We can’t forget about the bloodiest show currently on television. That’s not an overstatement. I’ve done the math. Last season, Ash vs Evil Dead easily used hundreds of gallons of various fake bloods, including flooding a room with the red stuff with Kelly trapped inside. Judging from the few on-set selfies and videos the show’s star, Bruce Campbell, dropped on his social media pages earlier in June, they’re on-track to make season three of the Starz show just as gruesome.
Filming for AvED began in New Zealand in early March. The super-tight leash the production team is keeping on the plot means we have nothing to go on beyond a few snapshots and quick Instagram videos from the cast. This could be a response to swapping show-runners before the new season began production. After season two, Craig DiGregorio parted ways with AvED, citing severe creative differences with producer Robert Tapert. It boiled down to Tapert’s vision for Ash stifling the more comedy-driven direction DiGregorio preferred for the universe. Mark Verheiden (Daredevil) stepped in to fill the void for season three. It’s safe to say, the laughs may be more subdued from here on out, but I highly doubt they’re going to take a franchise which thrives on its splatstick moniker and turn it into something as serious as The Walking Dead. Campbell says the secrecy is so they’re free to make season three more outlandish than the last. How they’ll accomplish that, I have no clue. Last season was a head-scratcher, what with the Ashy Slashy puppet and all.
The gang will be in New Zealand for a few more months. On May 6th, cast and crew celebrated the halfway point with a party, as one rightly should. That puts them firmly on schedule for the season. However, Starz has yet to announce a release date for the new episodes. Don’t ask Campbell for a release date, either. He’ll direct the question to the Almighty Starz Overlords with some form of biting sarcasm. If they stick to the usual schedule, expect to see the season premiere sometime around Halloween.
There may not be a date for season three, but they just announced that AvED season two will arrive on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD on August 22nd. The boxset includes audio commentaries, an inside look at S2’s production, and featurette’s like “Women who kick Ash” and “How to kill a Deadite.”
Second Coming: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 210 by A. Zombie
Henrietta doesn’t get the satisfaction of killing her idiot, Sumerian-reading husband. After he bolts with the Necronomicon, he’s stopped dead in his tracks in his VW Bug. The Prima Donna isn’t alone on her stage anymore. Enter Ruby. Again. This one is blonde. And very angry. It takes her no time to secure the book. Since it’s a short-format show, they waste no time jumping into the temporal-paradox thing by having Ruby meet herself. Past!Ruby is aghast she’d eventually team with El Jefe, seeing it as a betrayal. Now!Ruby speaks her heart, warning herself about her fall from immortality. But all Ruby has wanted is a family, turning her back on her children when she’s moments from bringing them into the world is impossible. Plus, she’s super evil. Ruby kills Ruby. Before she’s too weak, Now!Ruby does a little magic with the Necronomicon one last time to hurt her past self, then hands the burden off to Kelly. They really did try to send the kinder Ruby off with something resembling grace and compassion, giving her and Ash time to say goodbye in their own, bizarre way.
Her sacrifice is worth it the minute Ash’s hand reappears and Kelly announces they’ve actually changed the timeline. But wait, if he has a hand then . . . . Yes! Pablo lives. Kidding. Kinda. TheirPablo is in the demon realm. The Pablo in the trunk? Baal. Dude pulled a Skywalker and buried himself in the nearest warm body to survive. Ash’s vision wasn’t grief or drugs, it was Baal putting the whammy on him so he could find a new Ruby to manipulate. This time, Daddy is present for his spawns’ births. The birthing scene isn’t nearly as traumatic when the book vomits them instead of Pablo.
There is, of course, only one way to settle this beef between El Jefe and Baal—a fist fight. No powers. Man against man, without all that mumbo jumbo. The stakes? The demonic duo and their progeny scoot back south-side if Ash wins. If he loses? Hell on earth. And the spawn get to eat Kelly. The guys fight each other from one end of the cabin to the other. It takes about two or three destroyed rooms for Baal to use his powers. Ash faces off with Chet, who’s amazingly sober, and the fight is as funny as expected. The second ghost of the night appears not as a huge man living in the now, but as Ash’s sister Cheryl. She’s in and out of the scene so quickly, it’s easy to miss it. The Ghost of Christmas Past is Brock. There’s an agonizing moment where it’s impossible to tell if this is a demon trick or if Brock was brought back to life to screw with Ash’s head—I’m still not clear on it. Somehow we go from mourning Brock again to a chainsaw fight. Ultimately, all the fighting is there for the sight gags and cameos. The real fight is one of wits just when it looks like Baal will win. Ash disarms Ball with his crude humor and uses the demon’s own claw to kill him.
Ruby uses the downtime before her lover’s death to seduce Ruby to the darkside. It doesn’t work, of course. Not even after Ruby tries to beat optimism and loyalty to Ash out of her. Their scenes break up the fight, feeling more like an excuse to hit Kelly or have the demon spawn fondle her than anything which adds to the story.
The Necronomicon has a fit. It summons a portal to hell and in go the baddies. Luckily for us, portals are a two-way street. Like the beautiful phoenix he is, Pablo crawls from the ashes of the cabin. Is it really our little buddy? Ash hits him to make sure. Poor Pablo can’t catch a break. What a way to welcome back a hero.
Speaking of, Ash’s longtime service to humanity has finally been recognized. Once they return to the present, the town sets up a day just for Ash. Really, it’s a platform for Ash to finally tell the populace how awful they’ve been to him. They don’t mind the blunt outburst. They will probably mind that he’s moving back to town, since he’ll likely be up to his drunken, drugged-out ways sooner rather than later. Ash isn’t the only new person in town, Past!Ruby took her own time stroll. She didn’t perish in the hellfire which destroyed the cabin, and she wants revenge. It’ll be easier than she thinks, seeing as a bunch of kids just stumbled across the Necronomicon at the cabin’s ruins. Here we go again.
Home Again: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 209 by A. Zombie
How on earth did they go from mourning Pablo to hopping back to the past? A lot of booze, grief, and a joyride, all topped off with an angeldust-laced joint. With that magical mixture, Ash summons Pablo’s smartass spirit—or has a hell of a hallucination—and they work out another plan which is sure to fail, but the gang will try anything to save their fallen buddy. After Ash scares Ruby into compliance by driving erratically, they use the spell on Pablo’s chest to play the time warp again. Ash didn’t travel back to days of old this time. Well, unless you consider 1982 ancient history.
Yeah, about that reading off Pablo thing—he’s riding shotgun on this mission. They lovingly duct taped plastic bags around his body to keep his insides in . . . side. But to make him easier to transport, they have his feet above his head, and it’s really hard to watch any scene featuring Pablo’s bisected corpse. It’s just gross and absurdly sad. Leaving Ash as the catalyst to get Pablo back is plain mean to fans. The odds of him succeeding are slim. This story arc is probably a reset button to really play with the powers in the Necronomicon, and maybe turn Pablo into a real boy again. They destroyed the book, our main antagonist, only two seasons into a show with no projected end, then its replacement fell to pieces from the pressure before fully transforming. There’s no one to fight on the show unless they allow Ash to do his time travel thing. With Ash tinkering in the past to stop the book before it ruins their lives, he’s bound to fudge up their lives in horrific, yet comedic ways. I’ll take it if we get Pablo back. The balance with this cast is vital to the show’s success. Drop just one of the main group and it’ll never have the same vibe again.
Episode 209 is also the prequel to Evil Dead that everyone has badgered Raimi about for years. We’re dropped into the story not that long before Ash and his sister are supposed to visit the cursed cabin in the woods. Ray Knowby, the man who recovered the Necronomicon in an excavation, is at home with his wife, and a student who’s there to assist translating the book. Seems like a peaceful afternoon at a bookworm’s house. That’s until you see that Henrietta Knowby is leashed to a basement support beam like a rabid Doberman and creeptastic Ray needs more than just translating from his student, Tanya.
Meanwhile, the gang drops off their car and tucks Pablo into the trunk—with a helpful note should he resurrect like Jesus on a random Sunday in the Spring. They barely make it five feet when Evil swoops in, chasing them through the dense forest. The gang splits, Ash finding the Knowby’s cabin and the women end up deeper in the wild portion of forest. For the most part, Ruby and Kelly are there to demonstrate more nods to the films. They bitch about Ash, then are attacked by demonic trees. Teamwork saves the day. If Kelly needs a gig after Ash fixes the timeline (ha!), she could totally open a private eye firm where she hunts demons. Maybe Ruby could help, since she’s without that whole immortal thing now.
We take a beat for another infamous Ash Hits Himself fight scene—this is a nod to AoD when Ash is infected by evil and attacked by miniature duplicates of himself, one of which he ingests, boils, and eventually it becomes the leader of the Deadite army. There’s no doppelganger action in the episode, but the creature Ash vomits sure does have a foul mouth. I think I found my new best friend in that little lump of what-the-hell-is-that. Too bad Ash kills it.
Remember Henrietta from the original film? That makeup stuck with fans for a long time—worn by franchise regular Ted Raimi. Fast-forward to now. In order to bring a classic monster like Henrietta to life, it requires an army, and there’s two of her to really drive home the transformation between human and deadite. Now that doesn’t mean they actually attempted to mask Ted’s identity once the swap happened. Nope. Not that anyone would want to hide Ted. He set the tone for the creatures in the franchise, seeing him don Henrietta’s skinsuit again is oddly satisfying and something I didn’t know I needed from the show until the minute I realized they had indeed swapped the “living” actress for the man who created the role for the big fight—which isn’t even done. There’s more to look forward to in the finale!
Christmas came early, that’s for sure. It’ll be a merry one if we get Pablo back, too. First, Ash has to defeat the hag—again—and snatch the Necronomicon from a man who’s got nothing left to lose, since his wife’s possessed and all. Piece of cake. Cue nervous laughter.
Delusion Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 207 by A. Zombie
Campbell’s performance in the episode is pretty stellar, especially in the moments Ash honestly cannot tell which way is up and who is who. He didn’t fall back on the manic crazy we usually see when Campbell’s character’s snap. There’s genuine concern coming from Ash, particularly when it comes to maintaining the safety of the Ghostbeaters while in the grips of Baal’s hallucinations. He’s vulnerable. When Linda comes in to visit, he acts unclean or unworthy of her care, recoiling from her touch. It’s refreshing to see so much depth from the character when the season started with nothing but hedonism.
Then there’s the Ashy Slashy puppet show. The promos were cringe-worthy, practically promising half an hour of Campbell arguing with his hand while alternating with innuendos aplenty. Camp is what the franchise eats for breakfast, but an entire puppet episode for a horror show is too much. Luckily, someone realized that and cut the Ashy Slashy puppet’s bits into two sections. What could’ve been overwhelming is quite palatable, if you’re okay with a foul-mouthed puppet talking about sexual functions. My main beef with the entire gag is the moments when it’s obvious Campbell isn’t operating the puppet. Either that or Campbell has forearms nearly four feet long. While I’m all for giving puppeteers a job, the way they choreographed movement to disguise it only made it that much more obvious.
In the delusion, Ruby is Nurse Ratchet and wants nothing to do with Ash, as Baal would have it in reality. Her scenes are few, usually just a short exchange to drive home how much the demon lord doesn’t want Ash near “his woman.” Pablo gets some revenge, given the job of overbearing orderly in the asylum. He routinely attacks and zaps Ash with a cattle prod—all the abuse is aimed toward driving the wedge deeper between the men so Ash will fulfill Baal’s true purpose for him. The show-stealer is Kelly’s whackjob alter-ego. She’s entrancing the moment she speaks, and more so when peeking through her filthy hair. Honestly, if actors want a quick lesson in acting crazy across a wide range, just pay attention to what Dana DeLorenzo does in her first scene for the episode.
Eventually, the mind games work. Ash believes he’s killed his friends, sister, and rotted for thirty years in an asylum. He tells Dr. Peacock he’s ready to face his delusions. The good doctor has only one solution: Destroy the Necronomicon. Uhh, isn’t Pablo the book now? Ut oh.
Then again, it could all be a ploy because Ash saw something outside the window and he knows the only way to get out is to make Baal believe he’s giving in. Guess we’ll see. The team is outside the asylum, and Ash has vowed to kill the book.
Trapped Inside Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 206 by A. Zombie
No one else is impressed by Pablo’s demonic seizure outside Ash’s childhood home. They drag him inside and immediately devise a game plan. Unfortunately for Pablo, that plan requires him to get sicker before Ruby has the correct spell to banish Baal. Ash’s plan is simpler, crude, and bound to fail—track down Baal and cram his chainsaw up the demon’s backside. Ignoring the awful Plan B, Ruby and Lacey take Pablo up to Ash’s room to perform a ritual that’ll speed up the process of turning him into a book. Wait, what? Yeah, it’s not a much better plan, but guarantees Ash won’t taste his own chainsaw when Baal wins that fight. They toss in a nice throwback to season one and uncle Brujo, using the charm he left behind as a way to make Ruby’s spell go awry. It takes Kelly emotionally manhandling Pablo—convincing him he is in control on the convergence with the book—for the correct spell to blister on Pablo’s skin. Brujo’s amulet goes back on Pablo to slow his transition to book of the dead. It’s a temporary fix, but will work. They’ve got other concerns which pop up during the course of the ritual in Ash’s room.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Baal’s best ally in the war on Ash is Sheriff Emery. The guy’s had it out for Ash for decades, even went so far as to marry the woman Ash had a relationship with before the first encounter with the Necronomicon. Old blood feuds have deep roots, something Baal banks on when he starts his mental manipulation. It takes about two minutes to convince the sheriff to gather a mob to recapture Ash. The demon hops into a new skin-suit for the occasion, a loud-mouthed woman who I think is the mother of one of the Classic’s victims. Could be wrong. The dialog for the mob is often jumbled together and muted as Baal works his mojo on Emery. Elk Grove hasn’t faced anything like Baal before, but they’ve also never come up against Kelly and her pure crazy. She and Linda hold the line, firing warning shots at the mob to buy Ruby time for the spell.
There’s a side-effect of invoking the book of the dead, deadites. Well, in this case, just one in particular. Talk about a shout-out to the source material, Ash’s sister Cheryl comes back to extend the family reunion theme for this season. Ellen Sandweiss returns to the franchise, playing Cheryl as she’d look if she survived the trip to the cabin. The makeup for Cheryl’s deadite look has been morphed to fit the style set for the show, but remains faithful to the original film. Her scenes are amusing, full of atrocious puns referring to her demise by tree. The interaction between the siblings is reminiscent of how the early deadites preferred to play more than just kill.
Unfortunately for Chet, he chose an awful day to break into Ash’s house and, uh, fantasize about Cheryl while alone in her room. Things go from fun and games to bloody mess pretty fast once Cheryl has an innocent bystander to use against her brother. The outcome is heartbreaking. While I’d hoped Chet would stick around to play bigger buffoon to Ash’s moron, he’s no match for the evil in his buddy’s life.
The plus side of Cheryl pushing Ash too far? Now maybe Elk Grove will believe him when he says he kills demons. Pissed over losing his friend, Ash takes the fight public to make a point—he’s been saving their hateful, backwards selves for years, but they’re too dumb to realize it. Cheryl starts off with a human face in public, but Ash goads her into showing her dead face. As expected, the crowd opens fire. Ash is the one to land the killing blow, though.
There’s no time for celebration. Baal and the sheriff step in and take control before the blood spatter on Ash’s face cools. He’s knocked out, leaving the remaining mob, plus his team, without humanity’s savior. One step forward, a whole football field back.
This week, horror fans got their fill of character’s brains on the ground. While the other show took every opportunity to draw out the drama from the character’s deaths, AvED went full splatstick, showing close-ups while Ash attempts to piece his father together again after the Classic mowed him down. It’s no use. There’s not enough skull intact to hold it all in place, plus Brock’s missing an eye—which is neatly embedded in the Delta’s grille. It stares down Pablo and Ash while they discuss a plan of action over Brock’s corpse. The plan, apparently, is for Pablo to charge the possessed car by himself and become its captive alongside the sheriff’s daughter. Pretty sure that’s not how one wins the war against evil.
Pablo’s newfound bravery is a farce. He’s reacting purely from fear and Evil knows it, manipulating Pablo to do what it wants through his bizarre connection to the Necronomicon. Matter of fact, the fallout from one conversation with the book changes everything for Ash and his team. We’ve waited so long for Pablo to finally step up and be the hero, but he’s going about it the wrong way. So now we get to sit and watch him set the world ablaze. Neat. Maybe we’ll get more super-intense visions, like the car crash, along the way. I loved the mild shock from watching Pablo stagger around with a steel bar longer than he is tall through his chest.
The possessed Delta isn’t their only problem. In true men-sense, the guys completely overlook the demonspawn still camped in the crematorium in favor of chasing the Classic to the local demolition derby stadium. Ash even takes a highly intoxicated Chet along for the pursuit. That leaves the ladies on the team to take care of Ruby’s ill-behaved children. What Ruby didn’t take into account is that they’ve spent their time gaining strength in order to fulfill their father’s wishes. The spawn are way stronger than their mother now. Kelly saves Ruby’s bacon a couple times—gratitude is a sensation I’m sure is completely foreign to Ruby. This is the first solid moment the ladies have had where they were just as hardcore as the men without eventually falling back on Ash’s uncanny competence at killing in order to win the day’s battle. They mow through the demonspawn with a couple close-calls on the getting maimed front.
Unfortunately, killing the demonspawn doesn’t do a thing to slow Baal’s roll. Pablo gives him a Get Out Of Hell Free card when he listens to the Necronomicon and together they open a hellgate in the Classic’s trunk. Great. Now we’re cooking with fire. Bring on the big bad. Things are about to get even worse and I cannot wait.
Pablo and Kelly sling beer at a dive bar in Jacksonville, FL while Ash makes himself the life of the party. For one of them, life after the deadite invasion is golden. There’s plenty of hot chicks, alcohol, and his little lizard buddy is there to play wingman. Ash’s happiness is hollow and fleeting, like a chocolate bunny left in an oven. Things are amiss with the dark side. They’re gonna need the bumbling savior once again.
Enter the deadites, and they’ve got a message from the woman in charge, “The truce is over.” Ash’s fighting skills were swapped for keg-cutting and flirting. The fights are slapstick, with Ash struggling to do the heroic moves he’d mastered over years fighting evil. The deadites, primarily a woman he’d flirted with before crap hit the fan, taunt Ash with “Ashy Slashy” rhymes. There’s only one way Ruby knows exactly how to get under his skin—she’s in Elk Grove, his hometown.
There’s no waffling around, when Ash reaches Elk Grove, he stops by the old homestead. Enter Brock Williams—Ash’s cantankerous, unsupportive father, who greets house guests by firing a warning shot past their ear. There’s no love in his heart for his wayward, murdering son or his sidekick, Pablo, but he really wants a date with Kelly. The offer is shot down before he finishes asking her out.
With nothing more than a city’s name, the gang’s gonna need some help finding Ruby. Too bad Ash is the town’s local serial killer and they want less than nothing to do with him, or his mission to save mankind. Linda Bates is the sole kind soul at the bar Ash visits looking for information. Her kindness ends where her husband’s hatred begins, though. Sheriff Thomas Emery would gladly tar and feather Ash if given the chance.
Pablo ends up proving his usefulness . . . by having wicked violent hallucinations linking his mind to the Necronomicon again. The hallucinations, and Pablo’s mind, are sharp enough to feed the gang the clues they need to find Ruby. It’s too easy. They’re totally walking into a trap.
It’s actually a trap for the Mother of Darkness. Ruby’s been cornered in Elk Grove’s crematorium since the freak deadite storm in Florida. Her babies, those freaky little bastards, matured into malicious demonspawn hellbent on using the Necronomicon to their own devices—personal theory, they want to summon Great Daddy Evil and get the family reunion really rolling. The only way Ruby knows to contain the new evil threat is with Ash’s help. There’s a boatload of character development for Ruby in her brief scenes. Necessary development since it’s well known the character didn’t have much on paper when Lawless took on the role for season one. As much as I enjoy watching Ash fumble through his savior complex, I want to see what Lawless can do with Ruby. There’s great potential for her to go good or evil, and that’s the real attention-grabber for season two. When it comes time to decide, will Ruby back Ash or will she fall to old ways and reign over evil once her darling problem children are disposed of?
The adult demonspawn are freaky. There’s awesome physical movement from the one who attacks Pablo, in particular. It’s easy to rely on scary makeup to push the point, but changing the way the creature moves to make it truly inhuman makes a simplistic design much more effective. They also morph into shadow creatures and take on human form, adding infinite opportunity to mix up fight scenes if these guys are going to stick around as the primary kill-target this season.
With the gang together again, they’re off to stop Ruby’s great mistake. So, what are the odds Ash annoys her so much she tries to kill him before they’ve been on the road an hour?
How does one figure out which Ash is which? Let them babble long enough for you to recognize just why the real one annoys you so much. It works well for Kelly and Pablo. Once they take out BadAsh, the gang is forced to divide and conquer. Ash stays inside to dispose of the bodies before they turn deadite. Pablo and Kelly head outside to stop Brad, Heather, and Brad’s wife from discovering the grisly scene in the cabin. Matter of fact, they’re so willing to keep these hikers from becoming deadite fodder, the duo offer to escort them to the road.
Just one hitch in the plan. When Ash finishes disposing of his doppelganger, and having a chat with the Necronomicon, Amanda’s body is missing. Not for long. DeadAmanda stops the fleeing hikers. Not to be rude, she even performs a puppet show for them. Unfortunately, she is fresh out of puppets, so Brad and his wife have a little room made in their heads to accommodate DeadAmanda’s hands for the performance. What’s the play? Oh, just a little comedy starring Kelly and Pablo, highlighting how pathetic they are. DeadAmanda pins the duo with the corpses, leaving Heather to fend for herself. The woman wisely runs. She makes it pretty far before being caught, toyed with, and thrown into a tree where she suffers a compound fracture. Pablo tries to save Heather. Tries.
Suddenly from the trees, Ruby to the rescue! DeadAmanda doesn’t hang around long for the fight. The second Ruby’s guard is down, the deadite books it. There’s a nice bit where Ruby rants about Ash and his oafish ways with the Necronomicon while dismembering Heather’s friends so they don’t come back. It’s a classic gross-out splatstick gag.
We finally get to see Ash and Ruby together. Though at this point in the game, I’m still not sure which one to trust with the future of mankind. Ash thinks with his junk and accidentally unleashed evil on middle America. Ruby, on the other hand, is a mysterious badass fighter who came out of nowhere, but seems to know a lot about how to fight evil. She could even be a competent ally in disposing of the book.
Ruby convinces Ash the key to destroying the Necronomicon involves defacing—literally—the book with her super special dagger before burying it. At no point during this whole ritual does Ash stop and listen to Ruby’s word choice. It’s not until she’s reading from the book and hell starts creeping closer to the cabin that he thinks to take the book back from her. Damage done, dude. The Necronomicon’s loose face launches at Pablo, wrapping around his face like a mask. What can they do? Does Ruby actually know what she’s doing? Duh? She wrote the thing.
Ruby being the Necronomicon’s creator is a pretty awesome twist to what little folklore was ever explored for the book. Too bad we learn this right before the season finale. Thank goodness we know season two is on the way. Maybe they’ll expand on Ruby and her connection to the Necronomicon. Then again, it could be a finale where Ash kills everyone. Who knows with this show.