Friday, September 16, 2016

Ash vs. Evil Dead - The Killer of Killers

Ash can't even have breakfast in peace.

Michael Hurst got his start in movies as an actor in the early 1980s, and while he still takes on acting roles to this day, he has also racked up several directing credits as well, establishing a working relationship with the Ash vs. Evil Dead executive producers Sam Raimi (creator of The Evil Dead), Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell (who also stars as badass, dimwitted hero Ash Williams) on the TV shows Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princesss, Jack of All Trades, and Spartacus: War of the Damned. That relationship continued when Hurst stepped up to direct the sixth episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead's first season. Of all the shows listed, this is the first one that he directed episodes of but didn't act in as well.

Hurst kicks off the second half of the ten episode season working from a teleplay by Nate Crocker. Before he was hired as a staff writer on Ash vs. Evil Dead, Crocker's only writing credit was the thriller short The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay, but he did work as a script production assistant on the TV series Workaholics, which several of this show's writers were involved with. Workaholics was co-executive produced by Ash vs. Evil Dead executive producer/show runner Craig DiGregorio, who brought a team along with him. I would forever be indebted to someone who brought me with them to work in the Evil Dead franchise.

An obvious pattern has emerged within this season - while trying to figure out how to stop a demonic plague that's sweeping through the state of Michigan, a plague that Ash accidentally caused, Ash and his companions Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) are on a road trip, stopping off at a new location every episode or two, and it doesn't matter how long they intend to be at that location, they're going to end up fighting some sort of demon while they're there.

In this episode, our trio of heroes have simply stopped at a restaurant to have some breakfast. There are some dramatic interactions as they try to come to terms with what has happened to them so far, and when Ash tries to dissuade his sidekicks from continuing on this dangerous journey with him. There are comedic interactions, like when Ash propositions the waitress. And then all hell breaks loose.

Pablo gifted Ash with a new, mechanical prosthetic hand in the previous episode, and Ash gets to put it to use against some Deadites here. It's a cool piece of equipment, sort of a Swiss Army glove, but it can't compare to his traditional chainsaw and shotgun, items which also get put to use in this fight.

Hurst did an awesome job directing this episode. There are some perfect old school Evil Dead touches, like the way the "roaming force of evil" P.O.V. moments are filmed and cut together, and the action is exciting, hard-hitting, bloody, and well shot.

Almost fifteen years after the last time he directed Lucy Lawless as Xena: Warrior Princess, Hurst got to direct a Lawless fight scene again in 'The Killer of Killers', having her mysterious character Ruby Knowby pick up a scythe and go to battle against a not entirely convincing, flaming skeleton. That scene was a little weak, but the episode made up for it as soon as the force came blasting through the front windows of the restaurant later on.

As we head deeper into the second half of the season, Ash, Pablo, and Kelly have a new ally and a clear objective in mind, one which Evil Dead fans have been hoping to see for a couple decades. Ash is going back to the cabin where all of his troubles started. I can't wait to follow him there.

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