Five episodes were provided for review.
When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell first worked together on The Evil Dead, no one could have anticipated that this 1981 splatter-fest would snowball into not only a cult classic but one of the pillars of modern horror cinema. For decades after the trilogy’s final installment in 1992’s Army of Darkness, fans clamored for more of Campbell’s buffoonish badass Ashley J. Williams. After Raimi and Campbell helped shepherd director Fede Alvarez’s 2013 reboot/remake, hopes for more of their original vision seemed bleak. Then Ash vs. Evil Dead happened.
Since 2015, Campbell has reprised his titular role for the Starz series, giving an older but decidedly not wiser Ash a whole mess of gory shenanigans to get into. Now returning for season 3, the series complicates matters further, introducing a teenage daughter (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) Ash has never met and forcing him to become the reluctant hero once again. Meanwhile, Ash’s longtime compatriots Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) find themselves drawn back into the fight against evil, as the trio must protect Ash’s newfound progeny against the demonic Ruby’s (Lucy Lawless) latest plot. If that all sounds just wacky enough for you, you might be destined for a date with Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Of course, the plot of the show isn’t the point. Not really. Rather, the joy in watching it unfold lies in the cringe-inducing carnage, over-the-top black comedy and surprise callbacks to both previous elements on the series as well as the films that inspired it. Even original Evil Dead co-star Ellen Sandweiss popped up in season 2 for a bit.
Naturally, fans have been reveling in having an iconic hero like Ash back in action, and the “Ghost Beaters'” — as Ash, Pablo and Kelly call their scrappy band — repeated visits to the cabin that started it all have only fanned the fandom flame since Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s premiere. Thanks to the show’s repeated efforts to develop the Evil Dead mythos and provide a hell of a fun time doing it, the series has remarkably persisted in the face of dwindling ratings.
Perhaps that’s to be expected with a series like this, though. At this point, viewers likely are already onboard for what Ash vs. Evil Dead has to offer or know better than to tune in. Indeed, the show’s particular brand of blood-spattered lunacy — which clearly tries to outdo its own bizarre grotesqueries with every episode — isn’t everyone’s taste, nor should it be.
However, the series is so committed to its own ridiculousness that those who find this off-kilter tone appealing will probably only love it that much more for its niche properties. After all, the entire Evil Dead franchise was built on the back of a cult classic, a midnight movie that has somehow endured. So naturally, fans have been eating it up, while the uninitiated have turned a blind eye to Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Those who have been watching know how much fun Campbell is in his signature role, and that appeal only continues with season 3. Giving Ash a daughter to care for challenges him to at least feign being a responsible adult, bringing out a side of him viewers haven’t yet gotten to know. Considering how much we’ve seen of the lusty, boozing, accidentally competent hero, it’s impressive that Ash still has layers to explore.
Moreover, Lawless earns the runner-up spot for VIP this season. She’s always been a hoot as Ruby, who always seems to be pursuing multiple schemes at once. But this year, the character takes her dedication to deception to new heights. As far as arch-nemeses go, the former warrior princess remains a formidable foe for the Ghost Beaters in the first half of season 3.
While it’s hard to say if Ash vs. Evil Dead is the best it’s ever been this year, the series does feel as invested in these characters as ever before. Despite all the insanity going on, viewers can’t help but root for and care about Ash, Pablo and Kelly and the predictably horrific adventures they face with a wink, a nod and (very often) a chainsaw. Unfortunately though, according to Campbell himself, Ash vs. Evil Dead might just be on the Starz chopping block after this season, thanks to the high volume of illegal downloads cutting into viewership. In today’s world of infinite cable networks and streaming services, one could imagine another network picking up the show if this ever did come to pass. But, again, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a weird one.
Part slapstick comedy, part gruesome horror show, this is unlike any other program on television right now, and for that, it deserves to be admired. The vision on display here might turn off some potential viewers. Yet, it stays so true to what Evil Dead fans want and what it needs to be that Ash vs. Evil Dead might be one of the most ambitious and criminally underrated shows on television. With any luck, fans interested in seeing it will find a legal way to show their support and, hopefully, introduce a friend or two to the pure madness contained therein.
Ash vs. Evil Dead ups the ante with even more bloody mayhem in season 3, giving Bruce Campbell and company plenty of chances to dazzle gore-hungry fans.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 Review