Well, we've had to be patient for nearly a quarter of a century to finally see Ash wield his chainsaw again, but trust me: it was well worth the wait. Ash vs. Evil Dead fires on all cylinders.
After so many years had passed since Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead III) came out in 1992, it looked like a direct sequel just wasn't going to happen anymore, yet apparently, the Raimi-Campbell gang had been working on one for some time. According to recent interviews with the show's creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, what was first supposed to be a new feature film and the fourth entry in the franchise, over time turned into an idea for a TV-series, and I believe fans will be very happy with the result. Instead of a 2-hour film for a sequel, we now get 5 more hours with Ash and the Deadites (possibly more if the show's going to be a success) and judging from what I've seen so far, those 5 hours are going to be an absolute blast.
(This paragraph contains some – very – mild spoilers; there won't be any in the rest of this review). At the beginning of the show we meet Ash leading a lazy, but apparently happy slacker life, residing in a run-down trailer and working as a stock boy at a Value Stop (for some obscure legal reasons, the writers couldn't use the name S-Mart from Army of Darkness' iconic last scene). In the show, 30 years have passed since Ash's last encounter with the Deadites, and while he might be well into middle age now, he hasn't matured one bit. Ash is still the exact same guy we last saw fighting walking skeletons and other ghastly undead things in Army of Darkness, cracking wise and appearing as cock-sure of himself as ever (despite still not being the "smartest cookie in the jar" - to put it mildly). These days, he likes to spend most of his spare time either getting wasted in his trailer or picking up random ladies - or both (mostly both). I won't go further into any of the story details (because that would only spoil the fun); suffice to say that his rather irresponsible lifestyle ultimately won't go too well with his duty as keeper of a certain (slightly) dangerous book, and (very!) bloody mayhem soon ensues.
In my opinion, Ash vs. Evil Dead does everything right. Instead of going down the "gritty drama" route of shows like The Walking Dead or taking the "straight horror" approach of Fede Alvarez' Evil Dead remake, creators Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell fully embrace the over-the-top goofiness and playful tone of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, while still delivering the scares of the first film and plenty (and I mean: PLENTY) of gore. The Deadites are frightening, but they're also kind of comical in that they don't look too realistic (don't get me wrong, their make-up is gorgeous, but they don't look like the zombies from George A. Romero's films or The Walking Dead). The production values in general are absolutely great; the writing is in the vein of the first three films (no wonder, since the episodes were mostly written by Sam and Ivan Raimi); the music, the pacing and the direction: really everything just falls into place. It's clear that this wasn't some lazy attempt to cash in on the name of a beloved cult-franchise, but a labour of love for all involved.
Another great plus of the series is the cast. Seeing Bruce Campbell step back into this iconic character is simply hilarious fun; it still fits him like a glove (or, perhaps more accurately in his case, a chainsaw). But there was never a doubt in my mind that he would deliver (it seems Ash is a character Campbell was born to play); what really surprised me was how well the rest of the cast fits into the show. Ray Santiago as Pablo and Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly (they're Ash's co-workers at the Value Stop) are completely able to hold their own; they are fully fleshed-out characters and just as fun to watch as Ash.
So my verdict: Ash vs Evil dead brings back everything that I loved about the original Evil Dead films, but it also manages to introduce interesting new characters and story lines which help maintain the element of surprise for long-time fans. And the show works just as well as a stand-alone story, so people unfamiliar with the original trilogy need not worry either: they will find just as much to love here as those who know and cherish Sam Raimi's classics - as long as they have a certain affection for trashy, gory horror comedies and don't expect serious drama (Six Feet Under this is not). In my book, this show is already a winner: 8 stars out of 10.
ASH IS BACK: HAIL TO THE KING, BABY, AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-Known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/