Opinion: “Ash Versus Evil Dead” is Doomed

Am I the only fan who’s NOT looking forward to this?

Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake of Evil Dead was a runaway hit, lauded by fans and critics alike, which thrust the franchise back into the mainstream consciousness. Not only did it seem like a sequel would be inevitable, this film’s success also reinvigorated Sam Raimi’s personal efforts to revisit the original trilogy.

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Then the rumors began to fly, fast and furious like a winged Deadite hag. Raimi and Bruce Campbell (who plays Ash in the original Evil Dead trilogy) titillated fans with talk of creating a 4th chapter in the franchise, tentatively titled Army of Darkness 2. Then came rumors that Army of Darkness 2 would be followed by a sequel to Alvarez’s remake that would incorporate the old and new mythologies into a unified cannon. To me, all of this sounded quite promising indeed, but as is often the case with rumors, neither of these projects came to pass.

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Last November, the Internet exploded with confirmation of an Evil Dead continuation, not in the form of a movie, but as a 10-episode cable television series, produced by Starz.

Official Press Release: In Ash Versus Evil Dead, Bruce Campbell returns as Ashe, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons—personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip.

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Bruce Campbell fueled the hype as well, revealing: “Ash has survivor’s guilt. You could have a heyday with his PTSD. He’s a war vet. He doesn’t want to talk about it, and he’ll lie about that stump on his hand to impress the ladies. This is a guy who’s got some issues. He’s emotionally stunted. But he’s the guy you want in the foxhole next to you. That’s the funny thing—he’s kind of an idiot, but man, if I had to go to battle, I’d want to be next to that guy, because he’ll bring it if he has to.”

On February 12th, Starz announced that Ray Santiago (Meet the Fockers) and Dana Delorenzo (Growing Up Fisher) had been cast as Campbell’s sidekicks and fellow S-Mart employees. And while the series is still technically in development, filming is set to begin in New Zealand this Spring, and Sam Raimi is attached to direct the pilot episode.

But as old and new fans of the Evil Dead rejoice, I feel like a lonely pessimist as I pout and stew in silence. Am I really the only fan who’s NOT looking forward to Ash Versus Evil Dead?

I’m amazed, actually, that support for this series is so high, for a variety of reasons. Even though Straz is a cable network, and therefore not strictly beholden to the FCC, I doubt that we can expect the same hard-R caliber FX Evil Dead fans have come to crave. It’s going to be watered down. Considering how many horror fans hate PG-13 rated genre offerings on principle, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more resistance to a non-theatrical Evil Dead.

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It’s not that satisfying horror-based TV is nonexistent; The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Dark Side, and recent offerings like Hemlock Grove and American Horror Story are all great examples. The difference is, these TV shows were all conceived and designed specifically for television. Since there is no R-rated movie to compare them to, these and other shows rank high with horror fans who are pleased with any amount of blood and guts they can get on basic cable or network TV.

History has already proven, for the most part, that a TV horror serials based on movies are a terrible idea. Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street both attempted a television series in the late 1980’s, and both failed miserably. In the 1990’s, a Poltergeist TV series fared just as poorly. While the TV series based on From Dusk Till Dawn has a decent following, the recent television adaptation of Constantine seems headed towards cancellation.

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The only exception to the rule, in my opinion, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the film that spawned the series was mostly comedy, was rated PG-13, and featured high school kids and their high school hijinks. So while it’s not impossible, I have yet to see a TV series based on horror movie that actually enhances the legacy of the source material.

Which is why I’m so pessimistic about the continuation of the Evil Dead. While I understand the urge to celebrate anything associated with the Evil Dead, especially when Sam and Bruce are attached, a TV series is not an even substitute for a movie. I’d rather wait another 5 years for an excellent R-rated Evil Dead movie than a dozen TV attempts. As opposed to a film which has one director and between 1 and 3 writers, a TV series can have dozens of both over the course of a season, a fact sure to create an uneven final product lacking overall cohesion.

True, it’s pretty closed minded of me to write-off a show I haven’t even seen yet, but I can’t believe I’m the only one worried about Ash Versus Evil Dead. Of course, with Sam Raimi, the entire project might simply up and vanish before ever materializing—which would suit me just fine.

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Are you looking forward to Ash Versus Evil Dead? Sound off in the comments section!

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6 Comments on this post.

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  • Evan A. Baker
    17 February 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I share some of your concerns. But I would hasten to point out that a lot of fans really come to Evil Dead as Army of Darkness fans first and foremost, and AoD doesn’t have nearly the hard-gore content of the first two movies, so a lightening of that aspect relative to ED and EDII doesn’t seem like that big a break to me.

    And, with a target of just ten episodes, it’s likely going to be a more tightly conceived and structured story than one often gets with 22-to-24 episode seasons, where, as you rightly point out, so many cooks are in the kitchen that a cohesive vision can be hard to maintain.

    I’ve never been that enthusiastic about the rumors of a 4th Raimi-directed movie, because I suspect that at this point, he’s just too far removed from the original creative impetus behind the material to revisit it in a way that’s not contrived or redundant. My hope is that the unique requirements and opportunities created by changing formats from feature to series will invite a new creative approach.

    • Josh Millican
      17 February 2015 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      Evan, I can always count on you for a measured, intelligent response when I’m writing from a somewhat emotional place. I had never even considered the AoD angle, that a % of ED fans aren’t addicted to the gore like I am. Excellent point. I suppose I should have also mentioned that I was all set to hate the 2013 remake, but I just fucking loved it. Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the final product this time as well.

  • Chase reynolds
    18 February 2015 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Ok first off bruce Campbell’s favorite show on TV and possibly for life Is trailer park boys and that is a no holds bars show and he and Sam will not hold back on the gore I have faith it will only make this franchise that much stronger and better

    • Josh Millican
      18 February 2015 at 11:16 am - Reply

      I hope you’re right, Chase!

      • Chase reynolds
        18 February 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

        Just gotta have faith man bruce can never let us down nor would Sam they have the script the idea just gotta have the support and faith

  • Film Phreak
    18 February 2015 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    The series was already too silly with Army of Darkness. I loved the remake.

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