Bad Parenting and Demons Collide in ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ Season 3

Demon hunting and daddy issues are at the heart of the third season of “Ash vs Evil Dead.” Packed with all the gags and gallons of fake blood fans of the franchise adore, the new season features a less than original plotline carried by the show’s slapstick humor. The hero discovers he’s a dad, new terrors threaten the planet and a lot of guts are torn asunder in the process. When you’re dealing with a three decade-old franchise the best you can hope for is some verve and decent laughs. At this point the show is delivering (successfully) for the fans and the general geek who stumbles upon it while channel surfing. The premise becomes a mere conduit for its wildness.

As the third season opens, Ash (Bruce Campbell) has been somewhat rehabilitated in the eyes of his hometown of Elk Grove. Now seen as a hero, he’s decided to take advantage of the newfound fame to open a hardware shop with fellow demon killer Pablo (Ray Santiago). But the serenity doesn’t last for long, soon two developments rattle Ash’s life. His wife Candace (Katrina Hobbs) suddenly reappears and reveals to Ash that he has a daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill). Candace is contacting Ash because Brandy was recently attacked at her high school by a demonic entity signaling the return of “Evil.” Team member Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) returns to the scene and brings in a new character, Dalton (Lindsay Farris), who is a Knight of Samaria. Dalton informs the group that an ancient demon has taken possession of a special, ancient book used to unleash a new horde of evil on the world. As Ash preps for a showdown with the forces of darkness, he also has to deal with his new identity as a dad.

What has kept “Ash vs Evil Dead” working as a fun, goofy time is its devotion to the style of the original “Evil Dead” movies and the style of their creator, and producer of the show, Sam Raimi. While some of the humor and settings are of course updated for modern sensibilities, a lot of it remains true the Raimi spirit and look. No one, not even the villains, are unlikeable, even the demonic entities have a hilarious charm. The season opener is a full on action/gore fest. It opens with a raunchy, rowdy “ad” where Ash promotes his new hardware store using double entendres to sell tools (“ladies, you’ll love his nuts”). It all soon proceeds into big revelations and the first, bloody showdown of the season when Candace appears. It doesn’t matter much if you missed the last season, for the uninitiated this one starts off fresh with everyone starting anew. All you need to keep track of when it comes to the plot is that someone has opened one of those ancient, sacred books, and now all hell (literally) has been let loose. The first battle in a high school is a splatter-fest where someone is decapitated with a cymbal, Ash literally slices apart a face with harp strings and a possessed school mascot gets blown away.

Among TV weeklies, this has to be the one with the best makeup work. One episode begins with a baby demon tearing out of a womb and eating a doomed hitchhiker, its mother then walking over with a fully open torso. If you’re into the kind of geekfest where someone yells “cool!” at the sight of fake guts, then this show absolutely delivers. “Ash vs Evil Dead” in this sense works as a bit of TV nostalgia, it looks back to the kind of campy midnight movie style of the 1980s. The new season is pure grindhouse madness. One demonic battle takes place inside a sperm bank where bottled samples become weapons and an evil force reaches out from a porn magazine to attack Ash. You can’t help but having a silly grin through out the proceedings.

Even more than last season, the storyline here takes a backseat to all the visual excess. There’s a welcome change to the tone by introducing Ash’s daughter and forcing Ash to deal with slightly more complex, personal issues than what we usually get in this show. There’s a lighthearted charm to the scenes where he offers to give Brandy a ride to school or yanks flowers for her from a nearby vase. Ash is the very definition of a misfit. He’s one of the original horror anti-heroes who is loveable because he’s such a screw up as a person. Bruce Campbell knows this character so well by now that he plays him without effort. It’s fun watching him tackle having a kid, in one hilarious moment he imagines all of his possible spawn knocking at the front door.

It still isn’t clear if “Ash vs Evil Dead” will return for a fourth round. For now for fans of the “Evil Dead” films and devotees of the show, season three gives them just what they expect. If you like the sound of chainsaws being lunged at dark forces, tune right in.

Ash vs Evil Dead” Season 3 premieres Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. ET and airs Sundays on Starz.