USA 2015 Dir: Sam Raimi (Pilot episode), Michael J Bassett, David Frazee, Michael Hurst, Tony Tilse, Rick Jacobson. 10 episodes 30 mins each.
30 years after his earlier misadventures, Ash is an ageing yet unrelenting womanizer and still, reliably, a loser. He’s forced back into chainsaw-chugging action after inadvertently summoning the Deadites, facing a world-saving quest with a couple of new sidekicks (and antagonists) in tow. Opening with a marvelous middle-aged spread gag that positions an older Ash exactly as we would expect, the long-awaited reunion of Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi (who directed the first episode and serves as a producer) and the Deadites enjoyably revives the best-remembered ingredients of the original trilogy while adding engaging new characters (Ray Santiago’s Pablo is hugely endearing).
There are plenty of in-jokes and nods for long-term fans, from the ever-present Oldsmobile to the notion of an alternate Evil Ash (more effectively employed here than in ARMY OF DARKNESS) and the short episode length ensures a consistently zippy pace. Whereas the final instalment of the cinematic trilogy softened the grue, this goes all-out with the ultra-violence, with a stand-out mid-season diner massacre and a pleasingly nasty edge that avoids the series ever becoming too slapstick-oriented. Campbell, evidently relishing the chance to return to his most iconic role, is hilarious as a character who delivers at least a dozen quote-worthy one-liners or grimace-inducing chat-up lines every episode. The Deadites are impressively reincarnated, though the decision to employ CG blood and gore in tandem with practical FX occasionally jars. The brisk build-up truly pays off when the narrative takes a detour back to the old, familiar cabin in the woods, showcasing some of the most rousing splatter in television history, at least one shockingly unexpected death, demon children and even a couple of genuinely twisted, unpleasant moments that are true to the spirit of the movie that started it all. Season two starts September 2016, and only a humourless, joyless fool would not be salivating at the prospect.
Review by Steven West