So, I have a somewhat scandalous admission to make: I’m not that huge a fan of the Evil Dead series. I know, I know, I can hear you yelling at me now- “I thought you said you were a fan of horror!”. And I am. It’s just that, for whatever reason, Sam Raimi’s seminal video nasties never quite smashed their way to the same level of obsession that, say Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or, um, Final Destination (look, I’m SORRY) did in my head. Which is not to say that I don’t get it- I do. They’re great, and Raimi revolutionised indie horror with his innovative gore and balls-to-the-wall sense of fun. But I was coming to the reboot of this series without too much preciousness about the original movies on my mind, is what I’m saying.
That all said, I was pretty pumped for the premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead this Halloween (which I spent dressed as a genderswapped Beetlejuice or Wednesday Addams, depending what day you found me, so everyone else needs to up their constume game). After the catastrophic TV “re-imagining” of classic horrors like Rosemary’s Baby, this one seemed to have something that set it apart from the pack-namely, the involvement of the original directors and and the always-welcome presence of Bruce Campbell.
And I mean always welcome in the most literal sense possible. If he was to walk through my front door right now, I’d be like “hey, Bruce, let me pour you a glass of brandy and we can talk about setting the wedding date”. Did I mention that I love Bruce Campbell? Because I LOVE Bruce Campbell. He’s the greatest bad actor there ever was, and he’s probably the most iconic part of the original Evil Dead franchise, mainly because he looks like he’s having more fun than perhaps anyone else has ever had in front of camera (except me in my sex tape, but that’s another matter).
And that’s the one thing that stands out above all else in the season premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead- just how much FUN everyone seems to be having. Utilising as many of the same visual tricks as the original movies (as well as keeping the Deadites looking the same as they always did, thankfully), there’s no part of this episode that didn’t make me grin. From the superbly executed horror sequences (the one in the haunted house that was lit by a spinning torch was legitimately inspired, and really worked) to the dumb humour to the batshit crazy action scenes, this show knows how to balance it’s horror and comedy perfectly. I wrote about Scream Queens a few weeks back, a show which pretty much failed to strike a comfortable balance between the two, and I was struggling to think of a TV show that actually did- until this came along.
I guess what I like most about it is that it isn’t attempting to come up with gritty new takes on old-school horror. It’s just having fun bringing the goofy, funny, scary, super-violent feel of the original movies to the small screen, with a bit more space to develop characters and plot. While we’ve certainly seen some great horror over the last few years- from Cabin in the Woods to The Babadook to The Visit– it’s been a long time since something with such an obvious B-movie quality has broken through to the mainstream. I’ve missed seeing someone having genuine outright fun with the genre, and in that respect alone, Ash vs Evil Dead has me on board as a viewer, just to see where they can take this next.