Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E03 - 'Last Call'

After the pure insanity of the previous episode, it probably makes sense that nothing that takes place in the season's third episode would be quite as shocking – even if only by comparison. Honestly, at this point, I'm not even sure how Ash vs Evil Dead could hope to top the truly disgusting, and absolutely hilarious, series of disturbing sights that made up Ash's desperate battle in that hospital morgue. Although, I'm fairly certain that the people behind the series will make an effort to do so, before the season ends.

For now, though, we have what appears to be a much more personal, and reflective, episode of Ash vs Evil Dead – as the loss of Ash's beloved car (stolen, at the end of the previous episode, by a couple of unruly college students) serves as a catalyst to bring the main cast's various issues into the open. Of course, this is still Ash vs Evil Dead – so, the emotion comes with plenty of the franchise's usual absurd humour, and there is still plenty of fake blood splashed about(though, fortunately, it's only blood, this time).

With Ash's precious Oldsmobile stolen (with the recently recovered Necronomicon left lying on the backseat), Ruby is understandably eager to lead the team off on a recovery mission. Ash (who, clearly, seems more concerned about his care than the book) as a plan of his own, though – one that involves teaming up with his old buddy, Chet (Ted Raimi), in order to organise an epic party which will, hopefully, lure the teens into a trap. It is exactly the sort of hilariously bone-headed plan that the audience can imagine someone like Ash Williams coming up with – yet, in the absence of any better ideas, even Ruby is prepared to admit that it might actually work. As the party kicks off, though, it seems to draw everyone but the teenagers who stole Ash's car – including Ash's father, Brock.

While the lingering tension between father and son finally culminates in a, very entertaining, contest on the bar's mechanical bull Pablo and Kelly find themselves forced to confront their own issues. For Pablo, that means the lingering fear that he could, at any moment, slip into another of the horrific visions that he has been having after being possessed by the Necronomicon. For Kelly, meanwhile, that means a much more personal reminder of everything that she has lost, leading up to this moment.

While Pablo's issues still seem to represent the season's greatest potential for drama, and genuine horror, there has always been a strong sense that it is actually Kelly, of the two, who is evolving into the most interesting character. Here, we get to see another side of that, as the 'Ash-inspired' facade of bravado she has been putting on, through many of their encounters with various forms of evil, seems to crumble – leaving her uncertain about what her role truly is. It is a very interesting moment, played very well be Dana DeLorenzo – and, most interesting, it even leads to a direct team-up between Kelly and Ruby, as Ruby is able to play on Kelly's momentary vulnerability to convince her to head off on a new mission to hunt down demonic children.

Ash and Brock, meanwhile, seem to finally have a very genuine moment of father/son bonding when a Deadite makes her way to the party – resulting in Brock finally having the chance to learn the truth, and see his son in action.

Of course, the reason that the car-thieves don't put in an appearance at Ash's party is because they have problems of their own to contend with. With the original pair heading off to meet up with a few friends, and the Necronomicon lying on the backseat, it was inevitable that one of them would eventually find the book – and, that they would foolishly read from it. This, of course, drags the group of friends into their own, very short-hand, horror film – as, first, a young woman is possessed by a Deadite (the very same who goes on to threaten Ash and Brock) and, second, Ash's beloved Oldsmobile is, itself, possessed.

Here, we have what clearly seems to be a particularly bloody tribute to Stephen King's Christine – as the possessed car proceeds to hunt down, and brutally murder, each member of the group. These scenes play out with the same sense of, admittedly very morbid, fun that the series has become known for – with the car, itself, managing to walk that same line between horror and comedy that the Deadites have always managed to achieve. Much like the Deadites, for example, it is clear that the possessed Oldsmobile seems to be genuinely enjoying itself – obviously playing with the group of friends, before going in for the kill. The design of the possessed car, itself, is also fantastic – with good use made of smoke, flames, and an eerie red glow to give the proper impression of evil.

While, for much of the episode, these two plot-lines are kept mostly separate (save for Amber, the possessed woman, who manages to maker her way from one to the other), they do eventually come together in a very sudden, and violent, manner which also manages to provide what might be the most genuinely emotional moment that we have ever had on Ash vs Evil Dead. Though, I wont spoil it, here.

After the events of the season's second episode, I don't know if Ash vs Evil Dead will every be able to shock, and repulse, me in quite the same way, again – and, there is certainly nothing that occurs in this third episode that even comes close (even the sight of someones face being peeled off by a car tire feels tame, by comparison). But, then, the people behind the series don't necessarily need to keep trying to top themselves in order to produce an entertaining series. In fact, a constant and continuous effort to do so could, just as easily, prove to be detrimental to the series, as a whole.

What we have with this episode, for example, really amount to just another variation of the sort of bloody mayhem that the franchise is famous for, an entertaining new 'monster' in the form of Ash's possessed car – and, some great moments of character development for the main cast. As Ash vs Evil Dead has already managed to prove, at various points throughout its first season, this is often more than enough to provide a very entertaining half-hour.

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