Bruce Campbell's Deadite-slayer works just as well on the smallscreen as he did in the movies
Hard as it may be to believe, it's been 35 years since Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his four doomed friends first journeyed to that isolated cabin in the woods in Sam Raimi's gore-splattered 1981 shocker The Evil Dead, and unwittingly unleashed an ancient evil on the world. Since then the character of Ash has developed a cult fanbase that has followed him through two equally iconic sequels (1987's Evil Dead II and 1992's Army of Darkness) and a host of comic book adventures (which continue to this day).
However, as time passed and Raimi graduated to far grander Hollywood projects, the idea of Ash ever returning to the screen for another outing seemed like something of an impossibility. All of which made it even more of a shock when the Starz Network announced that it had ordered a 10-episode TV series that would follow on from the films.
Picking up the story in the present day, the series finds Ash getting into trouble once again when he uses the Necronomicon to impress a girl. Naturally, it isn't long before the Deadites are back and making Ash's life a misery – but this time he's got a little extra help in the form of fellow ValueShop employees Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo).
With Sam Raimi onboard as producer (as well as writing and direct the pilot), alongside regular producing partner Robert Tapert and returning star Bruce Campbell, Ash vs Evil Dead feels every bit a natural continuation of the films. Meanwhile, the decision to do the show as half-hour episodes (except for the slightly longer season opener and closer) gives the series the relentless pace it needs, while ensuring that the over-the-top 'splatstick' mix of gore and gags never outstays its welcome.
Picture: Okay, let's get the obvious issue out of the way first: yes, it's incredibly disappointing that Fox has opted not to release Ash vs Evil Dead on Blu-ray in the UK. However, the show is already available on Region A BD from the US and a Region B BD hit Australia at the end of October, so several import options exist if that's what you'd prefer.
As for this double-disc DVD release, the good news is that the anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers look better than expected. Obviously they're no match for actual Full HD encodes, but the SD imagery upscales well and is sharp and well-saturated, with very little in the way of aliasing or unsightly digital artefacts.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes follow in the footsteps of their bigscreen predecessors and send forth a non-stop barrage of seamless surround effects and room-rattling LFE into your home cinema. It would be good stuff for a film, but coming from a TV show it's positively thrilling.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: Each episode boasts a chat-track by various combinations of the cast (although series creators Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Robert Tapert join Bruce Campbell for the pilot). They are, without fail, brilliantly funny and informative and come highly recommended. Also included are two promos and a reel of brief Making of… vignettes for each episode.
Extras rating: 3/5
We say: If importing the BD isn't an option, then this DVD release should still put a big grin on your face.
Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season, Twentieth Century Fox, R2 DVD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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