Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ash vs. Evil Dead - Books from Beyond

Ash has a dumb idea, if you can believe that.

With the second episode of the TV series continuation of the Evil Dead franchise, Michael J. Bassett became the first director other than series creator Sam Raimi to direct Bruce Campbell in the role of hero Ash Williams. Bassett held on to that honor by returning to helm the third episode in the series, which was written Sean Clements. Like the second episode's writer, Dominic Dierkes, Clements had previously worked on the TV shows Allen Gregory and Workaholics.

'Books from Beyond' finds Ash in a position he would usually be having the time of his life in. He's hanging out with an attractive woman (Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell) and there are two other attractive women on his trail - Jill Marie Jones as Michigan State Police officer Amanda Fisher and a mysterious woman played by Lucy Lawless.

Raimi has been having success in television for decades, his greatest successes to this point coming from producing the long-running series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, which starred Lawless as Xena. Lawless has reteamed with Raimi (and his producing partner Rob Tapert, who she married a few years into Xena's run) to play Ruby here, a character who was lurking around in the first episode, 'El Jefe', and is revealed in the third episode to be in pursuit of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, a.k.a. the Book of the Dead. She displays some supernatural abilities while on her quest, but they haven't been much help in her years or searching. Meanwhile Ash has had the book in his trailer home all this time. I'm very intrigued to see where the Ruby storyline is headed, and to find out just what she wants with the book.

Ash can't enjoy the fact that there are women all around him because Kelly's not interested, Ruby seems dangerous, and Fisher wants to arrest him because he caused the death of her partner, sort of. Michigan is being overrun by the forces of evil simply because Ash read from the Book of the Dead, trying to impress a girl while drunk and stoned.

To his credit, Ash is actively trying to fix his mistake, aided in his efforts by Kelly and their friend Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago), a guy who misguidedly thinks Ash is super cool and is way too enthusiastic about this whole "fighting evil" situation. Pablo even suggests that they give their trio a name, like The Ghost Beaters.

The title 'Books from Beyond' is also the name of the bookstore where Ash takes the Necronomicon in hopes that store owner Lionel Hawkins (Kelson Henderson) will tell him how to hit the "undo button" on the spell he accidentally cast. When Hawkins can't quite figure out exactly how to undo this disaster, Ash comes up with a very questionable plan...

Enter Ben Fransham as the demon Eligos, who has powers unlike anything Ash has faced before in his monster hunting days. This jittery creature was something new, and Bassett brought it to the screen in an interesting way.

Ash vs. Evil Dead continues to motor forward at a breakneck pace, carried on the shoulders of the excellent performances delivered by its leads and its wonderful sense of humor that keeps the funny lines coming steadily. It's impossible to overstate just how much fun I'm finding this show to be so far. It is perfectly in line with the films that came before it, so it's a joyous experience to watch the franchise continue in this way. Ash has gotten himself into a hell of a mess that is making for some top-notch entertainment.

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