Ash vs Evil Dead: Still Making Sunday Fun and Gory

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Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Premiere Plot Summary:

Ash (Bruce Campbell), Pablo (Ray Santiago), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) have their idyllic retirement to Jacksonville interrupted when Ruby (Lucy Lawless) calls them back to Ash’s hometown to ask for their help.

Ash vs Evil Dead was one of last season’s happy little surprises. Revivals of long dormant series from the ’80s have been an extremely mixed bag lately; for every Mad Max, there’s been twenty MacGyvers. But thanks to the involvement of series creators Sam and Ivan Raimi (and the not-inconsiderable charms of original star Bruce Campbell, of course), the show was able to get at the heart of what makes the campy horror and over the top gore of Evil Dead work. It ended up being a fun romp as entertaining to die-hard fans as it was to newcomers, something more than deserving of the second season it was given. And thankfully, the show is as charming, fun, and occasionally even frightening as it’s ever been in its return to the air.

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One of the main strengths of the first season was how it was keenly aware that, underneath his ego, bravado, and penchant for demon slaying, Ash is kind of a loser. An important subplot that season was how fighting demons and battling evil was the only time Ash was ever as cool as he thought he was, and whether he was ready to give that up. This time around, we get to see firsthand how Ash became the lovable loser he is now. Between meeting his equally boorish father (Lee Majors) and seeing how the events of the first Evil Dead apparently gave him a reputation as an unhinged serial killer among the residents of his hometown, there are plenty of suitably tantalizing hints into Ash’s psyche that are sure to be explored throughout the season. Combined with the knowledge that there may be lingering effects of Pablo’s possession by the Necronomicon and the new bargain our heroes strike with Ruby, there’s more than enough to spark interest in this season’s plot.

More importantly, though, the blood-drenching, chainsaw-hacking, head-exploding action that made the first season so much fun makes just as glorious a return. Though the series’ CGI is often dreadful (what else to expect from Starz?), the practical effects are more than spectacular enough to make up for it, and this premiere Is no exception. From the very beginning, we’re treated to a tussle with some classic Deadites in Jacksonville that sees a man get fed through a veritable Deadite woodchipper in a fine mist of blood, among other delights. A later fight with last season’s demon children, now all grown up, also features suitably creepy effects for their movement and disgusting ones for their deaths. Yet the highlight of the episode is no doubt when Pablo, suffering one of the sporadic visions he’s had since his possession, tears off his own face in horror. It’s genuinely shocking when it happens, and the effect is a gross-out marvel that will leave you questioning how they pulled it off (literally).

Bruce Campbell (as Ash) (2)Yet for all this premiere does right, the final piece of the puzzle, the horror, feels a little lacking. Those less familiar with the Evil Dead franchise may be surprised to discover that the campy series is capable of truly suspenseful, frightening sequences, but last season found plenty of space for this type of horror alongside its goofier fare. And the premiere emulates that instinct with a finale set in an abandoned crematorium, where our heroes get separated as they’re hunted by the demons they let go free last season. But while this sequence certainly packs the requisite thrills, it’s a bit lacking when it comes to chills. The tenser moments tend to fall flat, with only a few sporadic moments (a contorted demon slowly making its way through the mist to Pablo comes to mind) matching the clever framing and suspense of earlier episodes.

Still, given everything else it does right, this isn’t a huge knock against the episode. It’s still fun, funny, over the top, and shows a complete understanding of what has made Evil Dead such an enduring cult favorite for the past few decades. If you’re an old fan who’s somehow missed out on this one, someone who wants an old school campy horror fix this October, or really just anyone who wants to have a good time Sunday nights and doesn’t mind a little gore, then Ash vs Evil Dead shows every sign that it’s still got it.

RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

Ash vs Evil Dead Airs Sundays at 8 PM on Starz