×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’

With:
Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones, Lucy Lawless

With apologies to “Jerry Maguire,” in the case of “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” Starz probably had the intended audience at hello. The simple kick of seeing Bruce Campbell back in zombie-slayer mode, hip-deep in buckets of gore, is tasty enough that the particular merits of this revival are almost beside the point. Wisely packaged in half-hour intervals after a slightly longer premiere, the series exhibits a kind of numbing repetition (forget binge viewing) but should bring in viewers who aren’t watching “Outlander.” In terms of Starz vs. Waffling Subscribers, that sounds like a victory.

Yes, it really has been 34 years since director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and Campbell (an exec producer too) teamed up on the original movie, which spawned sequels and helped guide everyone toward bigger and better things. So there’s an initial thrill in Campbell re-inhabiting the character of Ash, now billed as the world’s oldest one-handed box boy, who has spent three decades seeking to avoid the storm he unleashed by opening the wrong book in the woods.

Naturally, Ash’s stupidity and questionable judgment lead to his potential undoing. Drunk and stoned, he read from the Book of the Dead to impress a woman, allowing the monsters he’s successfully evaded all these years to zero in on him. With the Deadites back, he receives assistance from his understandably dazed co-workers Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), with some of the interpersonal tension coming from Pablo’s unrequited crush on Kelly.

As a parallel plot, there’s also Det. Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), whose encounter with the Evil Dead leaves her on shaky ground professionally, and on a likely collision course with Ash and his pals. And just to make the show — directed by Raimi, who wrote the premiere with his brother Ivan and Tom Spezialy — even more of a family affair, Tapert’s wife and one-time “Xena” star, Lucy Lawless, appears as a mysterious woman who seems to know more than she’s letting on.

Granted, there are a lot of guts strewn about in cable these days, but few TV programs dabble in gore quite so gleefully, leaving characters drenched in cartoonish sprays of blood, much of it oozing out of creatures that scale walls like a big spider (something with which Raimi should be especially familiar). Campbell, meanwhile, saunters through it all with his trademark swagger, and when Pablo complains about being soaked in muck, Ash helpfully hands him a small, packaged towelette.

Admittedly, the series is basically an extended one-note joke, which makes the half-hour format particularly welcome, inching the story along as Ash — armed with a snap-on chainsaw and traveling via motor home — tries to overcome the forces pursuing him and lay the Dead to rest, once and for all.

With our hero having already sacrificed a hand to the cause, nobody should be surprised if the series version doesn’t possess long legs. But as a short-term lark, it’s goofy, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and certainly feels well-calibrated to a very particular appetite that’s uniquely suited to pay cable.

From that perspective, the show does justice to its campy, low-budget roots. So for now, Ash, his rather motley crew and anyone who dares sit too close to the TV would be well advised to keep those moist towelettes handy.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Ash vs Evil Dead'

(Series: Starz, Sat. Oct. 31, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in New Zealand by Renaissance Pictures.

Crew: Executive producers, Robert Tapert, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Craig DiGregorio; co-executive producers, Rob Wright, Ivan Raimi; producers, Chloe Smith, Aaron Lam, Rick Jacobson, Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes; director, Sam Raimi; writers, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Tom Spezialy; camera, Dave Garbett; production designer, Nick Bassett; editor, Bob Murawski; music, Joseph LoDuca; casting, Lauren Grey. 40 MIN.

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones, Lucy Lawless

More TV

  • David E Kelley

    Looking Back on David E. Kelley's History-Making Double Emmy Wins 20 Years Later

    David E. Kelley thought there’d been a mistake. On Sept. 12, 1999, the prolific showrunner was backstage at the Shrine Auditorium, having just accepted the best drama series Emmy for “The Practice,” when he heard his name called again. Kelley immediately figured that the producers were summoning him out again to take the award away [...]

  • Joel Stillerman Owen Shiflett Content Superba

    Joel Stillerman Launches Endeavor-Backed TV Company, Owen Shiflett Joins in Senior VP Role

    Former Hulu content chief Joel Stillerman is partnering with Endeavor Content on a new television production company. Variety has learned that Stillerman is launching the Endeavor-backed Content Superba, which will be based in Los Angeles. In addition, Shudder and Sundance Now executive Owen Shiflett has joined the company as senior vice president of development and [...]

  • Donick Cary and Kumail NanjianiYoung Literati

    Comedy Central Inks First-Look Animation Deal With Donick Cary

    Comedy Central has signed a first-look animation producing deal with Donick Cary, best known for his work as a former head writer for “The Late Show with David Letterman” and co-executive producer of “The Simpsons” and other shows. Under the terms of his deal, Cary will develop and produce animation projects across all platforms for [...]

  • 'The Boondocks' Revival Lands at HBO

    'The Boondocks' Revival Lands at HBO Max

    HBO Max has ordered a two-season revival of the animated series “The Boondocks.” The 24 new episodes, as well as all 55 episodes of the original series, will launch on the forthcoming streaming service in Fall 2020. The show is based on Aaron McGruder’s comic strips, and the original creator is on board once again [...]

  • TV Ratings: 'America's Got Talent' Tops

    TV Ratings: 'America's Got Talent' Tops 'Bachelor in Paradise' Finale

    After a recent ratings slump, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” bounced back last night to top ABC’s “The Bachelor in Paradise” finale in the ratings. The penultimate episode of season 14 of “AGT,” which saw the contestants give their last performances before Wednesday’s final results, scored an eight-week high 1.6 rating in the key 18-49 demographic, [...]

  • Darren StarTune In! Variety's TV Summit,

    'Sex and the City' Creator Darren Star Joins Mipcom Speaker Lineup

    “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star is set to deliver a Media Mastermind Keynote at Mipcom, the Cannes-set international TV showcase. During a session moderated by Jill Offman, the executive VP of Paramount Network International and Comedy Central International, Star will give his perspective on creativity and is expected to discuss the series he [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content