment thus far, are the truly awful movie SOLOMAN KANE and being Scally the Dog on Children’s ITV. Writer Dominic Dierkes is more known for his comedy work on the show WORKAHOLICS and considering he wasn’t even born when this franchise started, he absolutely nails the character of Ash.
We pick up right where “El Jefe” left off, with Kelly and Pablo still coming to terms with with their new reality and Ash not giving a sod about anyone but himself. Kelly wants to go home, just incase her mother, who had been presumed dead but has turned up at home, is actually a Deadite. She and Pablo plead with Ash to help them, but Ash just wants to get the Necronomicon translated, so he can go back to being a responsibility free layabout. So, while Ash sets about patching the bullet holes in his trailer with gaffer tape, Kelly swipes the book and buggers off on Pablo’s motorcycle.
I love that Ash’s absolute twattery has not been toned down for television. There are so many films and shows that feature a reluctant hero, but precious few an egotistical cock-womble. That’s what has always been the best thing about this character, he is a hero that is actually relatable. We all know somebody that could (given the right set of absurd circumstances) be Ash, and we probably hate them.
So, Ash and Pablo follow Kelly to her home. During the ride they are attacked by Deadite Mr Roper, the boss of Value Stop we saw get the disembodied force right up the bracket last week. Luckily, Ash is a drink driver so they are plenty of empty beer bottles in the classic to stab into Mr Roper. This entire sequence is utterly brilliant, from the gallons of blood that gush from Mr Roper’s neck, to the fact that this all plays out with “Highway Star” blaring from the stereo (I love that Ash apparently only has one tape and it’s Deep Purple’s Machine Head), it’s a joy to behold.
Ash and Pablo burst into Kelly’s parental home, chainsaw blazing and caked in Roper juice, only to find that everything is fine. Kelly’s mom had survived her car accident, but due to a bump on the noggin, suffered from amnesia. Ash explains away his and Pablo’s outward appearance with the excuse that they hit an exploding deer with the car. Seems reasonable. Kelly’s mom (played by Mimi Rogers) invites them to stay for dinner and they retire to Ash’s Airstream trailer to clean up.
During the dinner scene that follows, Ash is an arse towards Kelly’s mom despite constant assurances from everyone that all is good. Eventually he boils over and not being the most subtle of dinner guests, lamps Kelly’s mom with a cracking left hook. Turns out that Ash was right, and she was a Deadite all along. She instantly dispatches with Dad by slamming his head down on a fork (nasty) and turns her attention to our heroes. This part feels the most Evil Dead-ish of the entire episode, as Kelly’s mom tries the classic Deadite ploy of pretending to be human again, while Ash stumbles about, being all inept and getting his chainsaw stuck in the wall. Eventually Ash frees the chainsaw and is able to get all decapitational with mom, leaving the newly formed trio of Deadite killers free of ties to normal life and on a crusade against the evil.
Next week’s episode is “Books From Beyond”. Hopefully we will get some Lucy Lawless, and possibly something to make the side plot involving Policewoman Amanda Fisher remotely interesting.