Directed by Rick Jacobson
Premiering on Starz in October 2016
Over the years the San Diego Comic-Con has grown a reputation of being the nerd Mecca. Year after year, all manner of fans, freaks, and people that just want to see what all the fuss is about make the journey to beautiful, sunny San Diego to spend thousands and stand (or sleep) in lines.
As a native San Diegan, I’ve personally been going since I was 12. It’s incredible to see how the convention has grown. It really is as massive as the rumors say it is. The entire downtown transforms in a celebration of all things pop culture.
Comic-Con is more than just advertisements and overpriced parking. For all you can gripe about the crowds or recount the good ol’ days when it was all about comics, Comic-Con has rightfully earned its reputation. People pay hundreds to see the show floor because there is a great variety of unique stuff there. They sleep for days on the lawn because the panels are killer. They travel hundreds of miles and book hotels months in advice to be in a place where, for one weekend at least, they aren’t the weird one for dressing up and playing pretend.
And then there’s the reason I go, which is for the exclusives. Every year, names both big and small bring exclusive first looks at their new titles. Earlier this week, Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton had the chance to check out Blair Witch, which releases to general audiences September 16th. I’m a bit jealous, but for my part I got to check out something just as cool: “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Episode 2.01, slated to air in October. I greatly enjoyed the first season, and in my excitement to get to the room I almost got hit by a train. So, expectations were high.
Which is why I’m sad to say that while I enjoyed this first new episode of “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Season 2, I’m left feeling a bit empty. The episode picks up a year after Season 1 left off, with Ash (Bruce Campbell), Pablo (Ray Santiago), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) all enjoying a life of leisure in Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Ruby (Lucy Lawless) realizes that The Necronomicon is too much for her. Team Ash is once again called back into action and must join up with Ruby to stop the Deadite menace that he kind of created.
Frankly, I don’t need a whole lot of plot to enjoy an Evil Dead vehicle. While you can praise the camera work, effects, and performances, no one is accusing these of being “heady.” The franchise works best when it establishes basic rules, some fun fluff, and then just lets itself run wild with it until all kinds of demons are floating around. I mean, hell, you’re SUPPOSED to kill a Deadite by chopping off its arms, legs, head, and burying it, but they kind of just wave their hand at that rule all the time. So when I say that this episode was kind of dumb, it’s not because I need it to be complicated or intelligent.
To understand why Season 2’s first episode didn’t work for me, you have to understand why Season 1 did. This show is inherently fan service, and fan service is great when it adds something to the franchise. What “Ash vs. Evil Dead” added was heart. In the previous three movies, the character of Ash was an ever building joke, going from frightened teen to a narcissist superhuman with a robot hand. I absolutely love The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness for exactly what each of those films are, and I love the series for being so wild and varied.
When “Ash vs. Evil Dead” came out, I loved it because it put Ash in a new position: the weird one. He’s still the same brash, cocky, oblivious Ash, but the world around him was played mostly straight. Pablo was a bit of a caricature, but his faith and adoration for Ash was a byproduct of him being different. Kelly, Amanda, Ruby, and the rest of the world reacted with the proper mix of “let’s get the job done” and “holy shit” to ground them in some sense of reality. When Ash was his normal self in, say, a random diner, the world would react with the same realistic level of confusion and rejection that any normal human would. It isn’t until the Deadites show up and you need Ash that you really appreciate him (or don’t because you’re too dead to care). I really loved this dynamic because it was a unique take on a hero. His selfish idiocy is an integral part to why he is the chosen one. No one else is that cocky or stupid, and that makes him the perfect candidate to destroy the ultimate evil.
In this first episode of Season 2, we get no sense of that balance at all. Kelly and Pablo are still with him being, respectively, Kelly and Pablo about things, but both are too wrapped up in their own issues to provide any kind of balance to Ash’s antics. When the scene first opens in a bar, we see Ash opening a keg with his chainsaw and shooting glasses out of the air to the cheers of a crowd. Afterwards, he’s immediately approached by a mother/daughter combo looking to schedule intimate appointments with his wiener. Cool, funny, Ash got his wish of a life of leisure in Jacksonville, no big deal. I can get behind seeing one of my favorite characters finally happy for once.
Unfortunately, once he leaves the town, everyone continues to act like extras in the “Ashley Williams Comedy Special.” We’re introduced to his father, played by Lee Majors, and we get to see where Ash got a lot of his bad habits. We also learn about about his home town and the untold repercussions of his experiences in the Evil Dead films. The problem is that everyone is set up like a caricature. From the bossy sheriff to the waitress who’s too good for this small town to the guy screaming at the bar, it’s all delivered with the same level of schlock that Ash does when he holds up a crayon drawing to serve as a police sketch. These moments are funny when played against a rational backdrop. When everyone is being stupid, it feels forced.
My big problem was with the tone and presentation, which unfortunately I can’t go over more of without spoiling anything. So let me take a moment to step back and say that I didn’t at all hate this episode. There’s way more than enough good stuff to make it fun. They go back to a lot of practical effects work this season, so watching the creative ways they make blood fly is always a treat. And shit, do they make the blood fly. As a Californian, I shudder to think how much water they used to spray all of that fake blood. The new monsters are really creepy, exuding both power and menace. They have the most noticeable CGI element, but it works very well for their design. As always, the performances are all top-notch, with Majors feeling like a new natural fit to the show.
I hope that Season 2 will be a load of fun, but from what I saw, it was just enjoyable. My fear is that, hot off of the success of the blood, gore, and cheese of Season 1, they will just try to ramp that shit up to 11. Let’s not forget that what makes all of that fun are the elements that ground us and make all of that seem so extreme. When shit flies off the rails, it’s because nothing was there to hold it down. Perhaps the euphoria of fan hype and the pure charm of Bruce Campbell can elevate media as we know it to a new plane where constant schlock is the new meta. As it was tonight, I didn’t see it.
- virgo02 I really liked the movie when it came out and I still do. I just watched it the other day. I still can't believe they took away the sibling part of the movie. That too me made it more suspenseful. The...
- Nick Greeley Nice clickbait. It’s OLD news that H20 started as a passion project for her, but everything fell apart when Carpenter and Hill didn’t come back, and Moustapha Akkad refused to let the writers kill...
- Mackey Would be awesome if Amazon or Netflix could save "The Exorcist" too
- One-Eye I remember it as being one of the better post SCREAM slasher movies. I certainly haven't watched it since then.
- One-Eye I kind of dig how Osment is just like "Yeah, I'm fat and have a big, bushy beard. And that's how I'm gonna stay now..."
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