December 1, 2015 Ash Vs Evil Dead – (Season 1/ Episode 2-5 Review)
Continuing on in the Evil Dead franchise is a STARZ original series, Ash vs. Evil Dead. Currently in its first season, with season two already confirmed, the show is set in the same universe as the classic movies. Bruce Campbell reprises his role as stubborn, yet loveable hero, Ash. He is joined by two sidekicks, suspending Ash’s “lone wolf” mentality he has maintained over the years. The show is developed by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy, as well as executive produced by Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Craig DiGregorio, and Rob Tapert, all being Evil Dead veterans. The music is produced by Joseph LoDuca, composer of the original Evil Dead movies. The show dives deeper into the Necronomicon’s legacy, adding new enemies, demonic and human, along the way. While it is never quite clear where the show may venture next, what is certain is that Ash vs Evil Dead is determined to take viewers for one hell of a ride.
Episode Two: Bait (November 7, 2015) –
Taking place within moments after episode one, El Jefe, Kelly (Dana Delorenzo: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas 2011, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson 2012) gets frustrated after Ash (Bruce Campbell) refuses to help her father (Phil Peleton: The Brokenwood Mysteries 2014-2015, Spartacus: War of the Damned 2013), who may be in danger. During the first episode, Kelly’s supposedly deceased mother (Mimi Rogers: Two and a Half Men 2011-2014, The X-Files 1998-1999) returns home without any explanation. Deciding to investigate alone, Kelly steals Pablo’s (Ray Santiago: Raising Hope 2010-2011, Law & Order: LA 2010) bike and, it seems, the Necronomicon. Ash and Pablo jump in the classic Oldsmobile Delta 88 to catch up to Kelly at her father’s house.
Once there, Ash discovers that Pablo hid the Necronomicon to make it seem as if Kelly stole it so they would have no choice but follow. Kelly’s mother claims she never died, but had amnesia and finally found her way home. Ash sees through the ruse and punches her in the face, forcing the Deadite face to show. After an incredibly brutal and bloody altercation involving a fork, Kelly is left parentless. While not focusing on the insanity taking place with Ash, State Trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones: Sleepy Hollow 2013-2015, American Horror Story 2013) finds evidence that convinces her of Ash’s guilt concerning his neighbor’s murder. Also, Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless: Battlestar Galactica 2005-2009, Xena: Warrior Princess 1995-2001) continues her hunt for the Necronomicon.
This episode marks the first Ash adventure to ever be directed by someone other than Sam Raimi. First to step into Raimi’s shoes is director Michael J. Bassett (Silent Hill: Revelation 3D 2012, Strike Back 2012-2015). Even though the story relied a bit on familiar shenanigans, Bassett fits right in and makes a seamless transition. Some of the content would have the tendency to be dark and serious in other shows; however episode writer Dominic Dierkes (Workaholics 2012-2015, The Onion News Network 2008) is known for his hilarious and sarcastic writing style and weaves the humor in perfectly. The funniest moment may be when Ash takes time to construct his infamous crosses for the graves, only to be told that Kelly’s parents were Jewish. Bait seemed more like a continuation of the pilot episode and helped viewers form a bond with Kelly and Pablo. CrypticRock gives Bait 4 out of 5 stars.
Episode Three: Books from Beyond (November 14, 2015) –
Ruby Knowby is at the burial site for Kelly’s parents when the father makes a sudden reemergence. The fork he was stabbed with is still in him, which she uses to kill him again. Meanwhile, the gang stops at an offbeat bookstore to inquire about reversing the damage done by Ash reading from the Necronomicon. The store’s owner, Lionel Hawkins (Kelson Henderson: Power Rangers Jungle Fury 2008, Avatar 2009), is thrilled to see the Book of the Dead, as he has spent his life researching it. Even though reading the book got Ash into the mess he is in, he decides to summon a weaker demon so he can figure out how to send it back. His unwise reasoning is, “Reading from it again can’t make things any worse. It’s kinda like spilling paint on a painting. It’s okay ‘cause there’s already paint on it.” Outside, Officer Amanda Fisher recognizes Ash from a police sketch and follows him into the bookstore. She is subdued and handcuffed in a room while Kelly keeps watch. Ash, Pablo, and Lionel begin the ritual, with Ash choosing a demon that, in his words, looks like a “total nerd.” However, the demonic Eligos (Ben Fransham: What We Do in the Shadows 2014, 30 Days of Night 2007) much more resembles a Clive Barker creation than a wimpy demon. Upon seeing it, Ash wittily remarks, “First of all, you don’t look anything like your photo, so you might want to update that.” While all hell is literally breaking loose, Amanda convinces Kelly to uncuff her so that she can help. While her intentions are pure, she causes the protective circle holding the demon to break. Ash proceeds to do what he does best, which is getting his butt kicked by evil. After Amanda manages to shoot it, Eligos turns and knocks her out, causing flying shards of glass to kill Lionel. After Kelly hits the demon with the Necronomicon, it disappears.
Ash helps Amanda up, but she immediately handcuffs him. Unfortunately for her, she cuffed his fake hand, which allows him to escape and subdue her once again. They quickly head out, but Ash leaves his hand behind. Unbeknownst to Ash and the gang, the restrained officer finds herself in trouble as Lionel comes back as a Deadite. Ash admits that it is time for him to accept sidekicks and Pablo suggests that they name their group “Ghostbeaters.” He also recommends that they visit his uncle, a Shaman, for assistance.
Director Michael J. Bassett at the helm once again, accompanied by writer Sean Clements (Workaholics 2012-2015, Allen Gregory 2011), Books from Beyond furthers the relationship between the trio as Kelly and Pablo prove their willingness to help fight evil. Lucy Lawless’ character is obviously familiar with Deadites, but her mission is still a mystery. Fans of Evil Dead II (1987) may already recognize her last name. Jill Marie Jones’ character did not gain much traction within this episode and it is still unclear whether she will be with or against Ash’s group. By exploring other “baddies” within this universe other than Deadites exclusively, it will help keep the show from going stale. Although CGI is used, the practical effects for the demon looked fantastic and terrifying. There were many heart-pounding and hilarious scenes all nicely bundled within this episode. CrypticRock gives Books from Beyond 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Episode Four: Brujo (November 21, 2015) –
Picking up immediately after the previous episode, Ruby helps Amanda by impaling the Deadite Lionel to the wall and decapitating him. She explains that her parents and sister were killed by these ghouls many years ago, referring to Annie and Professor Knowby from Evil Dead II. She is seeking vengeance for their deaths and asks Amanda to come along, to which she agrees. Ruby later shows Amanda that she has Ash’s dismembered hand and says that it has started twitching, seeking its former owner.
Ash and his new crew are heading towards the house of Pablos’s uncle in hopes that his spiritual knowledge can help the situation. The car suddenly goes on the fritz when a dark cloud, referred to as a Drafter, quickly appears behind them. When they see it catapult another car into the sky, Ash tries a DIY boost he rigged, which does not get them far. The car begins to run out of juice, but they are saved as they reach the Shaman’s property. The evil force is kept back by mystical talismans all over the land. Along the way, Kelly is suffering from a severe headache and vomiting, believing she has a concussion. When she and Pablo go in search of medicine, Ash and Pablo’s uncle, Brujo (Hemky Madera: Weeds 2008-2010, Blue Bloods 2015), begin a ritual, complete with drug-induced hallucinations, so that Ash can make discoveries within himself. Once the trip begins, bits and pieces of retro shows, Playboy covers and scenes from Evil Dead II begin flashing. When it stops, Ash finds himself blind and being buried alive in a grave. He pulls himself out and hears Brujo’s voice instructing him to look within. Ash decides that “Shoot first, think never” is the correct method and his eyesight is restored. The voice then tells him to find his happy place, which lands Ash in Jacksonville, Florida. He had booked a vacation there thirty years prior, but events at that remote cabin ruined everything. He suddenly has both hands and decides to sit for a couple of beers while admiring the city’s skyline. He states, “I’ve always wanted to spend some time in a city so nice they named it Jacksonville.”
Back in the trailer, Pablo works on a mechanical hand he is building for Ash as Kelly rushes out of the room sick. While alone, she looks in the mirror, but the demon Eligos is looking back. Her eyes turn black and it is evident that it is now in control. She goes back into the room with Pablo and rigs an electric plug, causing him to get knocked out by a shock. Pretending to still be herself, she runs to Brujo exclaiming that Pablo needs help. Running out to help, he asks her to stay with Ash while he is unconscious. The demon enters his dream and begins to play mind tricks, taking him from Jacksonville to that old familiar cabin. He is then transported to Value Stop (the show’s version of S-Mart) and is reminded that he can control his journey. He begins to hold the demon back, but in reality he is choking Kelly. The two men rush in and Pablo hits Ash over the head.
Once again, Ruby and Amanda are in the episode only briefly, but it seems like they are on their way to more significant airtime. While Ruby’s motives are finally explained, there are still questions surrounding her insincerity and partnership with Amanda. It is also unclear if Eligos is going to remain the demonic archenemy throughout the season, or if his time is limited. Brujo was directed by David Frazee (Continuum 2012-2015, Orphan Black 2013-2015) and written by James Eagan (Saturday Night Live 2002-2004, Hellcats 2010-2011). It is quite possibly the zaniest episode yet, leaving a few unanswered questions. The flashbacks to Evil Dead II were a great touch and Ash finding serenity in Jacksonville, Florida added some very comedic moments. CrypticRock gives Brujo 4 out of 5 stars.
Episode Five: The Host (November 28, 2015) –
The show opens with Ash, gagged and restrained due to Kelly convincing Brujo and Pablo that he is possessed. Ash knows that Kelly is possessed, but is unable to say anything thanks to the gag. As Brujo sends his nephew to fetch a live chicken, boiling water, and a 10-inch Ginsu knife for an exorcism, Pablo wittingly remarks, “I feel like I’m the sous chef of his exorcism kitchen.” Kelly and Pablo head back to the trailer while the Shaman attempts to banish the alleged evil spirit. Kelly is not quite acting herself, though love-sick Pablo is oblivious. She finds a bag of weed and decides to get high using the barrel of a shotgun. Apparently not seeing anything disturbing about this, Pablo agrees to join but begins talking about his feelings before smoking. Wanting to hurry the conversation along, she tells him, “What’s inside of me cannot wait to tear you up.” Only he does not realize how literal she is being at the moment. During the conversation, she slips a shell into the chamber, planning to kill him as he began smoking. When he stops to have further conversation, the demon becomes frustrated and Kelly’s face drastically changes. Back in the barn, Ash manages to remove the gag and explains that Kelly is actually possessed and Pablo is in danger. They run towards the trailer after hearing gunfire and find Kelly being held at bay.
Once she is in Ash’s former subdued position, they proceed with the exorcism only to have it fail. The demon begins to torture Kelly’s body by spitting teeth and banging her head against the wooden post. Brujo explains that Eligos is slowing killing her, so Pablo persuades the demon to leave her and enter his body. A hand begins to come up her throat and soon Eligos emerges from Kelly. Ash attempts to shoot it, but is unable to due to its ability to teleport quickly. As he finally remembers his wise words from the previous episode, “Shoot first, think never,” the demon throws Brujo, impaling him on a piece of wood. Ash finally gets his shot, ridding them of Eligos. Not surviving the ordeal, they burn the Shaman’s body outside, prompting Pablo to find a necklace with a talisman. Ash tries his new hand, which features finger mobility, and proudly exclaims, “I’m going to shove this up some Deadite’s ass!” Meanwhile, his severed hand begins showing Amanda and Ruby the way to its owner.
Although there were comedic moments, The Host felt more serious with Bruce Campbell’s performance a bit toned down. While the acting and effects remained strong, Ash’s hilarious one-liners were sorely missed. Directed by David Frazee and written by Zoe Green, this episode provided closure with Eligos and killed off Pablo’s family, similar to Kelly’s in Bait. While only five episodes in, Ash vs Evil Dead is not afraid to leave a trail of death and destruction. CrypticRock gives the latest episode, The Host 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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