Where's Father Merrin when Ash needs him?
If the IMDb listing for the 'The Host' episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead is to be believed, Zoe Green is a writer to be envied, earning her (assuming that's the pronoun to use) first ever credit as a staff writer on this series. Many horror fans would love to be involved, in pretty much any way, with this follow-up to The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness, and Green gets a staff gig on it right out of the gate. She also earned a "written by" credit on this particular episode, which was directed by returning director David Frazee.
Frazee helmed the previous episode, 'Brujo', which was entertaining, but I wasn't overly impressed with the direction of it. Maybe I'm just grumpy over those lame CGI shots of the evil force. Those sullied the episode for me right from its beginning, but 'The Host' gets off to a much better start.
The host of the title is Ash's sidekick Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo), who has been possessed by Eligos, a demon Ash stupidly suggested summoning in the 'Books from Beyond' episode. Inhabited by evil, Kelly has convinced Ash's other sidekick, Ray Santiago as Pablo Simon Bolivar, and Pablo's witch doctor uncle (Hemky Madera) that Ash is actually the one who is possessed. While a gagged Ash hilariously spews muffled obscenities, Pablo's uncle discusses a method of exorcism that would involve removing a lump of evil from Ash's brain.
Having put Ash in a bad spot, Kelly/Eligos gets down to the business of smoking pot and trying to devise the murder of everyone around her.
Meanwhile, the vengeance-seeking Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless), who blames Ash for the death of her family in Evil Dead II, has convinced disgraced Michigan State Police officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) that Ash is the evil mastermind behind the demonic plague that has been sweeping across the state. Guided by Ash's possessed hand, which he cut off in Evil Dead II, the women are on his trail. In her first scene, Lawless gets an awesome monologue, while the great P.J. Harvey song "Down by the Water" plays on the soundtrack. While Ash vs. Evil Dead tends to feature some really cool classic rock, the songs tend to be from the late '60s/very early '70s. They ventured into the '80s with Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" for 'Brujo', but the fact that they brought in this P.J. Harvey song from 1995, the peak time for my MTV watching, was a pleasant surprise. I really love this show's musical taste.
Eventually, the truth about Kelly is revealed and the episode devolves into a rather typical exorcism sequence, although Frazee does enter the sequence with a wonderfully Evil Dead camera move, starting outside and rushing into the structure where the exorcism is taking place. After that it's just blessed water, vomit, urine, and pleading with a demon. Things we've all seen before, and I get a bit tired of watching exorcisms.
But hell, there aren't any exorcism movies out there with Bruce Campbell as Ash in them, so this episode has an edge over most of them. There is also a very nice moment in here where Ash shows a rare sign of emotional depth, feeling guilt over all the trouble and death he has called. That was a terrific touch.
In the end, Ash acquires a new hand, a mechanical thing made for him by Pablo, and a cover of one of my favorite songs to cruise down the road to, "Stranglehold" from 1975, kicks in on the soundtrack and takes 'The Host' out in style. All in all, sort of a middle of the road episode, but enjoyable.