Ash is back, baby! The trailer for the ten-part horror/comedy series from Starz premiered at Comic-Con 2015 and it's whipped up a bit of a fan frenzy – so let's dig into some of the highlights.
Boy Done Good:
So where's Ash gone since we last saw him? Not very far, it seems – if anything he's gone in reverse – living in a trailer hitched to the same car he's always had (just think of the time and money Ash must have spent restoring it after the events of the third film!), and now he's not even working at S-Mart. Now he has – so I presume – slid down the retail ladder to 'Value Stop' where he's still a Stockboy, re-living past glories as he tells his co-worker Pablo of his prior adventures: “I was the only one to escape, but now the evil has found me.” At least he's got himself a new prosthetic hand – a bit more fitting to 21st Century life than that bulky steel contraption from the last movie … maybe whatever magic that made it function wore off? “You won't see that hand, but that's all I'll say,” teased Raimi in response to a fan question on the matter of Ash's substitute hand at the Comic-Con Panel.
“Ash, even in his prime, would be the wrong guy to save the world – now he's thirty years older and he has to save the world! I'm really worried for the world,” said Campbell of Ash's advancing years. “Crabby old man Ash.” Sam Raimi also noted some of Ash's continued (but loveable) foibles: that the character is “a heel, a coward, and a blow hard” but is also “a great monster hunter”. Still though, while he may be a bit down-at-heel (he's even revealed to be wearing dentures at one point – but could this just be a little joke only for the trailer?), Ash still knows how to wield a stump-mounted chainsaw – a moment in the trailer that pushed all the right buttons!
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Tonally-speaking, Ash vs Evil Dead seems to be picking up where Army of Darkness left off, with Ash as a mixture of a bumbling braggart and an arse-kicking quip machine. We find an older – but not necessarily wiser – Ash strapping himself in, but not to a chainsaw/shotgun brace, rather a man size girdle. “Looking good, looking sweet!” gurns Ash, brandishing his sizzling posterior towards the mirror – suffice it to say, you can always count on Bruce Campbell to give you a giggle.
Going by the trailer, it appears that Raimi/Tapert/Cambell & Co have found the sweet spot when addressing Ash/Bruce's maturity since we last saw him. “The first thing I gotta do is see a guy about a book. There must be some spell I can say to undo all this. The other first thing I gotta do, is some cardio, 'cos my heart is jack-hammering like a quarterback on prom night.” They're embracing the fact that Ash is a little creakier than he used to be, but he's still as young at heart as he ever was – not to mention ready, willing, and able to blow away some deadite scum with his boom stick.
Indeed, Ash unleashes a few choice words: “Let's tango, bitch!” and “Yo Granny, let's go!” being a couple of my favourites, along with this: “I'm not a grief counsellor, but if it's any consolation you're kinda like a young me – deadites ruined your life and you're hot as hell”, which sums up Ash's lack of self-awareness / abundance of self-confidence. The moment where Kelly tells Ash that a recently deceased (read ex-deadite) couple were Jewish – cheekily skewering Ash's fondness for crafting an impromptu crucifix after many of his kills – suggests a playful tone that'll send up the formula as much as indulge it.
Gooey & Gory:
The banned and censored 'video nasty' grue of yesteryear is, thankfully, the gore-gushing crowd-pleasing splatter of today, and Ash vs Evil Dead – by the looks of things so far – is chock-full-o-blood. The broken bottle scene combines that Evil Dead II style of comedy and horror, with Ash relentlessly stabbing a deadite beastie in the back seat of his 'classic' (the temperamental car that all Evil Dead fans wish they could call their own). Gloopy, sloppy, squishy practical blood seems to be the order of the day here: “that's primarily what we do” said Raimi of the use practical gore – after all, what kind of Evil Dead outing would it be without lashings of the crimson stuff? Apparently Campbell, who spoke of a “blood mortar” during the Comic-Con panel, was literally choking on the gore in that scene – it's good to know that, true to the franchise, Sam Raimi is still making Bruce Campbell suffer for our entertainment!
But that's not all, from hands stabbed with scissors (a moment that reminded me of Ryan Haysom's neo-giallo short film Yellow) to undead heads exploding at the business end of Ash's boom stick, fans are set for a real treat. Furthermore, again appearing to pick up where Army of Darkness left off, the deadites themselves look just like you remembered them … mostly, anyway … because we'll also be getting to see some new monsters, such as one particularly toothy monstrosity.
Now, obviously, CGI is part and parcel of filmmaking these days, and there is evidently some use of it dotted around in addition to erasing wires and blood tubes – a little extra blood splatter, or rather amusingly, a toy fairy doll attacking Ash.
Along For The Ride:
Ash won't be tackling the deadite menace alone, of course, so joining him and the aforementioned Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) there will be - among others - fellow co-worker Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo), gun toting Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), and – sure to make fans tremble with glee – Lucy Lawless as the mysterious Ruby Knowby (franchise fans will be familiar with that particular surname), whose smirk, self-confidence, and deadite-slaying abilities line her up as the perfect match for Ash. “She's got a bloody, thirty-year-old chip on her shoulder and she's gunning for Ash because she thinks that he's the source of the deadite plague and she's absolutely right, and she is going to obliterate him,” said Lawless about her character. I can't wait to see these two go toe-to-toe, and considering Lucy Lawless has been a part of the Raimi/Tapert/Campbell brigade for many a year now (she also married Tapert in 1998), I think she'll strike the tone with precision and give us all a lethal lady who'll easily command our support. As Sam Raimi described them, they're “very cool, would-be, nearly heroic team-mates” as part of the same monster fighting gang.
As for a 21st Century Ash, Campbell considered “How does he talk to other people? How does he consider himself? Does he lie a lot? Yeah, he kinda does,” going on to quip “Will he be a romantic lothario? Yeah, maybe a little bit.” Might we see some sparks between Ash and Ruby?
Crash Zoom Crazy:
One of the strongest elements of the Evil Dead franchise – particularly in the case of the first film – was Sam Raimi's unique visual presentation, so it's good to see that Ash vs Evil Dead will be taking a Raimi's eye view of proceedings: crash zooms, tilted angles, snappy editing (AoD editor Bob Murawksi returns), and the infamous 'evil force' perspective – seen weaving its way through a blood-drenched forest in the trailer. Sam Raimi co-wrote the series with his brother Ivan (and a team of staff writers) and directed the first episode – so the style template will be set firmly in-place.
So, all said and done – and as a rabid Evil Dead fan – colour me very happy. Indeed, judging from the Comic-Con panel discussion, it's good to see that the folks behind the show recognise – quite clearly – what the fans want. They recognise what's “mandatory” as Bruce Campbell put it: things like the boom stick, the trash talk, and the chainsaw where a hand should be. Other familiar names returning include Robert G. Tapert (executive producer) and Joseph LoDuca (series music). The show runner is Craig DiGregorio (Chuck, Reaper).
Ash vs Evil Dead premieres Halloween, October 31st on Starz – and it can't come soon enough!