The Evil Dead was never a film series deeply rooted in logic or reason. Sam Raimi always strove for more of a constant guttural burst of emotions, whether it be a laugh, a scream or occasionally a sense of empathy. This week’s Ash vs the Evil Dead intentionally references that visceral philosophy via dialogue, mostly as a means to establish the theme of thinking with gut instinct for the episode. After all, thinking hurts. Especially when Ash J. Williams is involved.
Coming right off the heels of the previous episode “Brujo”, Ash has been tied up by Pablo, Kelly and Brujo. Kelly – who is still under the influence of the demon Eligos – tells the others about Ash’s choking incident and convinces them that the demon is inside him. As Ash is bound and gagged, Brujo attempts to use various bits of demon trickery to exorcise Ash, resulting in further abuse towards the one handed Deadite killer. Right from that point, “The Host” continues the spirit of Raimi’s most recurring trend for the Evil Dead franchise and his career in general: beating the crap out of Bruce Campbell. Seeing him suffer through beatings and try in vain to get something out is the essence of the Ash character and shows Campbell’s ability to produce a laugh even with muffled speech. Plus, we get a few devious hints of Kelly under Eligos’ control, which makes Ash’s muffled reactions all the more heightened and funny.
Meanwhile, Ruby and Amanda are driving down the highway attempting to find Ash via his sentient served hand literally pointing them in the right direction. Amanda seems genuinely frustrated by having to deal with this, not accepting the insane logic of a severed hand using its index finger to lead the way. Ruby then launches into a monologue about her own initial frustration with the lack of logical flow to this Deadite business before embracing the madness and going with it. All of this feels very deliberate in terms of how it expresses the drive of Ash vs the Evil Dead and the preceding film series its based on. With all the goofy action bits and lack of strong continuity, the adventures of Ash don’t rely as extensively on logical flow. Yet, as Lawless wonderfully puts it, that lack of concern for logic is what enraptures the heroes – as well as the audience – in the sensory experience of trying to survive a Deadite attack. Essentially it’s about – as Ash did last week – getting through a bad trip. One simply has to go with the flow and not think about it too much or else risk being over taken by their vulnerable state.
Back at Brujo’s property, we see exactly what happens to those who are susceptible to such trickery. Pablo is pacing in Ash’s trailer distracting himself by tinkering further with his replacement hand for Ash. Kelly, under the influence of Eligos, attempts to distract Pablo with temptations of drugs and implied sex, all wonderfully sold by Dana DeLorenzo’s understated sensuality and Ray Santiago’s naive desire. It’s nice to especially see the former, as I’ve mentioned being disappointed by how much DeLorenzo is tossed to the side for the better part of this first season of Ash vs the Evil Dead. Here, DeLorenzo gets her chance to go full on Deadite in a fashion that shows off her extreme facial contortions and expressively wide eyes. There’s also some solidly staged tension here as Pablo nearly succumbs to his demonic pandering with an attempted weed hit off a secretly loaded shot gun, with some dynamic use of editing and varied angles from the episode’s director David Frazee.
It ultimately culminates in Brujo realizing Ash’s unpossessed nature and the three men tying up the possessed Kelly in his place. The typical possession hijinks ensue from here: evil laughs, taunting, vomit, the works. Yet, in between these gags are bits of dialogue that recall moments of comedy from earlier in the series to emphasize a genuine respect between characters, particularly when Ash sees through Eligos’ attempt to have him kill Kelly by remembering Kelly’s Jewish heritage. There’s also an effective struggle with Pablo to handle the idea of losing Kelly, which leads to a moment of familial reassurance between Brujo & Pablo. This emphasizes the emotional backbone of the episode as these characters face the potential sacrifice of their friend, even if it is a friend who has mostly been used as a piece of motivation rather than an individual character on her own. I just hope they continue to build that bond as time goes on.
However, tears give way to terrors as Pablo convinces Eligos to take him as the new host, Eligos exits to cause chaos. Brujo is killed in the process and Ash tries to think about his surroundings to guess Eligos’ teleported steps, failing each time. Eventually, Ash remembers his own maxim of “shoot first, think never”, allowing him to act on the full brazen instinct to throw his shotgun in the air & catch it. Thus, Eligos teleports directly in front of him and shoot the demon directly in the head. While this is a fantastic resolve to the overall thematic drive of “The Host,” it also gives a connection I’ve been waiting for from Ash vs. the Evil Dead since we first saw clips from Evil Dead 2: multi-colored gore. The green splatter is probably the most giddy I’ve been about the gore on this show since “El Jefe”, as it opens up so many more creative possibilities for the potential gore in future episodes. After this glorious splatter, Pablo lays his dead Brujo to rest on a funeral pyre Return of the Jedi style and says his goodbyes. This results in another fine bit of growth for Pablo, learning that he can take on his uncle’s legacy – albeit while getting a few small burns from an amulet in the process – and walks off to the trailer to a triumphant Ennio Morricone-esque theme and a series of shrines bursting into flames.
The episode ends on a somber yet hopeful note. As our trio is tendering to their wounds (physical and psychological), they offer each other appropriate sympathies and remorse for their actions, strengthening themselves as an unit. This is especially resonant from Ash, as he comforts Kelly after her possession and Pablo with the loss of his uncle. It shows how much Ash really has progressed in just five episodes, earning his newfound gift of Pablo’s robotic hand, which closes out the episode on an appropriate note of comradery in nonsensical joy. Could Pablo have actually built that hand for Ash? Probably not… but logic isn’t key on Ash vs. the Evil Dead. Here, we must hail to the king that is gut instinct.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: Eligos’ head explodes via the “shoot first, think never” technique.
Best Ash Line: “When you get back to hell, work on your aim.”
Next Week on Ash vs the Evil Dead: “The Killer of Killers,” where Amanda Fisher may finally confront Ash and see the full power of the Deadites first hand.
One More Thing: Nothing specific to the show, but more relating to Bruce Campbell in general. If you aren’t watching season 2 of FX’s Fargo, make sure you do so, even if it’s only to see the Groovy One pop up as Ronald Reagan himself.
Ash vs. the Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 5 “The Host”: (4 / 5)