If you've watched more than a handful of horror films or TV shows, you know the ugly truth all too well: There are a million ways to make a denizens of the netherworld completely boring to watch. So praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: Ash vs. Evil Dead knows how to do it 100-percent correct. What this Starz continuation of the venerable "splatstick" franchise understands is that when it comes to the genre, you don't need to reinvent the wheel — sometimes simply building a better mousetrap will do.
Take Eligos, the allegedly minor demon Ash summons in tonight's episode, "Books from Beyond." It's part of a harebrained scheme (of course!) designed to help uncover how to round up the rest of the evil our dimwitted, chainsaw-handded hero has set loose and send them back to Hell. This eyeless, noseless, big-mouthed creature of the netherworld certainly looks like the sum of inspired-by parts: a smidge of Silent Hill's Nurse here; a pinch of Pan's Labyrinth's Pale Man there; add in a little bit Legion of Super-Heroes' Validus; and then dump in a whole lot of The Lord of the Rings' Mouth of Sauron.
But as with that last character (whose mouth was digitally enlarged to twice the actor's original size), it's the little touches that set this demon apart. Eligos' entire body constantly vibrates, like his very existence is enough to induce epilepsy — except his red, raw jaws, which stay perfectly centered and still, emphasizing every word. He seems to leap unpredictably from place to place around the room, as if Hades is governed by quantum physics. Attention to detail is often all it takes to make a good monster, and for its first attempt at breaking the usual Deadite mold, an unforgettable hellspawn is exactly what the show served up.
It also offered a wee bit of backstory to keep things moving. According to Lionel Hawkins, the ill-fated occult-shop owner who translates the Necronomicon Ex Mortis for Ash, Pablo, and Kelly, the tome was written by an ancient group of evildoers oh-so-creatively called the Dark Ones. These not quite human, not quite demon entities created spells that open portals into you-know-where. As Hawkins puts it, "The book itself is harmless unless wielded by someone very evil, or very stupid." Guess which category El Jefe falls into.
As for Amanda Fisher, the cop whose Deadite encounter has her hunting for answers, she's convinced Ash is deliberately causing the chaos. So she dupes Kelly into freeing her from captivity to take him down right in the middle of the summoning, and not even the ensuing supernatural smackdown, in which Eligos is subdued by the team smacking him with the Necronomicon, can change the detective's mind. The moment the smoke clears, she tries slapping the cuffs on our hero once again. Fortunately, his detachable hand comes in, uh, handy.
Amanda ends the episode staring down the predatory tongue of a reanimated Lionel. Our guess is she'll be saved in the opening seconds of next week's installment by the as-yet nameless character played by Lucy Lawless, who spends most of the episode in her car, barreling toward Ash at high speed. Interestingly, she finds out where to look for the guy from a Deadite — Kelly's dad — whom she impales on his wife's makeshift cross grave-marker and tortures with a seemingly magical blade. It looks like what we've got here is a good old-fashioned demonslayer in the Buffy Summers mode (to say nothing of Xena, Warrior Princess), and if the plan is to riff on that horror-hero archetype by pitting her against the big lug's brawn-over-brains approach, it should be a real hoot.
Ditto Pablo's brujo uncle, to whom our trio of so-called "Ghostbeaters" is now headed. Just as Eligos gave the show a chance to try its hand at Hellraiser–style demonology (completely with scary bell-tolling on the soundtrack) and Lawless may represent its stab at a Van Helsing figure, this mysterious "witch-doctor" relative could be our chance to see an Evil Dead take on New World mystical traditions like Santería. And hey, why not? If the results are this tasty, the show can toss any ingredients into its horror-action-comedy blender it wants.
Previously: The Parent Trap