Currently on the Starz network, Saturday night programming delightfully has Ash vs Evil Dead: the charming tale of a somewhat unambitious and bumbling character who happens to have some problems. Many of those problems are related to his personality, but the major one would be his being the target of terrifying forces of evil.
If you’ve not watched the classic campy horror movie, Evil Dead II (I’ll get around to explaining why I’m singling that out from its predecessor Evil Dead I, or the third movie Army of Darkness*) then you really should. I don’t think reading this article will spoil your experience of going back and watching the movie. But sometimes, reading things can be dangerous. You’ve been warned.
Alright, you primitive screwheads. At this point I assume you’re either up on the show or don’t care to be spoiled. Right on.
The Evil Recap
Just in case, I’ll bring everyone up to speed. Feel free to skip down to the next section.
Back in 1981, Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead, a low budget horror movie featuring 5 young people heading to a cabin in the woods. What could go wrong?
The cabin had been previously inhabited by an archaeologist who had been creating the Audible.com version of the Necronomicon. (More or less.) The kids played his recordings of this book of the dead, and horrifying shenanigans ensued. Four of our young characters were possessed by demonic forces, the lone survivor, Ash, held them at bay by burning the book of the dead, and stumbled out into the dawn. Where he was attacked by a demonic force. END CREDITS.
In 1987, Evil Dead II picked right up where Evil Dead ended! (Sort of. I’ll talk more about that in a moment.*) Ash gets possessed, briefly, but the rising sun cures him. He can’t escape from the cabin, and spends a horrifying time dealing with his now-Deadite girlfriend, his animated possessed hand, and his teetering on the brink of insanity.
The archaeologist’s daughter Annie, her colleague Ed, and two locals join Ash in the cabin, and once again the primal evil forces try to swallow their souls. Ed gets possessed, one local is consumed by the woods and the other gets stabbed accidentally by Annie. Ash and Annie team up to summon the primal evil and banish it. Annie dies banishing the monstrous force, but Ash is cast into the past as well. Evil Dead II was notable for its blend of horror and humor. That kind of made it transcendent.
In 1992, Ash’s adventures continued in Army of Darkness, where the temporally displaced department store worker rallied a medieval town to defend themselves from an undead host.
At the conclusion of the movie, he’s back in his own time, but is still occasionally dealing with Deadite-possessed humans.
Ash vs Evil Dead – the Legend Continues
The television show, Ash vs Evil Dead, takes place some thirty years after Ash’s terrifying night in wooded cabin (which was sometime around 1981, the premiere of Evil Dead, let’s assume.) Ash, kind of a washed up slacker, still working at a big box store that isn’t called S-Mart (the show might not have the rights to that awesome name, it doesn’t seem to make any references to any of the Army of Darkness movie elements.)
He has the Necronomicon, but unfortunately, while under the influence and trying to groove with a young lady (kids, just say no to drugs) he and his date read some passages from the book of the dead, and again summon Deadite forces that are homing in on Ash.
The show carries with it the campy DNA of Evil Dead II, and the horror from the original Evil Dead. That is, if the first Evil Dead had had a solid budget.
Ash gets his hands dirty dealing with the Deadite resurgence, but the more straightforward horror aspect is centered on a policewoman named Amanda who comes face-to-face with Ash’s date from the night the book was read.
It’s terrifying. The creepiest of creepy haunted house encounters.
The show has just started (well, four episodes have aired out of ten) but it appears this initial season will focus on Ash trying to clean up the mess he’s made by carelessly reading from the book and reopening the gates between our world and some kind of hell.
So, this article was just going to let us know that Ash vs Evil Dead is a thing? We already knew that!
Ease up, Melvin. I just wanted to re-establish some details. There’s a few topics I want to talk about, and then we’re out. I might come back to Ash vs Evil Dead some more as the season goes on. Nobody tells me what I can’t do! (Except, for pretty much everybody. You can’t park there, you can’t come in without a ticket, you can’t not pay your taxes, blah blah blah.)
Okay, we’ll move along.
It’s Called Forbidden Knowledge for a Reason
The central conflict in both the Evil Dead movies and the Evil Dead television show springs from some basic factoids.
- There’s this primal evil that’s kind of all around, but in general is unable to annoy us living types.
- Unless someone reads from the Necronomicon, in which case the barriers between our worlds weaken and bad stuff starts happening. In general, the intangible evil can zoom about, possessing people. Generally being scary and awful.
- To fix things, the book can be used to summon the forces of evil into a material form. Which can be destroyed. But also can do a lot of monstrous damage.
The book being both the potential source of problems and a dangerous solution to problems (trying to fix the issue could make it monumentally worse) falls into the classic magic is a two-edged sword type of category.
I don’t know if HP Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos were all that much of an influence on Sam Raimi when he was creating his Evil Dead universe. Certainly the tone of the mythos don’t match either the visceral horror of Evil Dead or its wacky gonzo elements (Lovecraft was more into a kind of cerebral horror. And being super-racist.)
But there’s a similar theme of not delving too deep into mysteries people were not supposed to know. Even though I titled this Ignorance is Bliss, that’s only true if evil is just in the background. Ignorance is no defense from evil, as Ash and his friends discovered. The doomed archaeologist from the first Evil Dead probably should have known better than to recite the demon-summoning passages aloud. What the hell, man?
Likewise, Ash should have REALLY known better when reading words from the book to get his girl in the mood. Kids, don’t read from the Necronomicon! Do drugs instead. Just don’t read evil books! (You can read the usual banned books, those are okay.)
Anyway, the lure of forbidden knowledge is pretty tempting. And then once the evil genie is out of the bottle, the same source of evil is required to deal with it. That’s like treating a hangover with more booze. (Kids, don’t drink. Or if you do, do it safely. Alone and watching television. Something funny.)
But the real danger in possessing knowledge of the Deadites: they then seem to gain reciprocal knowledge. It seems more than just the fact that Ash has control of the Necronomicon that is bringing them to him. They know him. And not just the Deadites who are animating the bodies of supervisors and neighbors.
Demons know Ash on a first name basis. That’s cool and goosebumpy.
Crackpot Theory Time
I’ll wrap this up soon, but if I write more Evil Dead posts, I’d like to imagine some other television property as part of the Evil Dead universe. Some might be easier than others. I might get Lost doing this.
Oh, I said Lost? Interesting. That’s a show that featured a mysterious, occasionally unseen force that would move through the forests of the Island, either killing or (in one notable case) possessing/impersonating someone who was dead.
Hey, ghostly whispers, ancient statues, old daggers, pseudoscientists delving into weird science. IT EVEN HAD A CABIN IN THE WOODS!!!
Not to mention the metaphor explaining that the island was a cork on evil. EVIL! EVIL DEAD!
So Lost is totally part of the same universe. Boom.
Okay, I’m done at the moment with crackpot theories.
Anyway, we have six more weeks of the show. To supplement your viewing pleasure, I’d recommend you listen to Ash vs Evil Dead vs Bubba vs Catfish, a GREAT podcast from the delightful duo who also host The Joffrey of Podcasts, one of my favorite Game of Thrones podcasts.
Hail to El Jefe!
* Oops. I forgot to talk about why I consider Evil Dead II the definitive movie for enjoying Ash vs Evil Dead, and the controversy behind Evil Dead II and its relationship with Evil Dead. Is it a reboot? A sequel? I’ve decided to save that for a follow-on post.
Images from Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Ash vs Evil Dead, and LOST.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved