Blu-ray Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead The Complete First Season


THE SET-UP
Aging stock boy Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself in familiar situations when the legions of the Evil Dead return with a vengeance. Also stars Ray Santiago, Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, and Jill Marie Jones.
Executive Producers: Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Craig DiGregorio.

Disc 1: Episodes include 1.1 “El Jefe,” 1.2 “Bait,” 1.3 “Books from Beyond,” 1.4 ”Brujo,” and 1.5 “The Host.”

Disc 2: Episodes include 1.6 “Killer of Killers,” 1.7 “Fire in the Hole,” 1.8 “Ashes to Ashes,” 1.9 “Bound in Flesh,” and 1.10 “The Dark One.” Featurettes include “Inside the World of Ash,” “How to Kill a Deadite,” and “Best of Ash.”


THE DELIVERY
Some 20-plus years since Ash last battled the Evil Dead, long-suffering fans finally had their prayers answered when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell reunited for a ten-episode TV series on Starz. Ash vs. Evil Dead certainly feels right and looks right, and while it doesn’t always deliver on its potential early on, the season finds its stride in the second half. Fans of the original films will be satisfied, while newcomers will likely be won over by the quirky mix of horror and comedy.

Ash vs. Evil Dead acknowledges the passage of time, and even though Campbell is a bit grayer, he hasn’t lost a step, and slips right back into the Ash role like he played it yesterday. Then again, anyone who has met him at conventions knows just how much of the real Bruce Campbell there is in Ash, so his ease in donning the chainsaw hand and boomstick again should be expected.

The season gets off to a strong start with a premiere written and directed by Sam Raimi. The following episodes do lose their footing somewhat, as the show and the characters find the right rhythm. Episode five (“The Host”), however, is an excellent installment that really gets the plot going, and the series kicks into a higher gear for a roller-coaster ending. Die-hard Evil Dead fans will find the final three episodes particularly satisfying.

Most of the special effects are achieved practically, keeping true to the original films and giving the series the 80s-era feel it needed. Besides, CGI gore is a waste of everyone’s time.

Because of licensing issues, the events in Army of Darkness are not referenced, but there are plenty of throwbacks to The Evil Dead. There is a nice tie-in from the original film to a supporting character in the series, but we won’t spoil it. In fact, the series ends up coming full circle to the original film, and fans will love it.


Not every joke lands, and at times, the show briefly drifts into self-parody, but Ash vs. Evil Dead successfully resurrects the quirky, gross-out humor that made us fans to begin with. Rather than just deliver fan service, Ash vs. Evil Dead provides a gory dose of originality and unleashes an even groovier Ash Williams on its audience. Not only is Bruce Campbell in top form, his co-stars provide great chemistry. Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo couldn’t be more perfect as Ash’s unconventional new sidekicks; they provide just the right touch of comedy to keep things from getting too dark. Lucy Lawless plays a fantastic wildcard in the cast; as DeLorenzo says in the audio commentary, she's "Lucy Flawless."

Ash vs. Evil Dead may not be to everyone’s tastes (the humor and gore are especially dark), but if you’re in the right mood, or just inherently twisted, you will love it.

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer on the Blu-ray set is particularly well done. There’s quite a bit of dark and underlit scenes here, but the image still looks fantastic. Color reproduction is spot-on, and detail is sharp. The audio is a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, and at times, it delivers some surprising bass and excellent clarity. Very nicely done for a cable television show.

SPECIAL FEATURES
The Blu-ray set doesn’t include many of the standard special features you would expect. There are three featurettes that provide some nice behind-the-scenes footage, but the real highlight of the extras are the audio commentaries. There is one for every episode, and they are well worth listening to, especially when Campbell is involved. Dana DeLorenzo recorded her commentaries while watching the episodes for the first time, and hearing her reactions to seeing the plot twists play out is hilarious.  Extras include:

“Inside the World of Ash” featurette. Showrunner Craig DiGregorio looks back at every episode of the season, and provides some insight and trivia into each. Running time: 15:59


“How to Kill a Deadite” featurette. Bruce Campbell, crew members, and fans explain how you kill Deadites. It’s a fun watch. Running time: 2:31

“The Best of Ash” featurette. This short promotional piece compiles Ash’s best lines (and kills) from season one. Running time: 1:27


Audio Commentaries. The participants for each episode are as follows:

1.1 “El Jefe” with Creator/Executive Producer/Director Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell.

1.2 “Bait” with Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell, and Actors Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago.

1.3 “Books from Beyond” with Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago.

1.4 “Brujo” with Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago.

1.5 “The Host” with Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago.

1.6 “Killer of Killers” with Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Actress Jill Marie Jones.

1.7 “Fire in the Hole” with Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Jill Marie Jones.

1.8 “Ashes to Ashes” with Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Jill Marie Jones.

1.9 “Bound in Flesh” with Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago.

1.10 “The Dark One” with Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Ash brings the boom and delivers a fun gorefest
Fans of The Evil Dead will love this new incarnation, which perfectly recaptures the feel of the classic films while keeping it fresh and entertaining. Bruce Campbell is at his snarkiest, and the supporting cast is superb. The Blu-ray set offers some outstanding commentaries, and some entertaining featurettes.

BLU-RAY SPECS 
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 294 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “Inside the World of Ash” featurette, “How to Kill a Deadite” featurette, and “The Best of Ash” featurette.
Audio Commentaries: Each episode includes a commentary; participants vary.
Label: Anchor Bay

Click here to order Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray from Amazon!

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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