The intense horror of Evil Dead and its tongue-in-cheek followups remain a testament to the cinematic ingenuity of Sam Raimi. Even those unfamiliar with the auteur’s cult work are probably familiar with his exciting superhero entry Spider-Man and its sequels, which paved the way for the current superhero craze. Fortunately for horror aficionados, Raimi didn’t stray too far from his roots, recently re-teaming with producer Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell for Ash vs Evil Dead.
Season 1 returned aging antihero Ash to his rightful domain – behind the wheel of a 1973 Delta 88 and under constant threat from Kandarian demons. The show’s second season will make its bloody way to Starz this October, continuing the adventures of “Ghostbeaters” Ash, Pablo (Ray Santiago), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and wild card, Ruby (Lucy Lawless). However, many newcomers and Evil Deadheads may not know the true story behind the fabled Evil Dead 4, or why Raimi and co. chose to host Ash’s further adventures on the small screen.
Screen Rant was given an exclusive look at (or listen to) the commentary track for the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of the first season. During the opening minutes of episode one, director and producer Raimi sat down with Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert, and Ivan Raimi to explore the show and how it came to be. Like the old friends they are, the group begins by excavating their memories about the possibilities of a post-Army of Darkness film. According to Raimi, Evil Dead 4 took a long time to get nowhere:
“Ivan and I wrote a lot of different versions of Evil Dead as a feature in the years after Army of Darkness. We’d get 20 pages into one draft and realize it was not good, do another five pages a different direction.”
Raimi and his cohorts also explored a number of different ways to continue the story. One version had a very modern take on the low-fi horror story. Raimi explains:
“Bruce is a documentary filmmaker I remember one of them was, capturing his own journey through life. I remember we wrote one version; we started to write one version of Evil Dead 4…” Brother Ivan chimes in: “Bruce travels cross country to sell his documentary in a car to explain the importance of his story being told.” Sam continues: “No one thought it was a very important story except him.”
The brothers Raimi also explored other options, which jumped back into the story directly after Army of Darkness. This take followed two versions of Ash: the one from their original ending set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic England (released in foreign markets) and the present day Ash, who returns to S-Mart relatively unscathed (which was ordered by Universal for Stateside audiences). Director Raimi reveals his alternative version and its meta-plot:
“So we wrote an Evil Dead 4 that followed both realities. We were going to be following two Bruces – one in the future and simultaneously crosscutting to Bruce here in the present. And we realized, we have really lost our mind now and we must stop.”
At one point, yet another Evil Dead 4 draft called for a major budget Terminator-esque story arc, which Campbell cheekily calls “Ash vs. the Machines.” However, Raimi scrapped his expansive vision, assuming there “wouldn’t be enough money for the big production we had planned.”
The road from Army of Darkness to Ash vs Evil Dead, as ever-patient fans recall far too well, has been a long one. Draft after draft of Evil Dead 4 fell flat or cashed out before the seeds of a televised continuation were planted. The Brothers Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell had all worked with the broadcast format before – albeit in the hour-long dramas like Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess (although they dabbled with a 30-minute formula on short-lived shows like Jack of All Trades and Cleopatra 2525). However, rather than a full hour of Ash fighting off demonic foes, Tapert felt “this show would best be served and the content would be best served in a half-hour,” something which Ivan jokes is because their fans “have a very short attention span.”
At one point, Campbell asks Sam Raimi point blank whether he was “mortified” at the thought of a televised continuation of his cinematic offspring, to which the director quips:
“I thought it was great, because I realized the audience will only have to take you [Campbell] in little doses.”
Hearing the whole story, it’s hard not to agree with the auteur and his collaborators. The first season of Ash vs Evil Dead truly packed a lot of blood, guts, humor, and drama into its scant ten episodes. If early impressions ring true, the second season looks like it's cranking the demon-crushing madness up to eleven. As Campbell himself noted, the shorter format tightens up the horror and comedic elements. Bite-sized bursts of Deadite madness also allow fans a chance to watch Ash “coming out of his shell,” as Campbell put it, and get a better taste for the characters.
At the same time, hearing the elaborate potential plots for an Army of Darkness follow up does make one wistful for the big screen shockers of Raimi's past, as well as Ash’s wide-screen ego. Rather than replacing the long nascent Evil Dead 4, hopefully the small screen success of Ashley Williams and crew will whet fan and studio-heads' appetites for more demon-slaying insanity on the silver screen.
Ash vs Evil Dead season 1 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 23 and returns for a second round in October 2016.