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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ash vs Evil Dead S2 Trailer

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Horror movies getting made into TV shows is a bit of a thing now.  It’s hard to say when exactly this trend started though I’d probably point mostly to 2013, that was when Bates Motel and Hannibal both premiered to shocking levels of success.  Prior to that you’d had some literary-to-TV examples like NBC’s Dracula, AMC’s Walking Dead, or the horror hodgepodge Penny Dreadful but since 2013 we’ve also enjoyed an Omen show, a Scream show, an Exorcist show in the work, and today’s subject: Ash vs. the Evil Dead.

I am a huge fan of the Evil Dead mythos; I love the original trilogy, the comics are a blast, and I’ve even enjoyed some of the video games they’ve made so when I heard “Evil Dead TV show” I was there.  And season 1 turned out to be pretty good, maybe not excellent and with a little too much padding but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Now the time has come for season 2 and along with some interesting news we’ve got a trailer and it promises to double down on all the stuff that worked about season 1 and then some. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the first season or Evil Dead in general here’s what you need to know.  Premiering in 1981, Evil Dead was a low budget horror flick made by Sam Raimi and his friends out in the woods near their hometown.  Though the format existed previously, Evil Dead pretty much set the template of “teens go to cabin and are attacked by ____,” blending together a grungy and low-budget sensibility with a great eye for FX, gore, and mood.  The film became a cult classic, launching the careers of both its creator Sam Raimi and its star Bruce Campbell. 

The two reteamed for a quasi-remake in 1987, which many feel to be the best film in the franchise.  Personally, I’ve always preferred the dark fantasy/adventure third installment Army of Darkness, which launched series hero Ash Williams back to the 13th century to fight the evil dead alongside King Arthur.  The new TV show takes pace with Ash back in the present and a new crop of evil dead, called deadites, emerging to be vanquished, with Ash teaming up with new friends Pablo and Kelly. 

Season 1 ended with Ash making a deal with Lucy Lawless’ “Dark One,” trading her the Necronomicon, an evil book of power, in exchange for the chance to live happily in Jacksonville, Florida.  A lot of folks had problems with that ending but honestly I really liked it, it fits the doofy nature of Ash’s character and the fact he’s supposed to be a shortsighted, self-centered ass. 

This new season picks up with Ash in Florida, living the medium life with Kelly and Pablo.  I’m also pretty sure the later clips in the trailer of Sam Raimi as a bartender are set in Jacksonville as well, which is a pretty fun cameo.  Obviously, Ash’s hedonistic indulgence can’t last and his party seems to be beset by deadites pretty quickly. 

The first big revelation of this trailer is that Ash and friends are headed to Elk Grove, Michigan.  Michigan being the setting was always to be expected, the Evil Dead series has always enjoyed the vast wilderness of Michigan as a core setting, but Elk Grove is a new location for the series.  Traditionally, the action of Evil Dead has been confined to Dearborn, which I’m guessing Elk Grove’s name is a parody of.  Dropping Ash and pals back in Michigan is nice but I like that the show is aiming to return Ash to his hometown. 

Even though Ash has a very definitive persona we really don’t know much about him as a character outside of his experiences with the evil dead.  Diving into his past is a good step towards affording him more definition and I really like the creepy, abandoned look of Elk Grove in this trailer.  Cheryl was the name of Ash’s sister in the first film who was turned into a Deadite.  I really like the idea of bringing her back for this new season and focusing on what happened in the aftermath of those first Deadite encounters. 

I’m not totally sure what leads Ash and the gang to go Elk’s Grove but we do see why it does, they were summoned there by Lucy Lawless’ Dark One, who’s lost control of the evil forces she claimed as her own at the end of season 1.  After that revelation the rest of the trailer is more or less a sizzle reel of cool or funny or gross stuff to expect from the new season but there are some serious standouts.  I really like that one scene of Ash in what looks like an insane asylum with a puppet version of himself. 

I suspect that clip is tied to the Elk’ Grove plot and the idea that maybe Ash was blamed for the deaths of his friends at the cabin after the first film; it’d certainly make sense.  We also get a look at one of this season’s new characters, a black woman who is presumably filling the role of Jill Jones’ Detective Amanda Fisher from season 1.  We also see a brief scene of what looks to be an older version of Ash.  I don’t know what that could be but time travel is a part of the Evil Dead cosmology so, while it could be a vision of the future, it could be an actual tomorrow Ash heads off to. 

One thing I love about this trailer is the excess of blood, gore, and tastelessly crass sexploitation.  You’ve got zombie hotties, dismembered arms, tire to the face, all kinds of hideous bile, and some serious chainsaw action there at the end.  Granted, this is a trailer which means this stuff will probably end of splattered across the entire 10 episode season but it’s always cool seeing it all come together.  Ash vs. Evil Dead is very much an action show, with the real selling point being the bloody disgusting monster smackdowns so putting that front and center for nearly half the trailer was a good call, keep the fans involved. 

The part that really stands out to me is among the final clips, it’s one of Ash’s best friend Pablo seemingly being possessed or turning demonic, it’s not entirely clear.  I have no idea what’s going on in this scene but that seems like a really big twist and one I think would definitely benefit the show.  If this season really does want to dive into the shitty life experiences that’ve made Ash such a bastard like the death of his sister or being locked-up for defeating the Deadites having Pablo become possessed as the face of evil would be a really sharp way to bring that subtext right into the text.

Over all Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 looks like much of the same as season 1 but with more gore and more heart, which is pretty much exactly what it needs to be.  I liked season 1 but I certainly admit there’s room to improve, but that improvement doesn’t necessitate binning the entire set-up.  Regrounding the series in the wooded backdrop of Michigan and just adding more gore is a solid first step but the part that has me really excited is the presence of Ash’s history in this trailer. 

The big issue with season 1 was that the characters were too thin to sustain the story beats that weren’t about fighting and monsters so fleshing them out with actual origins is a good way to solve those issues.  What’s more, I’ve always been partial to tragic origins, especially rooted in small town Americana so Ash’s back-story being tied to a creepy abandoned town in nowhere Michigan is tailor made for me.   The new season allegedly has the rights to Army of Darkness back so expect some references in the actual show but hopefully they won’t dive too deep into that barrel.  Here’s hoping the new season adds up to something more than just this really good trailer. 

Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 premieres on October 2, 2016

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