Starz revives the deceased, along with goofball Bruce Campbell
It’s a shame that Bruce Campbell isn’t better known. Obviously, among a certain group of film fans, he’s an absolutely legend. But for most, he’s another “that guy”—just a random character actor in a long list of one-off roles.
To his credit, Campbell has had quite a career, and fans of USA’s “Burn Notice” would recognize him instantly. However, I don’t personally know any fans of “Burn Notice.” I do know one guy that is an enormous fan of “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” for reasons that are exclusive to him, but most would be hard-pressed to remember the one-season Fox western from 1993.
Bruce Campbell is a far better actor and performer than his IMDB page might suggest. He is funny and charming, serious and steadfast, and is an example of an actor that hasn’t been given the right opportunity to show his range. If Nicolas Cage can win an Oscar, there is no reason that Bruce Campbell can’t as well.
While his latest role won’t win him any accolades from the Academy, Campbell is returning to his roots on Starz in the role that made him a household name among genre film fans. “Ash vs. Evil Dead” is likely the most entertaining show on television right now—and it wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the talents that made “The Evil Dead” the most recognizable of all cult movies.
“The Evil Dead” was a small-budget horror film by a no-name director that shouldn’t have been successful. This isn’t an unheard of situation. Without “Dead Alive,” we wouldn’t have Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings.” And without “The Evil Dead,” we wouldn’t have Sam Raimi’s “Spider-man.” The brilliance and abilities of both directors are written all over the frames of those early films.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” is a return to form for Sam Raimi, who directs the first episode and sets the tone for the entire series (which has already been renewed for a second season by Starz). It continues the story of “Evil Dead 2,” only 30 years later in a Michigan trailer park. Campbell plays Ash in exactly the same way: an over-the-top goofball, the kind of guy you’d expect to unleash hell on Earth because he was trying to impress a local trollop while stoned.
The pilot episode, titled “El Jefe,” is precisely what fans of the series needed to see. The mixture of comedy and horror is perfect in ways that newer horror directors desperately try to imitate. The “deadites,” as they are called in the “Evil Dead” canon, continue to be horror’s most annoying demonic forces, and meet their end in thoroughly satisfying ways.
If the series can retain the freshness of the story in the face of uncompromising nostalgia, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” will be something to behold.
Of course, there is some disappointment in the absence of any reference to “Army of Darkness,” the final, medieval film in the “Evil Dead” trilogy. According to Raimi, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” exists in an alternative universe following the events of “Evil Dead 2.” This has something to do with absurd Hollywood legality; Raimi, for whatever reason, was unable to retain the rights to “Army of Darkness,” which forces the showrunners to ignore some choice world-building as a consequence.
That being said, any “Evil Dead” is good “Evil Dead” and the show does an excellent job of paying homage to both “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead 2.” Raimi was not on hand to direct all ten episodes this season, so there will likely be some differences from episode to episode. Whether or not this causes the quality to drop as the series progresses is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, Raimi’s role as executive producer allows for a continuity of character and tone throughout.
Regardless, Bruce Campbell is quite at home returning to his most famous role. Ash has kept him afloat for many years and Campbell knows where his bread is buttered. However, this actor is capable of more.
Hopefully, he can showcase his abilities for Starz and someone else will take notice. Bruce Campbell has a lot of life in him yet.