Roush Review: Deadly Doings on ‘Ash Vs. Evil Dead’ and ‘The Returned’

Ash vs. Evil Dead
Matt Klitscher/Starz

A Bloody Good Ash vs. Evil Dead

Forget the walking dead. The hideous creatures in the land of the Evil Dead are ferociously in-your-face speed demons, racing to slaughter—and to be slaughtered—in Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead, a hilariously punchy, pungently gore-splattered half-hour series version of the original 1980s horror-film franchise. (Saturday’s opening episode, directed by founding Evil Dead auteur Sam Raimi, clocks in at a brisk and insanely enjoyable 45 minutes.)

It’s a happy Halloween indeed that reunites Raimi with Bruce Campbell, whose comic swagger has only grown more endearingly amusing with age as the single-handed, chainsaw-wielding Ash. Slacker by trade and hero by accident, he’s called back into reluctant action after haplessly unleashing a new wave of ravenous Deadites on the world. Ash vs Evil Dead is a proudly, knowingly cheesy no-standards-bearer of slapstick horror, cleaving close to the funny bone as it wallows in exploding heads, possessed dolls and other supernatural menace, regularly drenching its warriors (including Ash’s co-worker sidekicks, played by Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo) in geysers of blood.

You might cringe if you weren’t so busy laughing at the spectacle of a paunchy crusader who surveys the carnage and decides, “The other first thing I gotta do is some cardio—because my heart is jackhammering like a quarterback on prom night.” You and me both, Ash.

Ash vs Evil Dead premieres Saturday, Oct. 31, 9/8c, Starz

Return of The Returned

The ReturnedThere are more returnees from the dead than ever in the second season of SundanceTV’s eerie French import The Returned, and it’s anyone’s guess what these new silent and sinister sentries portend for the first wave of disoriented oh-so-human zombies and their rattled loved ones.

It takes a lot to creep out this longtime horror fan, but the haunting ambiguity of The Returned—which inspired a short-lived A&E remake earlier this year, not to be confused with ABC’s dead-and-buried Resurrection—has a way of getting under one’s skin in a way that more overt thrillers rarely accomplish. Every frame of this beautifully filmed living-ghost fable is suffused with mystery and the alluring dread of the unknown. There are very few hard scares in this story, more a sustained and hypnotic tingle of unease as the subtle action picks up six months after the first season, with the undead exiled to a village they access on a raft across a Stygian body of water.

“I’m looking for some meaning, a pattern,” babbles a disheveled dad whose deep existential despair finds a visual metaphor in a mammoth sinkhole which may offer some clues. Or, more likely, will add just one more layer to the profoundly soulful puzzle.

The Returned premieres Saturday, Oct. 31, 10/9c, SundanceTV

Questions? Ask Critic Matt Roush!

TV critic (and occasional TV therapist) Matt Roush answers viewer questions and concerns in his Ask Matt column each week. Wondering about plots, characters and twists on your fave shows? Submit your query to Matt via the form below: