Blu-ray Reviews: Ash vs Evil Dead (The Complete First Season)

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Anticipation of a fourth installment of Evil Dead seemed squashed a few years ago when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell produced a remake of their 1981 original starring a young cast. The film was extremely profitable and grossed more than all three of the original films combined. So why bother with a middle aged Campbell strapping on the chainsaw to be Ash another time? The new generation seemed in control. Luckily Raimi and Campbell weren’t ready to make Ash vanish. The true success of the Evil Dead franchise has been home video. Why bother with a theatrical experience when the battle between Ash and the Deadites could go direct to TV screens and be more than just another 80 minutes of supernatural fun? Thus Ash returned when Starz (the premium channel behind Spartacus) ripped the cord to give us the glory of an incompetent boob whose only real skill is killing dark possessive spirits. Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season gives us more of Campbell’s iconic Ash in so many groovy ways.

“El Jefe” has Ash doing his best to lay low after the events of Evil Dead 2. He’s living in a trailer park and doing as little as possible at the discount chain store ValueShop. He has co-worker Pablo (Ray Santiago) covering his slack workload. But trouble comes his way when he seduces a barfly in the men’s room. During their joy, the lady briefly transforms into a Deadite to warn Ash they’re back. How could this have happened? Turns out previously Ash had gotten wasted with a lady and read her a few lines for the Necronomicon to spice things up. Nothing like a little demon summoning to get the love flowing. Now Ash must live with the consequences which means he’s splitting town before the evil spirits claim the living. Newly hired employee Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) sees a video on her cellphone of her dead mother returning home. Pablo and her run to see Ash since he might be their only help. While Ash wants out, he has to get back in the game when his neighbors at the trailer park transform. He can’t deny his true talent of battling Deadites. There’s also a cop on the trail of Ash. Detective Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) wants to know why Ash’s Necromonicon date went evil and killed her partner. Finally on Ash’s tail is Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless). She seems out for revenge on the one handed Lothario for a mysterious reason.

The first episode is 40 minutes. It was kinda of a shock when the rest of the 9 episodes run about 25 minutes. The shorter running time works in Ash vs Evil Dead‘s Favor since they get to the action faster. The episodes run together so it’s basically one long and amazing Evil Dead movie. Sam Raimi directed the pilot which is unique since he’s only produced his previous TV series. He does well working under the constraints of television. There’s great scene where Ash has to battle a psycho doll that seems a return to Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful. He sets his stamp on the production so this isn’t some episodic fan fiction. This is canon.

“Bait” features a visit to Kelly’s parents. Turns out the recently deceased mother (Mimi Rogers) claims she just had a bit of memory loss. Ash doesn’t buy the story even though dad and Kelly want to enjoy their reunion dinner. There’s a dining room table battle that tops any recent Thanksgiving disasters. “Books from Beyond” has Ash looking for help to see if he can reverse the curse he unleashed from reading the book aloud. “The Host” has an exorcism that goes wrong. As the season evolves, Ash returns to the cabin in woods where he first encountered the Deadites. “The Dark One” wraps up the season with a touch of resolution and a hint that the second season (starting October 2 on Starz) will be even bigger.

Nothing is lost in translating the movies into a television series. The show has all the comical touches and extreme gore which makes the series so gosh darn appealing. There’s absurd touches like how Ash’s mobile home is second only to the Tardis in being so much bigger on the inside. The newcomers to the cast work well off Campbell. Even Campbell is in peak form as he laces up his corset to appear more heroic. This is essential for the collection of anyone who owns three different DVDs of Army of Darkness.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers bring out the glory of Bruce Campbell attack face. The audio is English Dolby TrueHD 7.1. You will get surrounded by the swirling Deadite spirits. Also included are dubs in Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 & French Dolby Digital 5.1. Episodes are subtitled in English and Spanish.

strong>Audio Commentaries

are provided on all the episodes so you’ll find out all you need about your favorite moments. Bruce Campbell goes nuts talking about the time he got to visit the cabin set and how it took him back to the old films.

Ash Inside the World (15:59) dips into how the show likes to use practical effects instead of CGI. Sam Raimi had to learn how to direct for TV after years of making blockbusters that gave him so much time. Mimi Rogers gets major praise for being game. They also discuss Ash’s ride.

How to Kill a Deadite (2:31) reminds us that these aren’t merely zombies. Bruce Campbell give practical advise.

Best of Ash (1:27) is a preview of what makes this series so damn good.

Anchor Bay Entertainment & Starz present Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season. Directed by: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones & Lucy Lawless. Boxset Contents: 10 Episodes on 2 Blu-ray discs. Released: August 23, 2016.

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Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.