This week, Ash returns to place that all his troubles began. He ditches his new friends and sets out alone, planning to bury the Necronomicon at the infamous, classic, creepy cabin where he first encountered the Evil.
“Ashes to Ashes” takes place on a faithfully-reproduced reconstruction of Evil Dead’s iconic cabin in the woods. I mean—sure, it’s obviously a soundstage. But it’s a lovingly and thoughtfully made soundstage, complete with original props and dimensions. Everything is right where we left it back in 1987, everything rearranged in a painstaking attempt to recreate “reality”, from the possessed clock to the individual bullet holes in the walls to the wet-looking boards on the porch.
I’m drawing attention to this recreated Evil Dead cabin because it reminds me of an article I read once about how Evil Dead 2 is not only the ultimate horror sequel but the ultimate postmodern experiment in monstrous serialization. (Google found it! That article is called “Recurrent Monsters” by Paul Budra and you can read it in his book called Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel if you want to spend $200 on Amazon.com. Word.) Basically, in Evil Dead 2, Ash fights through a terrible horror with no consistent rules or logic other than the events we’ve just seen in The Evil Dead. He has to relive his experiences, both through the flashback montages at the beginning of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness (and in Ash vs Evil Dead 1.01), and because the same kind of Deadite-fuelled horror keeps happening to him again and again. The Deadites are possessed (or re-created) versions of human beings, and Army of Darkness even sees Ash doing battle with “Evil Ash”, his own monstrous double.
So I bring up the meticulously-recreated Cabin in this episode not just because it’s nostalgic fanservice. (Not that there’s anything wrong with nostalgic fanservice. Consider this nostalgic fan duly served.) But it’s also a weird kind of horror genius: making Ash relive his original, inescapable horror on a well-made but conspicuously re-made set.
Now, I’m throwing the word “genius” around here, but “Ashes to Ashes” doesn’t exactly live up to the promise of its premise. There are a lot of jokes, and a lot of them don’t land properly. But this episode is deeply weird and violent and disturbingly random—I’d be lying if I said that didn’t capture a bit of the essential, original Evil Dead spirit, even if it’s not as funny, scary, or fresh as I’d like it to be.
Upon arriving at the cabin, Ash is immediately haunted (literally) by voices from his past. Fisher catches up with him just as he’s walking in the door, and tells Ash in no uncertain terms that he needs her help and she’s going to give it to him whether he likes it or not. Ash delivers a great monologue about how the only certain things in his life are death and taxes (and taxes left town), but, in the end, he agrees to make his last stand against the Evil with Fisher at his side.
Now, Fisher might talk a big, brave game, but she’s also more than a little haunted by her recent brush with Evil. She hears her late partner’s voice and spends most of the episode following strange sounds around the cabin.
And Ash is taking a big risk by “letting” Fisher help him. As he reminds her before he enters the cabin, he’s lost everyone he’s ever cared about. And he’s lost most of them right here, in this very place. But hey—maybe, this time, it’ll be different?
Anyway, Ash’s big smart Plan is to bury the Necronomicon back in the scary cellar where he originally found it. He goes to look for a crowbar in the woodshed—you know, the same woodshed where he stowed his dead girlfriend’s possessed severed head.
And speaking of severed body parts, while Ash leaves Fisher behind to babysit the book, his possessed, maggot-infested hand is creeping around inside of the cabin’s walls! And it’s grown an eye on its wrist! A wrist-eye!
I’ve previously been pretty hard on Ash vs Evil Dead’s strange reliance on bad CG effects where even bad practical effects would be way more effective. Sadly, this is no exception. The eye-sprouting reveal should be gross and scary, but instead, it falls flat.
Remember that scene from Army of Darkness when Ash discovers an eyeball bulging out of his shoulder? That effect didn’t look exactly “real”, but it did look wet and disgusting and shocking.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Pablo are looking for Ash in another part of the forest. They run into some unsuspecting hikers… Very nubile unsuspecting hikers, with cute accents, and who are “at one with nature”! Pablo is kind of crushing on the blonde hiker (Samara Weaving), and Kelly gets a little jealous. Hmm.
Back at the cabin, Ash is trapped in the woodshed with Linda’s head (Rebekkah Farrell) getting attacked by various rusty metal objects. Fisher stumbles across an old journal entry about the Kandarian dagger and its power over the Necronomicon, but she’s interrupted by Ash coming back to the cabin. At least, he looks a lot like Ash. And he acts a lot like Ash—if Ash was a little sweeter, a little more inclined to run away from all his problems, and a little more into talking in bad Lifetime movie clichés.
The music swells, and “Ash” and Fisher look deep into each other’s eyes and talk about how they want to run away together. This scene would be absolutely terrible except that they’re also talking about evil books and chainsaw hands, and Bruce Campbell and Jill Marie Jones are hamming it up like there’s a blowout special on canned ham. Life is short, so “Ash” and Fisher start making out right in the middle of the evil haunted cabin, as you do.
The romantic moment is ruined when Fisher notices that “Ash” is suddenly and ominously two-handed, and he attacks her. Fisher manages to slice off the evil hand—and slice it into pieces—but not without being terribly, hideously, mortally wounded herself.
Yes, it’s happened again—Ash has lost a girlfriend to the Evil. But I can’t be the only one who was hoping that there’d be a little more to Fisher’s story. She loses her partner, gets kicked off the force, meets a warrior princess, kisses an old chubby zombie killer, and then dies? What’s the point of that? Did her eight-episode subplot—her entire character, really—have a point other than dying to make Ash sad?
Anyway, Kelly and Pablo finally find their way to the cabin, and Ash tries to awkwardly explain how Fisher was murdered by him… well, not him, exactly, but a guy who looks exactly like him. It’s complicated, okay? As the episode ends, Ash is right in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out, really freaking funny fistfight with his worst enemy, who knows all his secret fears, physical weaknesses, and best catchphrases: himself. Well, sort of.