Tag Archives: Ash vs. Evil Dead

What to Read and Watch While Leaves Are Falling

Sure, I already published a fall reading list that should keep me very busy until 2017, but this is my favorite time of year. I just had a birthday (Thirty-four, eek!), the leaves are changing, the nights are getting slightly chilly (at least here in southwest Ohio), and I’m in the mood for comfort reading and watching some fall favorites. For me, that mostly means witches, obviously, though there are a few other things on here that are just more generally fall-feeling.

What are you reading and watching as the weather changes?

Stories to Pair With Pumpkin Spice Everything (Don’t Judge Me):

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
I read this little gem when it came out last September, and I fell in love with it. It’s a nice, seasonally appropriate read, and Cornell has a sequel–the more wintry The Lost Child of Lychford–coming out November 1 from Tor.com. If you haven’t read Witches, now is a perfect time to enjoy it. If you have read it, it’s a perfect time to refamiliarize yourself with it ahead of its sequel.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
This is another of the 2015 Tor.com novellas; it’s another witch story; and it’s another great read. While you’re at it, check out her recent short story at Tor.com, “Finnegan’s Field,” which is a good, creepy changeling tale. I haven’t gotten around to reading Slatter’s couple of short story collections, yet, but her 2016 novel, Vigil, is definitely on my to-read list.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
This is a book that I also read last September and really wished that I’d saved it for another month or so. It’s dark and funny and just a little scary, a great book if you’re like me and don’t usually like straight up horror but still want to get into the spirit of Halloween.

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World by Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, and Foz Meadows
It’s still the year of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and this collection of novellas is a perfect way to celebrate. Foz Meadows’ Coral Bones is probably my favorite, and it can be read alone, but I enjoyed reading all five tales together. Highly recommended for reading outdoors with a cup of tea on a crisp fall evening.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Hogarth has been celebrating Shakespeare differently–by having well-known authors re-envision the Bard’s plays in novel form. Obviously, you should read everything by Margaret Atwood, always, but her retelling of The Tempest is a really exceptional examination of its themes of prison, grief, vengeance, and the transformative value of literature.

Nightmare Magazine‘s Destroy Horror! Special Issues
This year we’ve got People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror! which is well worth checking out. If you only read one story in the issue, make sure it’s Terence Taylor’s “Wet Pain.” It’s also not too late to pick up last year’s Queers Destroy Horror! and 2014’s Women Destroy Horror! This project just gets better and better, you guys.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe
This book is brand new (literally–it’s got a 10/18 pub date), but it might be my most anticipated anthology of the year. It’s got an absolutely to-die-for table of contents–with stories by ton of my favorite authors–and a gorgeous cover. I almost never get hardcover books unless I find them at the used bookstore, but this one is a must-have for my shelf.

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo
Sometimes, reality is even better than fiction, and this 2013 examination of the genesis of Frankenstein is well-researched and highly readable. Even if you haven’t read the novel, The Lady and Her Monsters offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of Mary Shelley and how she came to write a classic of horrific science fiction.

Films and Television to Watch While Curled Up Under a Blanket:

Practical Magic (1998)
I cannot go a single October without watching Practical Magic at least once. I just watched it the other night with my thirteen-year-old daughter (her first time), and was struck again by how much I love it. It’s by no means a very good movie–there’s nothing like a critical watching of it to make one aware of every absurdity and plot hole–but I will always want to watch movies about women saving each other.

Hocus Pocus (1993)
Hocus Pocus is a Halloween classic that I’ve been watching for over twenty years now, and I can’t imagine stopping anytime soon.

Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Corpse Bride (2005)
This trio of Tim Burton flicks are seasonal must-watches.

Ghostbusters (2016)
loved the new Ghostbusters, and I cannot wait to rewatch it in the lead-up to Halloween. I remember enjoying the original movies as a kid, but this reboot is more fun that those ever were.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-now)
This show is definitely a problematic fave, but if you like artfully splattered gore, Bruce Campbell, and Lucy Lawless, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a ton of fun.

Lost Girl (2010-2016)
This show is basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s more diverse, sexier, more Canadian descendant. It definitely starts to fall apart a bit in later seasons, but the first three or four seasons are pretty solid.

Gilmore Girls (2000-2007, 2016)
With a Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls coming out on Thanksgiving, now is the perfect time to binge watch the show in preparation.

The SF Bluestocking 2016 Fall Watchlist

After a summer of not watching much at all–though I did finally check out Stranger Things–I feel like September has really just crept up on me. I realized yesterday that I’d been unaware of the premiere date for Son of Zorn, one of the few new shows that I’m even moderately interested in this year, and that’s when I sat down to work out what I’m going to be watching this fall. Sadly, some of my favorite shows (notably The Expanse and iZombie) won’t be back until 2017, and the same goes for the new shows (American GodsPowerlessStar Trek: Discovery) that I’m most excited to see. So, this fall definitely is a season of slim pickings. Still there are a few things I’ll be following.

Son of Zorn
September 11 on Fox

I don’t have super high hopes for this show (in fact, I’m somewhat confused about how this one got greenlit in the first place), but it’s got several people involved in it who I really like. The pilot was watchable and moderately amusing, but it was dedicated almost entirely to basic character introductions and setting up its frankly silly premise. Tim Meadows pulls his weight, but Artemis Pebdani is the real highlight of the pilot as Zorn’s new boss, Linda. The rest of the cast is fine, and I really love Jason Sudeikis, but I’m just not sure this show is going to work. I’m here for it, though, at least for a few more episodes. I expect this one to either sink or swim quickly.

Lucifer Season 2
September 19 on Fox

Lucifer is one of my favorite problematic faves, and I’m very much looking forward to its second season. Adding Tricia Helfer to the cast can’t hurt, and D.B. Woodside and Lesley-Ann Brandt killed it last season. My biggest hope for it is that it gets some better, or at least more consistent writing instead of simply relying on Tom Ellis’s considerable (possibly infinite) charisma to save the show from mediocrity. Also, more Trixie, please.

The Good Place
September 19 on NBC

I like Kristen Bell, and the show claims to be from the same creator as Brooklyn 99 and Parks and Recreation, two of my favorite comedies in recent years. However, the trailer for this one isn’t great, and it seems like it could be taking its concept to a place that is a little more cartoonish than I normally find funny. Still, I’ll check it out for an episode or two at least.

The Exorcist
September 23 on Fox

I’m not that into horror, as a general rule, because I don’t like things that are actually scary, but I’ll watch this for Geena Davis.

MacGyver
September 23 on CBS

MacGyver is the most profoundly stupid-looking and completely inexplicable reboot of the year, and there is no universe in which I don’t check out at least a couple of episodes of this train wreck.

Luke Cage
September 30 on Netflix

Full disclosure: I still haven’t watched the last couple episodes of the first season of Daredevil, but I absolutely loved Jessica Jones, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to watching Luke Cage. I’m not sure that I’ll like it, since I’m not really that into super heroes, and I was turned off of this show a little by an early trailer (the SDCC one maybe?) in which not a single female character was even visible. However, it’s on my list.

Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 2
October 2 on Starz

The greatest virtue of season one of Ash vs. Evil Dead may have been that it was only a half hour show, so it never overstayed its welcome. It certainly made some missteps, most notably in the treatment of its female characters, but it was nevertheless a fun watch, enough that I’ll be tuning in for a second season, anyway. I’m sure it’ll be worth watching just for the artfully spraying gore, if that’s a thing you like watching (and I do).

Westworld
October 2 on HBO

So, Westworld, is apparently a television adaptation of a 1973 film by the same title that I’ve never seen, but that some people are outraged is being rebooted because that’s how these things go. It’s HBO, so I expect it to have high production values and good writing, but I also expect it to have problematic elements and a similar tone deafness to certain issues that characterizes other HBO shows. That said, it looks good, and I’m always happy to see more serious sci-fi being made even if I do wish we could get more original content–or at least shows based on material written in this century.

Conviction
October 3 on ABC

I’m not sure the world needs another hard-living anti-hero lawyer show, but if it really must be done I guess casting Haley Atwell is a good direction to go.

Supergirl Season 2
October 10 on CW

I really liked the first season of Supergirl, but it’s a show that was bogged down time and again by poor writing. Sadly, I don’t expect this to improve with its move from CBS to the CW and the correspondingly smaller budget that comes with that. Calista Flockhart has already been downgraded to guest star, which is disappointing as Cat Grant’s relationship with Supergirl/Kara was for me one of the best parts of the show. We’ll see, though. Maybe the smaller budgets will bring a new back-to-basics mentality to the writers’ room, and we’ll see some more coherent storytelling. Melissa Benoist is an amazing Supergirl, and it would be nice to see her get the type of writing she deserves.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
October 20 on Fox

I am unabashedly excited for this.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 2
October 21 on CW

I almost never watched this show because I hated the title so much. I still hate the title, but the show itself is amazing, and I cannot wait for season two.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
November 25 on Netflix

I mean, obviously.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “The Dark One” is a near-perfect finish to a solid first season

The frantic pacing of last week’s penultimate episode feels like it’s mostly paid off, as “The Dark One” is a nearly perfect finale to the first season. While I’m still a little bummed that we didn’t get more fighting with Evil Ash, and I still think Amanda Fisher was criminally poorly utilized, this episode was truly excellent as well as being, hands down, the most truly horror-filled half hour of the season.

Last week’s “Bound in Flesh” ended with Pablo being possessed by the front cover of the Necronomicon. This week, he’s spirited away by Ruby, dragged down into the basement of the house to be used in, well, obviously nothing good. Ash follows, reluctantly, to try and rescue his young friend. Meanwhile, Kelly and Heather find themselves trapped upstairs until Kelly is thrown out by the house and has to try and find a way back in. It sounds chaotic, but on screen all these moving pieces are perfectly harmonized and manage to feel fast-paced but not rushed as in some previous episodes.

I’ve written pretty consistently about the ways that I think Amanda Fisher was served badly in the narrative of the season, and I still stand by everything I’ve ever said about her. She was a likeable character that the writers just never seemed to know what to do with. What I found interesting about this last episode, however, is that even though Amanda’s story was disastrously mishandled and unforgivably botched at every turn, the effect of her death and her return as a Deadite actually worked as intended—if the intent was to raise the stakes for all of the other characters in this final showdown (of sorts) with Ruby.

The most truly masterful part of “The Dark One” is the real sense of peril that pervades the episode, and Amanda Fisher’s death made this possible by showing that any one of the characters could die—even when as important-seeming as she was. When Pablo got possessed by the book, that danger felt real. Similarly, when Kelly is ejected from the house, I was legitimately concerned for her safety. Poor Heather, who I thought might have a chance, actually didn’t make it through the episode.

One of the enduring problems of the horror genre, especially in television, is getting the audience to believe the danger that characters face. In an ongoing series, there’s some expectation that most of the people we meet and care about will be around for a good while. Ash vs. Evil Dead, though, has definitely proven that it’s not afraid to kill people off, and if it doesn’t kill its characters outright it’s certainly willing to torture them. Even now, I get the feeling that the only person in the show who is really, truly safe is Ash himself.

The other way in which this episode shined was in the sheer amount of actual horror it delivered. The Evil Dead franchise has always been secondarily comedic, and there were still a few laughs this week, but there were also great gouts of fake blood and body parts, flayed skin, Pablo vomiting up Ruby’s “babies” and said babies (actually about the size of a kindergartener) running around and attacking people. Kelly’s time outside the house is just harrowing, and Pablo’s ordeal was a masterpiece of body horror that was actually difficult to watch. That it was all filmed as artfully as anything else in the series so far was just a bonus.

I have seen some complaints about the actual ending of the episode, but I think Ash’s deal with Ruby was exactly in character while still reflecting his emotional journey over the course of the season. Ash has never been a particularly intelligent or forward-thinking guy, so of course he would sell out the rest of the world to save these young people that he’s come to deeply care for in spite of himself. The trio riding off into the post-apocalyptic hellscape Ash has created is a perfect set up for the second season of the show.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The roaches from Heather’s crotch felt weirdly out of place. So much of the horror of Evil Dead has always been gore and blood and Deadites that the bugs seemed like a weird thing to include. It was also kind of a weirdly sexualized and gendered horror, if you think about it, which doesn’t seem quite fair to a character who is going to end her time on the show getting her head dropkicked by Kelly.
  • When Kelly was outside the house, all I could think was “please no tree rape.” Thank goodness they didn’t go that direction.
  • Ruby’s Basic Instinct pose is iconic.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “Bound in Flesh” is a mad rush towards an uncertain end

“Bound in the Flesh” chews through material at such a blistering pace that it becomes nearly incoherent, though it finishes with a big reveal and a scary turn of events that should make next week interesting.

Last week ended with Pablo and Kelly arriving right after Amanda Fisher’s death, and this episode picks up right afterward. Unfortunately, there’s little time for standing around having feelings about Amanda’s brutal demise. There’s actually not much time for having feelings about anything this week. There’s not even much time for dealing with Evil Ash, who is dispatched quickly and with minimal fuss once Pablo and Kelly show up.

The big showdown of the week is with Deadite Amanda, but in spite of her creative use of last week’s hikers as puppets it felt anti-climactic. I’d expected to see Ash and company having to face Amanda this week, but I thought it would be pushed off to the end and mostly dealt with in the finale episode for maximum emotional impact. Mostly, I’d expected the Ash vs. Evil Ash stuff to take a bit longer, but like everything else this week, this was all very rushed.

The big reveal of the week was Ruby’s identity, but this too was so hurried it barely made an impact. This was also a place where the script failed. I’d expected Ash and Ruby to have great banter, but that wasn’t so much the case. The jokes were there, but they failed to land squarely. The mad rush towards the end of the episode and Ruby’s betrayal just didn’t leave time for good script writing, apparently.

This is the first time that I’ve thought the show suffered for its short run time. Usually I’m glad that it’s broken up into fun-sized segments so that it doesn’t outstay its welcome, but this episode felt overstuffed and chaotic. Worse, while I know that there’s already a planned second season of the show, which means there can’t be too much resolution in the finale, I don’t see how there is going to be any kind of satisfying ending in just another thirty minutes.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • This show has the best musical choices. “Just the Two of Us” was inspired.
  • The Notorious C.A.T. is a great name.
  • I feel like Ruby and Amanda weren’t really friends? I mean, they only road-tripped together for a couple of days. Ruby’s sadness for Amanda was a little inexplicable and not at all earned.
  • Poor blonde hiker. I think she’s the only character in this show that I feel worse for than I felt about Amanda Fisher.
  • Oh, no! Pablo! That mask thingy is legit scary-looking, though.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “Ashes to Ashes” reminds us what this show is really about

“Ashes to Ashes” is my favorite episode yet of Ash vs. Evil Dead, and it has a lot of great things to recommend it as one of the show’s best episodes overall. It’s also an episode that really works hard to reassert that, ultimately, this show is about Ash and his journey, which is too bad, since the show’s created several characters that I really like and don’t really want to see turned into Deadites.

The biggest way that “Ashes to Ashes” reasserted the primacy of Ash’s character and development this week—and the thing that everyone seems to be talking about (to the degree that people are talking about this show)—is by killing off erstwhile cop and Ash’s new love interest, Amanda Fisher. I have so many mixed feelings about this.

I love Amanda, and I’ve been saying for weeks now that it’s a shame the show hasn’t done better with writing things for her to do, but (even though apparently literally everyone else who watches the show had called it beforehand) I really didn’t think that she would die. I’m not sure that I ever thought she and Ash would turn out to be an endgame couple, but Bruce Campbell and Jill Marie Jones have a pleasant chemistry and a good rapport that I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of episodes when I haven’t been irritated by their half-baked romance. At the very least, Amanda isn’t a character who “deserved” to die, and the way that she’s killed is incredibly brutal and in every way about servicing Ash and his story, which is just the sort of thing that I normally hate.

The thing is, I think Amanda Fisher’s death actually works. It raises the stakes by proving that the show isn’t afraid to kill its darlings, and it’s surprisingly emotionally affecting. It’s also a real surprise, which I liked, although I suppose in hindsight that it had been foreshadowed and hinted at. The actual fight between Amanda and Evil Ash is well-executed, and her impalement on the taxidermy deer is a great bit of symmetry with the fate of Amanda’s partner back in episode one. Even Amanda’s actual death is presented in a way that I like, and Ash’s tender last exchange with her is perfectly scripted and performed.

While I, in theory, hate everything about Amanda being killed off, I have to admit that I love the way the show handled it. Plus, I guess this means that she’s going to come back as a badass Deadite before the end of the season.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I’m not really sure I understand the point of the backpackers that Kelly and Pablo meet. That whole sequence felt like filler in an episode that had plenty of stuff going on. If it was meant to show Kelly’s proprietary feelings towards Pablo, I feel like there are smarter ways that could have been done.
  • That bird at the beginning was a great bit of dark humor, but why weren’t all the animals Deadites?
  • Linda’s head was equal parts hilarious and unsettling.
  • The cabin set is wonderful, and I can’t get enough of the sort of yellowish, softly-lit shots this show likes to do of creepy stuff. You’d think it might get old eventually, but it’s all so pretty I never do get tired of looking at it.
  • It’s nice to get to see more of Bruce Campbell’s range in this episode, and I appreciated his scenes with Amanda. However, Ash vs. Evil Ash is a great example of Bruce Campbell at his best and most fun to watch.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “Fire in the Hole” almost crashes and burns because of a nonsensical “romance”

I both deeply enjoyed this episode and felt as if I needed to shower once it was over, which I think is going to be, ultimately, how I feel about this whole show. This week, once again, I find myself thankful for Ash vs. Evil Dead’s half hour running time. While it’s fun to watch the show’s copious gory action scenes, and there’s some occasionally great banter, I don’t think I could stand any more, timewise, than what we’re getting.

The biggest problem I have with Ash vs. Evil Dead in general is the show’s seeming inability to write anything substantially good (or even just sensible) for Amanda Fisher to do. In “Fire in the Hole”, that becomes a huge issue in an episode that is otherwise quite good.

After having Amanda spend over half the season chasing after Ash with the mistaken belief that he was the bad guy in charge of the Deadites, she was fairly easily disabused of that notion last week. I didn’t love the way that happened, but alright. The show was always moving towards having her join up with Ash’s little gang, and Ruby being evil (although this is somehow completely unnoticed by Amanda) had always been pretty strongly telegraphed. Last week we also saw Amanda being surprisingly (and disappointingly) susceptible to Ash’s dubious (and, frankly, disgusting) charms.

This week, Amanda and Ash get handcuffed together and this gross “romantic” dynamic gets dialed up to eleven. This might be slightly tolerable if it didn’t require the complete destruction of Amanda’s character for it to even remotely “work.” The thing is, Ash is stupid, sexist, and only marginally competent at the best of times. Amanda was introduced in the first episode as an intelligent and generally sensible police officer on a hunt for the truth about a supernatural experience. She quickly transformed into a nonsensically violent and irrational impediment to our heroes, and now she’s changed again into a doe-eyed, empty-headed object for Ash to seduce.

It’s depressing (read: blind-rage-inducing) to see a potentially interesting female character so systematically diminished over the course of a series in 2015. I have the feeling that this is preparation for some kind of grand gesture or heroic act on Amanda’s part in the final episode or so of the season, but it’s mostly just tiresome. The idea that a clever, professional woman with a proper career and literally any other options would fall for Ash is the most laughable part of this show, and I don’t think that’s the intention of the writers.

Similarly frustrating is Kelly’s lack of character arc, though she’s not been wronged in the narrative in nearly the way that Amanda has. The “friendzoning” storyline with Pablo sucks, and I hate that Kelly’s development is in general kept decidedly subordinate to Pablo’s and Ash’s, and I didn’t love seeing her get semi-damselled again this week, but at least Kelly gets to use a big-ass gun instead of just gazing with inexplicable desire at some dickhead for twenty-five minutes.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The brief nude shots of Lucy Lawless were lovely.
  • I know it helps to make disposable characters seem like they “deserve” to die, but I don’t think it was at all necessary to have the survivalists straight up threaten to rape Kelly.
  • Lem is my favorite Deadite on the show to date.
  • Ray Santiago is a national treasure.
  • At this point, I am firmly on Team Severed Hand.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “The Killer of Killers” is a great, bloody mess

“The Killer of Killers” is a return to better, though not perfect, form for the show after several weeks of frustrating sidelining of its female characters and a couple of episodes that were disappointingly light on the stylishly (and hilariously) gory action scenes that are the most recognizable characteristic of this franchise. This episode brings back the action (with interest!) and, while it’s not a great episode for the show’s ladies, they’ve definitely got a little more to do than they had last week or the week before. Unfortunately, any gains the women made this week were offset by the unpleasantness of Ash’s misogynistic behavior being played for laughs.

The show opens with Ruby and Amanda arriving, again, at a place that Ash and company have just left. The poke around separately in one of the few legitimately creepy sequences of the season so far, and then the Brujo’s charred corpse comes out of his funeral pyre, accuses Ruby of some kind of betrayal, and then drags her into the flames. Amanda, doing the smart thing for once, gets in the car and drives off after Ash, but not before we’re shown that Ash’s severed hand is, ominously, missing.

Meanwhile, Ash, Pablo, and Kelly have stopped for breakfast at a sort of greasy spoon kind of place. I’m not sure why they don’t just dine and dash, but instead we’re treated to a too-long bit of Ash disgustingly sexually harassing their waitress. It’s probably the most unfunny this series has been so far, and that the waitress is one of the unfortunate victims when all hell shortly breaks loose only adds insult to injury—made still worse again when Ash quickly moves on to harassing Amanda as soon as she arrives on the scene. The action the follows helps to gloss over some of this nonsense—mostly with enormous gouts of fake blood—but it’s kind of a mess nonetheless.

Still, “The Killer of Killers” turns out to be a solid episode if you don’t think too hard about it. It’s highly entertaining, and it benefits greatly from the show’s short running time. Ash might be abrasive and his antics might be stupid and/or offensive, but he consistently provides enough laughs that he doesn’t overstay his welcome. And while the show is still not doing the best job of utilizing its secondary characters, this week was an improvement over last week, and uniting Amanda with the rest of the group feels like an importance piece falling into place.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I’m so glad the goat didn’t die.
  • I was honestly shocked that they killed a kid, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It wasn’t too much enough for me to not watch the show any longer, but still.
  • It was great to see Kelly finally get in on the action without being possessed or needing to be rescued.
  • One of these days, Amanda will learn that you have to shoot deadites in the head, but it wasn’t today.
  • “When you were possessed, you tried to fuck me and kill me,” is my favorite line of dialogue in this show, ever. I hate the “friendzone” narrative that Pablo and Kelly seem to be getting forced into, but I love this frank conversation opener.