I’m still unsure if the show knows exactly what its tone is supposed to be. Evil Dead has always been more gross, creepy, and over-the-top than straight-up scary. This episode opens with Ruby and Fisher investigating Brujo’s house before being attacked by a truly terrible CGI skeleton that seems to be designed to be more badass scary, like the wights of Game of Thrones. One of the things that makes great campy horror like Evil Dead work is straddling that line between creepy and goofy (which the human-possessed-as-deadite makeup does so well). But does AvED want to be camp? Sticking with the old-school deadite look and all the yuk-yuk one-liners indicate yes, while the attempts at legitimately unsettling baddies like Eligos (which worked as creature effect) and this Flaming Skeleton (which looks like ass) indicate no.
Although, on another level, the clumsiness of the CGI around this meant-to-be-actually-scary skeleton verges so far into badness it’s almost a form of unintentional camp itself. Or maybe it is intentionally bad, and this is how they’re choosing to situate the show within the greater Evil Dead aesthetic. One could follow this ouroboros of schlock all day, but we’ve not even left the first scene yet. And spoilers on this recap: by time we get to the end, the monster and action aesthetic has totally reverted to make-up and latex, karo syrup and red-dye gore in a really awesome way. It’s just the inconsistency here that bugs me — especially when that inconsistency results in too much effort put into eye-roll-inducing effects.
BUT! For all that digression about style and effects the open comes to a pretty badass climax with Ruby impaling the Skeletal Brujo with a straight-up Grim Reaper–style scythe and leaping with it into an explosive funeral pyre. But not before it accuses Ruby of double crossing the deadites and wanting the book for her own gains. Intriguing!
The rest of “The Killer of Killers” unfolds entirely at the Western Moose restaurant, where we find Ash demolishing a pancake breakfast to the amusement/disgust of Kelly and Pablo. From Bruce Campbell’s manic eating energy to the actually-funny dialogue (“you’re hurting those pancakes”), this diner scene worked for me in a way few out-of-combat scenes have so far. Our three leads are finally settling into their weird ad-hoc family relationship, with Ash growing a quasi-paternal (er ... maybe more like quasi-pervy uncle) sense of protection over them as Pablo and now Kelly increasingly look up to his badassery. And more enticingly, Ash also has A Plan: “All roads to destroying this evil lead right back to where it all began, the cabin” [DISHES CRASH OMINOUSLY IN THE BACKGROUND]. Ash also meets up with an old friend, Lem, who, now a whopping 9 days sober, is looking to get a Value Stop discount on toilet paper and ammunition for his militia.
Awesome. Let’s pick up a militia, go back to the cabin, and wreck up a deadite army. I am so on board for this plan. I’m salivating like Ash over his western moosecakes.
So Kelly and Pablo retreat to the trailer as Ash attempts to sleazily seduce his way out of the bill. Pablo’s necklace, infused with the spirit of the dying Brujo, is causing the Necronomicon to flip out and in a tense little scene Kelly and Pablo fight it back into the trunk as its lil’ book mouth gnashes wildly. Pablo and Kelly try to further define their relationship, which starts pushing past the terminal awkwardness of his unrequited crush. Namely, Pablo’s a little worried Kelly’s lust for vengeance against the Deadite’s will drive her to keep the book around just to summon more baddies to bash. Kelly assures him “I’m sure we’ll be dead way before then.”
Meanwhile, in the Western Moose: Ash waits in the bathroom for his surefire seduction to go into action when he’s jumped by Fisher and finally subdued enough to be taken into custody. But just as her commander makes the positive ID on Ash Williams, we come to probably the most badass sequence AvED has given us yet.
From the parking lot, the Evil Force careens into the Western Moose, blowing all in its way with it. A high schooler gets an ice skate to the face, a chef gets his butt fried, and Lieutenant Boyle is immediately seadite-ified. Director Michael Hurst, a veteran director (and actor!) from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess (both of which Sam Raimi produced), does excellent work making this fight gory and funny, most notably having Doyle throw a little kid into an eviscerating ceiling fan (“another member of my FAN club!”), and Kelly exercising some of that pent-up vengeance by cold-cutting a deadite's face on a deli slicer. All set to a high-strung proto-punk track by legendary Detroit band DEATH.
We end as Ash’s militia bud Lem escapes into a Forest of of Epic Creepiness where he calls his buddy Crosby, telling the militia to arm up. But Lem gets possessed, and Fisher joins the Ghost Beaters, and as STYX blasts on the soundtrack, we’re off again into the sunset.
The Killer of Killers maintains AvED's now basically set pattern of having a set-up episode with a badass fight, then a wrap-up episode with much less spectacular action. These set-up episodes are always exciting: Our heroes foment plans and build their relationships! A dude gets his awesomely gooey intestines spilled all out with a chainsaw! They end the week with clear objectives and new allies! Then next week they’ll probably kinda beat their current bad guy and reset everything and we’ll be left wondering where it’s all going, and if the fights aren’t overwhelmingly awesome — like they are tonight — the whole episode kind of feels flat. But now we know it’s all going to end up in the cabin, and have both Lem’s militia and a maybe-immolated Ruby to contend with, as well as the constant threat of evil out there in the wilderness. More threads, more evil, more intestines, thank you!
Listen Up, Screwheads:
- This week’s Evil Dead jukebox: Alice Cooper, “Be My Lover,” DEATH, “Freakin’ Out,” and STYX, “Renegade.” And last week I forgot PJ Harvey, “Down By the Water.” The soundtrack is definitely one of the best parts of this show.
- I love when the mouth on the Necronomicon bites and have been waiting for it to happen, was super glad to finally see it come to life.
- “I ordered the fruit-cup because I thought we were taking this check to splitsville.”
- Looking forward to seeing what else is in Ash’s new Swiss army hand. So far all we know is screwdriver.