Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones, Lucy Lawless, Mimi Rogers, Samara Weaving, Ben Fransham
Written by: Nate Crocker, James Eagan, Zoe Green, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Tom Spezialy, Dominic Dierkes, Sean Clements, Michael J. Bassett, Rob Wright, Craig DiGregorio
Directed by: Sam Raimi, Michael J. Bassett, David Frazee, Michael Hurst, Tony Tilse, Rick Jacobson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 294
Date: 08/23/2016

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015)

4 Stars (out of 4)

El Jefe Returns

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As a horror fan, Ash vs Evil Dead is a dream come true, and it's every bit as good as I could have ever hoped. Now that we think of movies in terms of franchises rather than movies, I can say that, along with Romero's "Dead" series, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series is my favorite horror franchise. I discovered Evil Dead II back in the 1980s and have loved it ever since, along with its counterparts. (Even the needless 2013 remake is OK in my book.) But I never thought I'd see the real thing ever again.

Raimi himself directed the 41-minute pilot of this 2015 ten-episode season, and it's vintage Raimi. It's slick, smooth, and frenetic, with a very unique use of movement, part Exorcist and part Three Stooges, and a strange, wonderful combination of practical and digital effects (all deliberately low-rent). Bruce Campbell steps back into the Ash role after 30 years with the same effortlessness that Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone showed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed.

Ash is now living in a trailer park, drinking and picking up girls, telling stories about his fake hand. He's basically a jerk. When one of the "deadites" appears, Ash suddenly remembers a pot-hazed night in which he tried to impress a girl by reading passages from the Book of the Dead. Uh-oh. Now he has re-awakened the evil dead. With two of his co-workers at his box store job, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), he realizes that he must strap his old chainsaw hand back on and get to work.

Meanwhile, a pretty lady cop, Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) loses her partner due to a deadite attack, and she can't explain what happened without people thinking she's crazy. In later episodes, Lucy Lawless (Campbell's co-star in another Raimi TV series, Xena: Warrior Princess) plays a mysterious woman named Ruby, who seems to know what's going on.

Ash vs Evil Dead is genuinely scary and hilarious, and at the same time smart and self-aware (with an exceedingly well-chosen selection of garage-rock and pop songs), and I can't wait to see more. (Season Two premieres in October of 2016.) The two-disc Blu-ray set of Season One, released by Starz / Anchor Bay, comes with commentary tracks on all ten episodes; some include Raimi and Campbell, who, between them, have been responsible for some of the greatest commentary tracks of all time. There are also three short featurettes, including a montage of Campbell's "greatest hits" from the season.

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