The Movie Waffler TV Waffle - ASH VS EVIL DEAD: Season 1, Episode 1: El Jefe | The Movie Waffler

TV Waffle - ASH VS EVIL DEAD: Season 1, Episode 1: El Jefe

Everyone's favourite stock boy makes his small screen debut.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

With Kyle MacLachlan, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson donning those distinctive FBI coats for belated returns of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, we better get used to seeing our screen heroes return in somewhat wrinklier form. The squarest jaw in Hollywood ain't so square anymore, with Bruce Campbell cutting a rounder figure than that of his 1980s and early '90s Evil Dead prime, when he made the character of Ash Williams a genuine horror icon. Never one to shun a spot of self-deprication, the 57-year-old Campbell mocks his aged physique in the opening scene of this small screen resurrection, as Ash struggles to don a male corset in preparation for a night on the pull. After the oh so serious tone of 2013's Evil Dead big screen reboot, we're instantly set at ease. Ash is back!
After a long stint in the world of blockbusters, helming a trilogy of Spiderman movies and the maligned Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi returns to his roots to direct this pilot episode (titled 'El Jefe', which translates from Spanish to 'The Chief'), co-scripting with brother Ivan and veteran TV writer Tom Spezialy. The tone is set early on, and fans of Raimi's early work will be thrilled to see his trademark rapid dolly shots and whip crack montages well and truly on display here. Whether the directors picking up from Raimi for the rest of the series, among them Bitch Slap's Rick Jacobson and Solomon Kane's Michael J Bassett, can successfully emulate this distinctive style remains to be seen.
The action here takes place 30 years after Ash's eventful stay at that cabin in the woods, and our hero is living in a trailer park while still working as a stock boy, now for Value Stop, an electronics retailer. After smoking too much weed, and in an attempt to impress his 'date', a poetry enthusiast, Ash cracks open his copy of the Necronomicon and makes the amateur mistake of quoting from it. Over the following days, Ash starts seeing 'deadites' everywhere he looks, warning him of their imminent return. Meanwhile, State Trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) encounters a genuine deadite, the girl who took part in Ash's impromptu poetry reading, who kills her partner, who in turn becomes deadite-ified(?) himself. In search of clues, Fisher heads to the notorious cabin where it all began.
While working in the Value Stop stock room, Ash is attacked by a child's doll come angrily to life - picture an evil version of the China Girl from Raimi's Oz reboot - and is saved by co-worker Pablo (Ray Santiago). Along with checkout girl Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), the two retire to Ash's home, which becomes the scene of the wildest trailer assault since The Hills Have Eyes, prompting Ash to once again attach the iconic chainsaw to his stump.
Throughout the episode, Campbell reminds us just what a great physical comedy actor he is, and a slapstick scene involving a box of lightbulbs provides a style of visual humour we rarely see today, particularly on TV. Raimi and co-writers give their leading man some memorable quips, perfectly in keeping with the spirit of this iconic character. Lucy Lawless, who of course starred in Raimi's hit '90s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, pops up for a cryptic cameo, with her character set to play a larger role in the series.
It will be interesting to see how the small screen transfer of a franchise as cinematic as this develops. Will we grow tired of deadite attacks, or does Raimi and his colleagues have some mythology expansion in store? We'll have plenty of time to find out, as the show has already been renewed for a second season by its network, Starz, who clearly have great faith in Raimi. This pilot certainly has enough to suggest these further adventures of Ash will provide plenty of thrills, and it's good to have Campbell back to his rubber-faced best. Groovy!

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