It’s not easy for a creator to go back to a franchise. Especially one beloved by millions. One that has three films that fans watch over and over, buy multiple versions of on DVD for this extra or that extra or just one … more … interview….
I’m talking, of course, about the Evil Dead trilogy.
(If you were expecting Star Wars, yeah, I’m not ready to write about that yet.)
For those of you who don’t know, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell have brought back Ash and the Deadites (worst doo-wop group ever) for more over-the-top action. It’s not a movie this time, though. It’s a weekly half-hour series called Ash vs. Evil Dead.
I was torn about this. After all, another trilogy of no little importance to me attempted to resurrect itself and I felt, well, kicked someplace uncomfortable by the “effort.” (Stopping there. Not ready to write more about it yet.)
I have to assume that the creators of the show – and the movies – knew the fans would set a high bar for this. Wow, that’s an odd sentence to type. It reads as though I’m comparing this series to the long-delayed sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. As though there’s an expected high-water mark for quality that could be all but impossible to meet or exceed.
That’s not quite what I mean. These are cult films, not blockbusters, award-winners, or darlings of the art houses. They are entertainment, and if you think I mean that as any kind of insult, I don’t.
Quick aside: people love to say that art should educate or uplift as well as entertain, but they forget the implicit core component. First it must entertain.
But the fans – and I am definitely one of them – came to the series with high expectations along one simple line: the show had to work.
The character of Ash had to feel like Ash. The deadites had to feel like deadites. The physical gags had to spin off from the traditions of the Three Stooges (which, oddly, I never cared for much). The physical conflicts had to be over-the-top. The one-liners had to pop.
That’s a lot to live up to. After all, Army of Darkness was twenty-three years ago. That’s a long time for fans to re-watch three movies. Many, many viewings to develop strong opinions about the characters and situations, about the film style, and to see all the little details that people overlook in their first, or third, or fifteenth viewings of a movie.
It can’t have been easy for the Raimis, Tapert and Campbell to do this again. (Especially Bruce Campbell, who had to get out in front of the camera and get the hell beaten out of him again. I hope they aren’t as rough on him as they used to be.) The social media world is a harsh, unforgiving place, and fans can whip themselves up into a frenzy when they aren’t happy.
So, as a fan, what do I think of the new show?
I love it. I do. I enjoy the heck out of it. I like how they’ve aged Ash. I like his supporting characters. I like the direction they’ve gone with Lucy Lawless’ character (watch it to find out) and I love that she’s in the show! They’ve expanded the demons in a cool way. I think the storyline and conflicts are working so far, and I look forward to each new episode.
But what about the feel? Did they get the feel of the show right, for my expectations?
Well, I can’t say it’s perfect in that regard. For example, there are places I could see other directors trying to emulate the directing style of Sam Raimi and not quite getting it, but I appreciated the effort. Raimi, after all, has pioneered film techniques and left his mark on the profession. In another instance, this most recent episode, they had the perfect set-up for a classic line … and didn’t deliver. The moment was still good, but something was missing.
So, to sum up, have they hit the right tone?
Well, maybe they didn’t hit every single little note, no, but basically they hit it, yeah. Basically….
(And if you didn’t get that last line, do yourself a favor. Go watch Army of Darkness again.)
I know I’ll keep watching, but feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.