“Ash vs Evil Dead” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. The Starz original series serves as a love letter for fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films and as an introduction for newcomers to one of horror’s most beloved and buffoonish icons: Ashley J. Williams, the onetime Michigan State University student turned unlikely demon slayer, played with brilliant and enthused bravado by Bruce Campbell.
Picking up 30 years after Ash last defeated the Deadites, the show opens with the aging lothario wrestling a girdle around his belly, prepping to pick up barflies at the local watering hole. Aside from packing on the extra pounds, Ash remains the same cock-sure, non-repentant frat-boy he’s always been. The kind of guy that would read from the Book of the Dead to impress a potential conquest.
During a marijuana enhanced make-out session with a trailer park poet, he recites a passage from the Necronomicon and unleashes a new plague of demonic forces upon humanity. Ash has fought and survived demonic possession, self-mutilation, time travel, all kinds of ugly and unholy beasts, and the dismemberment of his girlfriend at his own hands, but he just can’t conquer common sense.
Thankfully, he’s got some help to save the world this go-around, namely his ValueShop department store co-workers, Pablo Simon Bolivar and Kelly Maxwell, and disgraced Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher. Pablo, endearingly played by Ray Santiago, is Ash’s loyal sidekick, a courageous and big-hearted soul who believes Ash is “El Jefe,” the man his shaman uncle prophesied would save humanity from evil.
Kelly, played with sass and heart by Dana DeLorenzo, doesn’t hold Ash in such high regard. Dismembering her estranged mother during a family reunion doesn’t help matters either (she was a Deadite). But, it’s Ash and Pablo who not only rescue her from the mind demon, Eligos, but help her overcome the much more personal demons that have plagued her young life.
One of the joys of “Ash vs. Evil Dead” is watching Ash show some heart. Sure, he remains selfish and crass, but he’s got friends he genuinely cares about and a unexpected love interest in Amanda, who initially believed Ash was responsible for the inexplicable event that forced her to kill her partner (yup, Deadite) in a frightening scene in the pilot episode hinting at the gory good times to come. Their relationship is fun, tumultuous, and in the end, regrettably, tragic.
Together, this group of misfits head back to the cabin where Ash first faced off against the Evil Dead three decades ago for an outrageous and violent showdown that unbelievably tops the gang’s gleefully gruesome journey to get there. It’s impossible to watch this series and not smile. Thoughtfully crafted, each episode presents tributes to the original films while expanding the story of the world’s most reluctant hero.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” is available as a two-disc set on Blu-ray and DVD and includes the featurettes “Inside the World of Ash,” “How to kill a Deadite,” and “Best of Ash.” All three present insightful looks at the making of the show, but are on the short side – a huge bummer for a show so extraordinarily produced. However, there is one bonus that saves the day: audio commentaries for all episodes, revealing some awesome insight from creators/producers Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell and more.