When the EVIL DEAD remake came out back in 2013, a good number of fans went into the theater already hating it – and many still aren’t able to move past the notion that “remakes are bad!” A shame, if you’re asking me, because the EVIL DEAD remake is one of the best we’ve seen in the past decade. It’s a brutal, unflinching piece of horror cinema, loaded with practical effects and doing the franchise (very) proud.
Of course, there was one thing the remake was missing. Despite a cameo at the end of the film, which seemed to promise that he’d someday be back, Bruce Campbell did not appear in the EVIL DEAD remake, which meant that no matter how good it was, us fans were still left craving the holy grail of horror sequels: EVIL DEAD 4. Our prayers were finally answered this past Halloween night, courtesy of STARZ.
The 10-episode original series ASH VS EVIL DEAD, which just wrapped up on January 2nd, saw Bruce Campbell reprise the role of Deadite-slayer Ash Williams for the first time since ARMY OF DARKNESS. Yes, 23 years after the original franchise came to an end, and two years after it was rebooted, Campbell slapped on the chainsaw-hand once more, and it was the most glorious sight these eyes have ever seen.
Over the course of the past ten weeks, ASH VS EVIL DEAD has taken us on a wild and wacky road trip, and the titular hero was joined in his world-saving quest by brand new characters Pablo and Kelly. Deadites were brutally slain by the trio at a bookstore, Pablo’s witch doctor uncle’s compound, and even a survivalist camp out in the woods, but it wasn’t until episode eight that Ash, well, he went back home.
After a drug-induced trip that laid his destiny out to him, Ash returned to that iconic cabin in the woods to bury the Book of the Dead and finally put his past behind him, and when he got there, many familiar friends were waiting. For starters, his severed hand – still very much “alive” – beat him to the cabin, and an investigation of the work shed revealed that former girlfriend Linda’s head was still stuck in that vice.
Episodes eight through ten of ASH VS EVIL DEAD were nothing short of pure fan service, and though the show had, up until that point, already been one of the best things to ever happen to horror fans, it was when Ash found himself back in the cabin that it finally became a true continuation of the film franchise. Because those three episodes, collectively running around 90-minutes, damn sure felt like EVIL DEAD 4.
In Episode 8 (‘Ashes to Ashes’), Ash was tormented by old flame Linda in the work shed while new flame Amanda was killed in the cabin by… Ash. In a fun little twist, his severed hand literally grew another Ash out of it, and Episode 9 (‘Bound in Flesh’) kicked off with a battle between good Ash and bad Ash. It was precisely the sort of fun slapstick we’ve come to expect from the franchise, particularly the two sequels.
The highlight of ASH VS EVIL DEAD was undoubtedly Bruce Campbell’s hammy performance, perhaps the best in his entire career, and though the show has largely been driven by the character’s trademark brand of silly humor – that is, after all, the main appeal of the franchise – the first season’s finale was a little bit different. In Episode 10, titled ‘The Dark One,’ ASH VS EVIL DEAD fully embraced its horror roots.
Season One’s extended finale was easily the best episode to date, and while Ash battled diminutive monsters, Kelly contended with the cabin itself, and Pablo found himself literally becoming the Necronomicon, the show managed to work some genuine horror into the proceedings. It really felt like a fusion of the old and the new, as the nastiness of the original collided with the fun of the two sequels.
It’s almost too easy to take things for granted these days, but as I watched Ash battle evil and crack wise down in the infamous fruit cellar, I knew that I was witnessing something special. Something that was literally born out of the horror community’s collective love for the Evil Dead films. I’m not sure we even deserved it, but we got what we’ve spent so many years craving, and the wait was well worth it.
At the time of writing this, two days have passed since I watched the ASH VS EVIL DEAD finale, and though today is a Monday – the dreaded Monday after a holiday break, no less – I’m not sure you could even surgically remove the smile from my face right now. As fans, it’s rare that we get exactly what we want, and I’m so thoroughly satisfied that I already feel comfortable calling 2016 a damn good year for horror.
EVIL DEAD fans are as fortunate as STAR WARS fans right about now, and if you’re one of them, I sincerely hope you enjoyed every bloody second of ASH VS EVIL DEAD. Gifts like that don’t come around very often.