• Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series (Lionsgate) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: October 2nd, 2018.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Jill Marie Jones, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Ted Raimi, Lee Majors, Arielle Carver-O'Neill
    Year: 2015 - 2018
    Purchase From Amazon

    Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series – Movie Review:

    When word got out that Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were brining Ash back in television form, rather than in a new Evil Dead feature film, there was plenty of concern voiced loud and clear by the franchise’ very vocal fan community. And for good reason. There was, after all, a very good chance that the property would be further homogenized after already being somewhat tamed down for Army Of Darkness. When the trailers and promo spots started hitting the web, however, some of the naysayers started to clam up. This looked good! Maybe this would work after all…

    The series takes place years after the events in Evil Dead (Army Of Darkness isn’t referenced here as it is owned by Universal). Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell, of course), spends his days working as a clerk at ValueShop and his nights bopping about with ladies of ill repute and drinking booze in his trailer. You’d think the loss of his hand might be a detriment here, but nope, it allows him to make up cool stories to impress the floozies about how he lost it in the first place! Ash being Ash, however, unwittingly recites a passage from the Necronomicon, the book of the dead that he keeps in the trunk of his car, and in doing so summons the demons that have plagued him in the past.

    Ash decides to split, but before he can is co-workers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly, (Dana DeLorenzo), join up with him. Pablo thinks that Ash is the one known as ‘El Hefe,’ a mighty warrior type, while Kelly just wants to know what’s going on with her family. Meanwhile, a cop named Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) and her partner investigate some strange events at an otherwise normal suburban home. One of Ash’s girlfriends is there, possessed, and she makes short work of the partner. Fisher starts to think that Ash is the one behind this killing and a few others that have happened in town, and so she sets out to find him with some help from a mysterious woman named Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless).

    Ash, Kelly and Pablo hit the road in hopes of stopping the evil that follows them, but of course, it won’t be easy, especially with Fisher and Knowby on their trail and with the demon Eligos and scores of deadites laying in waiting. It all stems back to that cabin in the woods…

    Ash Vs Evil Dead, for the most part, hits the right mix of horror and humor. It’s goofy, gory and frequently very over the top but there are moments where the series is genuinely intense, even a bit frightening. Sam Raimi only directed the first episode but his stamp is all over the series. That means you should expect some quirky camera angles and lots of movement, frantic pacing and some impressive moments of inspired lunacy. The effects are generally well done, though there is a fair bit of CGI that is obviously just that, and the makeup work is often impressive, particularly when it comes to the appearance of the deadites and the demons that populate the series.

    Where the series really benefits, however, is the casting. It won’t surprise anyone to see Campbell so comfortable in his role. He plays Ash as older, though not necessarily wiser, which makes sense given how much time has passed. The sarcasm, the dopey one liners, the quirky smile – it’s all there, this is Campbell in his zone. It might come as more of a surprise to see how well Campbell gels with the other characters. DeLorenzo and Santiago, essentially Ash’s sidekicks here, are both a lot of fun and bring their own unique traits to their respective characters. Their back stories wind up playing a pretty large part in the storyline as well, and these relative newcomers are a kick to watch. Likewise, Jill Marie Jones as the lady cop is really strong and Lucy Lawless works well here too. Ash remains Ash throughout the series, no one would really want him to change, so surrounding him with these different characters that do evolve a fair bit throughout the season makes sense and gives the first run of episodes a bit more meat on their bones.

    Picking up pretty much exactly where the first season left off, the second season of Ash Vs. Evil Dead beings in Jacksonville, Florida where Ash, is partying it up while Pablo and Kelly do all the dirty work. This doesn’t last long, however, because after a deadite appears Ash figures that the truce they’d made with Ruby has been broken. Ash figures he knows where Ruby will try to find him – his home town of Elk Grove, Michigan, and so he and his two travelling companions load into the car and make the drive. Upon their arrival they meet Ash’s father, Brock (Lee Majors), and it becomes pretty clear to both Pablo and Kelly where Ash gets his attitude from. They also learn that everyone in Elk Grove thinks Ash is insane after word got back that he hacked up four of his friends in a cabin in Tennessee a few decades back – the locals refer to him as Ashy Slashy.

    When they meet up with Ruby and learn that she hid the Necronomicon inside a corpse at het morgue. Why? Because the creepy kids she helped to create have turned against her. Ash and Kelly head to the morgue to get the book while Pablo and Ruby stay put to deal with the creepy kids. As the story progresses we find out that Ash’s old flame Linda (Michelle Hurd) is married to a sheriff (Stephen Lovatt) who would really rather see Ash take off and never come back – and then the Delta gets possessed and goes on a rampage. We also find out about Ash’s old pal Chet (Ted Raimi) and what happened to his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss).

    As the season progresses, Pablo starts to experience waking nightmares, the demon Baal (Joel Tobeck) arrives on Earth and starts making things difficult for our heroes, with Ash winding up framed for a murder that he didn’t commit. When he wakes up from a nightmare and finds himself in an asylum under the care of Doctor Peacock, things only get weirder before the big-time travelling finale that ties everything in to the first Evil Dead movie.

    Not only is this second season of Ash Vs. Evil Dead much gorier than the first (or anything else on television, for that matter – this show gets RED!), it’s also quite a bit funnier, a fair bit scarier and it’s much better in the pacing department. In the first season, Ash had almost zero character development. He remained the constant while Kelly and Pablo sort of evolved through their experiences working with him. While the remains the case for much of the running time of this second season, there are at least a few moments here that do change Ash, and that makes for interesting viewing in and of itself. In short, this second go round manages to take what great about the more uneven first season and run with it, resulting in a much more satisfying ten episode run.

    As to the acting, this was clearly made as a showcase for Campbell’s talents as a comedic actor and his status as a horror movie icon. He’s great in the part – he’s a smart ass, he’s dominated by his id, he’s not the sharpest tool in the drawer – but he’s a good guy to have on your side in a fight. He has good chemistry with Dana DeLorenzo (who has a few genuinely fierce moments in this season that really make her stand out) and Ray Santiago (who is mostly comic relief, though to be fair there are some more intense horrific moments that revolve around his character here where he shines). Lucy Lawless is also a lot of fun in her part, and it’s great to see Lee Majors perfectly cast as Ash’s father. Ted Raimi is a kick as Ash’s hard drinking bartender pal – the two of them seem to have basically stopped evolving once they turned eighteen and we get some genuinely funny moments between them – and seeing Ellen Sandweiss return in a way that not only makes sense but helps to further the story is also a nice touch.

    Production values are strong across the board. There are some moments here and there where the CGI is a bit questionable but thankfully this isn’t a constant. There are a lot of impressive practical effects set pieces in the show that work really well, and some really solid stunt work here too. The original music composed for the series by Joseph LoDuca is excellent and the series’ choice if seventies and eighties hard rock tracks suits things nicely as well.

    The third and final season of Starz’s series Ash Vs Evil Dead picks up shortly after the ending of the second series. Ash Williams has taken over the hardware store run by his later father Brock and turned it into a hardware store/sex toy emporium complete with gloriously tacky TV commercials where, with his trusty chainsaw, he’s slashing prices! Kelly is hanging out with new friend Dalton (Lindsay Farris), a knight who believes Ash to truly be the chosen one, while Pablo is running a taco stand. Everything seems to be just fine in Elk Grove, Michigan…

    …at least to start with. Soon enough, Ruby shows up with the intention of stopping Ash from becoming the savior of humanity by seeing that he’s murdered by his spawn. Ash doesn’t think he has any spawn – and then he meets up with old flame Candy Barr (Katrina Hobbs) who introduces him to the daughter he never knew existed, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill), a high school student. Ruby decides to conjure up a demon baby to help her out and impersonate Brandy’s guidance counsellor in order to win her over.

    Things get complicated when Ruby winds up with the Necronomicon and Pablo helps the ‘Ghost Beaters’ retrieve the ancient Kandarian dagger, coming into his own as the ‘Brujo Especial’ and seeing constant visions of a naked lady that he’s pretty impressed with. And of course, as this is the final season, the show does a nice job of wrapping up pretty much all of the series’ plotline while, of course, still leaving room open for further adventures… just in case.

    While the show had more emphasis on humor than on horror, this season (and the two that came before it) does a fine job of carrying on the legacy of the franchise. While it feels more ‘Army Of Darkness than Evil Dead’ in terms of its often times cartoonish tone, the series never holds back on the gore, showcasing an excellent mix of both practical and digital effects that should satisfy anyone with a thirst for fictitious blood. The production values of the series, which is actually shot not in the United States, but in New Zealand, are strong all around – not only are the effects strong but so too are the costumes, the props, the camerawork, the sets and the score.

    It is, however, once again the performances that sell this. Obviously, Bruce Campbell is the main draw here, and with good reason. Ash Williams is the character he’s more associated with than any of the other hundreds of characters he’s played over the decades and Campbell as Ash is, in a word, iconic. He’s funny, he’s goofy, he’s charming in his own stupid way and he’s charismatic – Campbell owns the part and he carries the series as easily in this third batch as he ever has. Supporting work from Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago (who we interviewed when the second season came out) is solid, though DeLorenzo isn’t given as much to do this season as Santiago is. Santiago really comes into his own this time though, his admiration for Ash has come into its own as Pablo, in his own way, becomes just as powerful – more so, when it comes to the supernatural side of things. Supporting work from Lucy Lawless, who makes a really good villain, is appreciated and it’s nice to see Lee Majors back, even if it’s only briefly. The new addition to the season - Arielle Carver-O'Neill as Ash’s daughter – does well here too. She’s got some good lines and proves more than capable in the action and horror scenes. She gets just as bloodied up as anyone else in the show and while it does take a few episodes for her character to develop, by the end of the season we like her.

    There are a few missteps here and there, but overall the third season of Ash Vs Evil Dead delivers anything you’d want if you were a fan of the first two seasons.

    Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1.78.1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfers given the episodes in this set do a really good job of showing off the series' intended look. Detail is very strong, better than the broadcast versions ever were – it’s often times very impressive. There are some minor problems with mpeg compression artifacts and minor aliasing but no heavy edge enhancement while black levels stay strong and shadow detail remains consistently impressive. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, never too pink or waxy, and never showing off any problems with the authoring or encoding. The discs have been encoded quite well, generally speaking, and the picture quality is strong enough.

    Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series arrives on Blu-ray with an English language Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, with optional an Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in Spanish and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track in French. The lossless track provided here has some really good ambience and it’s basically reference quality. Channel separation is more constant than you might expect and there's enough of it here to ensure that you'll notice it. Dialogue is perfectly clear and the levels are consistently well balanced. The soundtrack has good depth to it and the sound effects an appropriate amount of punch. The low end is tight and strong without burying the dialogue and the score has good range and presence to it as well. In short, the sound on this release is amazing.

    The main extras for this release are the commentary tracks, one for each episode in the collection, laid out as follows:

    Season One:

    -El Jefe: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Bob Tapert, Bruce Campbell
    -Bait: Tapert, Campbell, Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago
    -Books From Beyond: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago
    -Brujo: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago
    -The Host: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago
    -The Killer of Killers: Jill Marie Jones, Delorenzo, Santiago
    -Fire In The Hole: Jones, Delorenzo, Santiago
    -Ashes To Ashes: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago, Jones
    -Bound in Flesh: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago, Lucy Lawless
    -The Dark One: Campbell, Delorenzo, Santiago, Lucy Lawless

    Season Two:

    -Home: Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Lucy Lawless
    -The Morgue: Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Lucy Lawless
    -Last Call: Rob Tapert, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless
    -Trapped Inside: Rob Tapert, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless
    -Home Again: Rick Jacobson, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Lucy Lawless
    -Second Coming: Rick Jacobson, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless

    Season Three:

    -Family: Director Mark Beesley, Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell and Actress Arielle Carver-O'Neill
    -Booth Three: Executive Producer Bob Tapert, Mark Beesley and Actress Lucy Lawless
    -Apparently Dead: Bob Tapert, Directors Diego Meza-Valdes and Andres Meza-Valdes and Arielle Carver-O'Neill
    -Unfinished Business: Arielle Carver-O'Neill, Actors Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago
    -Baby Proof: Executive Producer Rick Jacobson, Stunt Coordinator Stuart Thorp, and Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago
    -Tales From The Rift: Bob Tapert, Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Capper, and Dana Delorenzo, Lucy Lawless, and Ray Santiago
    -Twist And Shout: Mark Beesley, Bruce Campbell, Arielle Carver-O'Neill and Lucy Lawless
    -Rifting Apart: Bob Tapert, Arielle Carver-O'Neill, Dana Delorenzo and Ray Santiago
    -Judgement Day: Rick Jacobson, Bruce Campbell, and Arielle Carver-O'Neill
    -The Mettle Of Man: Rick Jacobson, Bruce Campbell, and Actress Arielle Carver-O'Neill.

    These tracks, the first one in particular with the two Raimi’s on it, are a lot of fun. On that first track the history that these guys have shared for years is obvious in the sense of humor and good-natured ribbing that takes place throughout. At the same time, there’s a lot of great information here too about bringing Ash back, how they wound up opting to do it on television rather than another movie, what they were going for in terms of tone and quite a bit more. The commentaries that are in the episodes that follow are also solid, as Campbell has a great rapport with the other cast members. DeLorenzo, Santiago and Jones have all got great senses of humor and really seem to have enjoyed working on the series, and it’s fun to hear Lucy Lawless join in in the last two episodes as well. These are well paced, informative and frequently pretty entertaining.

    Aside from that, the first season’s disc also includes three featurettes, the first of which is the sixteen-minute Ash Inside The World. This includes plenty of cast and crew interviews and some fun behind the scenes footage as they cover bringing Raimi in to work on the first episode, the different characters that appear in the series, the effects, what it was like on set and quite a bit more. This is a lot of fun, it makes you wish it were longer. In How To Kill A Deadite, Bruce Campbell spends two and a half minutes talking about some of the kills seen in the movie and showing off some of the prop weapons that were used in those scenes. It’s not particularly substantive but it’s fun. The third featurette is a quick ninety second montage of some of Ash’s best moments and one liners from the show.

    Season two Aside also contains some featurettes, all of which are found on the second disc. The first of these is Season Two First Look, a two-minute preview of the second season with some quick comments from the cast. The Inside The World Of Ash Vs Evil Dead featurettes are quick little episode specific behind the scenes pieces that run about two minutes on average. They’re not deep but they do feature some behind the scenes footage and some insight from the cast and the crew members. Up Your Ash is a two-and-a-half-minute piece that looks at the effects work that went into the ‘not the butt’ sequence from the Morgue episode with insight from the writers and the effects technicians that made this stand out moment happen. Women Who Kick Ash is a two-minute piece that highlights the strong female characters in the show and the actresses that play them. Puppets Are Cute is a quick one-minute piece that showcases the effects involved in the puppet scene complete with some behind the scenes footage. In Dawn Of The Spawn we spend a minute and a half gaining insight into how Ruby’s spawn were created for use in the first few episodes of this season using mostly practical effects work. The ninety-second Bringing Henrietta Back is a brief examination of what was involved in bringing the infamous Henrietta character back to the series and what went into getting the suit and prosthetics right for it. The Delta gives us two-minutes on the importance of Ash’s car to the series and the movies that inspired it. How to Kill a Deadite is a two-minute piece that, as the title suggests, explores the different ways that the deadite characters are dealt with in this season. Lastly, for season two, the Fatality Mash-Up is a forty-nine second highlight reel of the season’s goriest moments.

    Additionally, the second disc of the third season contains a three-minute long ‘Season Overview’ featurette that’s basically a promo for the show made up of some talking head style interviews with the stars. More interesting than that is the inclusion of Inside The World Of Ash Vs. Evil Dead featurettes for each episode. These run roughly two-minutes each and include some input from Rob Tapert on the character development and plot points explored in each episode as well as some fun facts about them. They’re not super in depth or anything but they’re amusing enough.

    Animated menus and episode selection are included on each disc in the set.

    Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series – The Final Word:

    Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series doesn’t add anything new to what was included on the individual releases that the show’s three individual seasons received. That said, if you didn’t pick those up, this is a great way to get the whole run at a very fair price.

    Click on the images below for full sized Ash Vs Evil Dead: The Complete Series Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      If I had to pick a favorite season it's definitely 2 but tbh I love all 3 almost equally. I do disagree with your pacing comment about season 1 (the pacing for all 3 seasons was fast) it's still a solid review none the less.
    1. Dark Horse 77's Avatar
      Dark Horse 77 -
      I have the DVD set of the complete series but couldn't find the audio commentaries for Season 1. Did anyone else have this issue?
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Dark Horse,

      I had the same issue but with the blu-ray. You have to go to the individual episodes and find it there.
    1. Dark Horse 77's Avatar
      Dark Horse 77 -
      Quote Originally Posted by moviegeek86 View Post
      Dark Horse,

      I had the same issue but with the blu-ray. You have to go to the individual episodes and find it there.
      Thank you, I'll try that!