“Ash vs Evil Dead” is the TV series continuation of the beloved tetralogy (soon to be pentalogy) EVIL DEAD, by Sam Raimi starring Bruce Campbell, that began in 1981, with the first movie.
Craig DiGregorio, Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert, and Sam Raimi produced the series, and as of now, it’s three seasons. The rest of the main cast are Ray Santiago, as Pablo Simon Bolivar, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell, and Lucy Lawless as Ruby Knowby.
Last year I read an announcement that there isn’t a fourth season planned. Still, a fifth feature-length movie is in the works.
The episodes of “Ash vs Evil Dead” last for around twenty-five minutes and the wisecracks-per-minute content is rather high. This show has a lot of snarky lines, jokes, and comedy moments, but it also delivers on the gore and spooky visuals aspects.
Each season has ten episodes, this makes each season total running time be something like two-three movies in length.
Some Personal and Evil Dead Background
I decided to write this long-form article about Ash vs Evil Dead because I’m a fan of Sam Raimi as a director in general, and of Evil Dead in particular.
The first movie of the Evil Dead saga I watched was Army of Darkness and from that day, I was hooked on Evil Dead media (and Sam Raimi) forever.
For me, even if I started by the third, and loved it, my favorite would be the first.
It’s difficult for me to say which one of the three first was better than the others for me, but the first movie has something I can’t precisely pin down, maybe the campy scene when Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) had turned into a deadite. Also, the feel of seclusion that permeates that movie.
This without counting that it’s a time-capsule to the early 1980s and the look of the contemporary culture and the texture of film given by the technical characteristics of the era (blown-up 35 mm + Dolby Vision post-processing) give a movie-buff- and-vintage head like me a heightened experience of aesthetic pleasure.
All the movies in the saga and the series are black comedies. They are from a sub-genre of horror and black comedy that scholars call splatstick, a word that’s a portmanteau of splatter and slapstick.
Ash vs Evil Dead is a continuation of the movies. It includes some trips to the cabin in the woods of the movies. Still, the setting is I’d say 70-80% in town/suburban locations.
Ash vs Evil Dead Seasons One to Three Review
Season one is about how Ashley is, 20-odd-years after his last adventure, still haunted but what happened to him before because of the cursed book Necronomicon ExMortis, and his quest to end the curse.
Season two is about recovering the Necronomicon after Ash loses it in episode two of the season. Season 2 also packs a mindscrew episode, “Delusion” in which the story plays with Ash’s and the viewer’s minds.
This season focuses on the two antagonists Ruby and Baal and their relationship, and also on the death of Pablo. Near its end, this season goes on a time-traveling tangent, but time travel is expected in the world of Evil Dead.
Season three, in its beginning, deals with the resolution of the time travel subplots that had started in season two. It also resolves the subplot of Pablo’s death and possession of his body.
Season three also has a memorable part when Pablo travels to (I’m guessing) the deadlands, and meets Brujo, his uncle. Pablo becomes the successor of his uncle and becomes now as El Brujo Especial.
Season three introduces a couple of themes that could have expanded the Evil Dead universe and could have given this series a lot of source material from which to continue indefinitely.
I’m talking about the Neitherworld (Hell) and the Deadlands (a plane between the earth and Hell). Another highlight of season three is Kelly’s going through the same ordeal of daying and going to Deadlands that Pablo suffered.
I loved this series, binged on it, and for me, the three seasons were like watching five to nine Evil Dead movies a small bit a time.
I loved the gore in this series. AvED makes a point of its gore and makes you remember it as a gory TV series especially with something that repeats episode after episode. The teaser.
The teaser at the beginning of each episode is always around two minutes, and it always ends with some grotesque splatterpunk scene that melds with the series’ bumper to signal that the episode had started.
I didn’t like about AvED that when the series brought to the table something that was long due, the expansion of the narrative with the introduction of the Neitherworld and the Deadlands, it got axed.
Hopefully, we’ll get to see some of that in ED5 and future installments of the series.
I would recommend this series, obviously, to all the fans of the saga and even to those that thought the movies were just mildly amusing. Especially if you like the comedy part.
I wouldn’t bother to tell someone that thinks that a TV series has to be the the audiovisual equivalent to a novel or similarly literary work, because AvED is not that.
Things I Learned Watching AvED
One of the things I learned with this TV series is that if you’re a household name you can break into the scene without having to follow the current trends at all.
When Ash vs Evil Dead arrived, in the year 2015, black comedy-horror TV shows weren’t trending. I picked three years up to 2015 in horror TV series to see how the environment was trending in respect to horror comedy.
2012-2014 Horror Series Genres most to less Trendy
1. Horror Drama
2. Horror Thriller
3. Supernatural Horror
4. Horror Fantasy
5. Horror Comedy
6. Horror Mystery
7. Action Horror
8. Adventure Horror
9. Psychological Horror
10. Teen Horror
The trend was actually horror drama, with thriller, supernatural, and fantasy horror (in that order) following close behind. Then and only then, in the fifth place did horror-comedy.came up.
I share the view of many, that if this series would have been made for Netflix, then it would have become a mainstay of the platform.
It probably doesn’t mean anything that the series got axed. It’s none of the fan’s business to lucubrate about why it happened, but fans will always speculate why, even before checking the official reason.
My personal guess is that they partnered with Starz after considering the limited reach they were going to get and thought that it would give them more credibility to augment the saga’s cult pedigree but also, but also to make its distribution rather niche?
I don’t know, but tough luck that worse series keep on being made and this classic saga had to cease.
You know the movies never took themselves that seriously and that quality of the franchise made it all the more awesome.
They have a lot of humor and satire. One of the most memorable satires of the series for me was the Brujo storyline that felt kind of Castanedan (if that’s a word) to me. It could have become a food-for-thought subplot involving the coolest things about all that lore.
If you don’t think horror and black comedy mix well, then don’t watch it because that’s what it is. If you would demand that by the end of season three you must have watched a definitive story that wraps up all the threads perfectly, also, don’t watch it; it ends pretty much with several different cliffhangers.
Script and how Ash vs Evil Dead Looks
It’s easy to get lost in the plot because it’s super simple. It’s a race to the top between good and evil for the possession of the Necronomicon ExMortis.
There’s something tricky about the locations of AvED, it’s supposed to be Michigan, but they actually filmed the whole production in Auckland, New Zealand. That says something about the capacity of the technical talent that made it possible.
The mise-en-scene of this series is top-notch. I’m a hardcore fan of the Evil Dead franchise. It’s one of my top five horror fictional universes and the general look of the locations is what I expected them to look.
On top of that, the script and the acting were enjoyable for me, even if I didn’t make too much sense of the plot. Again, that’s because the plot is just a back and forth in the hunt for the Necronomicon ExMortis and all the actions and reactions involved in that quest.
Like I already expressed elsewhere in this article, I was waiting for the plot to thicken in season three or four. The narrative came to a place at the end of season three where it was obvious that the story was going to get much more interesting, so it’s a pity that the show had to be discontinued.
It’s difficult to decide what a personal top-five and a personal top three horror TV series would be for me, but it’s not that difficult to situate Ash vs Evil Dead in it, which for me is second only to The Walking Dead.
I already wrote why TWD is my favorite, and I’m still thinking which place on my top five horror TV series I’m going to put Ash vs Evil Dead in. Still, I think that due to its comedy moments it is certainly one of those you should watch to balance your mood when too many depressive horror-drama narratives get to your head.