7.4

Ash vs. Evil Dead Review: “Brujo”

(Episode 1.04)

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<i>Ash vs. Evil Dead</i> Review: &#8220;Brujo&#8221;

Good news for Amanda Fisher: Ruby is her new best friend. That only seems fair, doesn’t it? Ash has already gained two new best friends himself. Why should Amanda be left out of the fun? Now she has someone to pal around with in pursuit of her perp, though Ruby’s intentions sound a lot less lawful than Amanda’s. Those of us who don’t mind knowing things in advance have already checked the IMDB page for Ash vs. Evil Dead, taken note of Ruby’s last name, put two and two together, and deduced her identity. In “Brujo,” the show spells that out for us in bold print. No wonder Ruby wants to track down Ash so badly. She’s operating under the misconception that Ash murdered her entire family in cold blood.

So Amanda’s gain means trouble for Ash, who happens to be in enough trouble as it is. That roving, unseen force we all know and love from the films is on his tail again as he, Pablo, and Kelly try to make their way to see Pablo’s uncle (Hemky Madera) and we see it personified as a giant, dust cloud of evil; it figures that Ash would have a nitrous oxide engine in his junker, and also that he still hasn’t paid the damn thing off yet. But that infernal CGI cumulonimbus is the least of his woes. Kelly has a migraine that’s come on so suddenly, you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if you missed a scene in the last episode. Like any insensitive dude, Ash doesn’t pay her headache much mind, and that leads us into a two-tiered problem within and without the story.

From a creative standpoint, Kelly has slowly backpedaled downhill since her introduction as the no-nonsense foil to Pablo’s twitchy, meek hero in training. She’s constantly ending up on the business end of a Deadite’s demonic mits, and that’s okay at first because she’s positioned as a skeptic: She doesn’t buy Ash’s tall tales or his bravado, at least until he lops off his neighbor’s head with his chainsaw. But in “Book from Beyond,” she got the chance to give some back-up to Ash and Pablo, showing that she can dish it out just as well as the boys. In “Brujo,” she’s suddenly helpless again. The yo-yo effect here is palpable. Is this all that the series has in store for her character? Most of the character growth so far has been accorded to Pablo, which is fine to a point; he’s Ash’s protégé. Pablo worships him. But skeptical or no, Kelly is a Ghost Beater, too.

The writing has a better idea of what to do with her than meets the eye, however. Turns out that our sinewy chum Eligos has taken control of Kelly’s mind, and in one of the series’ best-played scares, Kelly takes a gander at herself in the mirror to see the monster staring back at her, which provides a nice jolt as Ash goes acid tripping. 2015 has been the year of ayahuasca; tragically hip white folks are either taking it (as in While We’re Young), or talking about taking it (as in Digging For Fire). Ash isn’t hip at all, though, and when you give a guy like him a traditional Peruvian hallucinogenic brew, you can expect to dredge up some seriously freaky shit.

In that regard, Ash vs. Evil Dead doesn’t let us down, and of course the possession reveal instantly mounts dread throughout Ash’s delusional jaunt to Jacksonville. Why Jacksonville? Well, that’s where Ash planned on taking Linda before their ill-fated stay at that cabin in the woods thirty years ago; this, for him, is memory lane of what could have been, and while the sequence plays for snickers, there’s a bitter, regretful tinge to the whole ordeal based on that nugget of information alone. What would Ash’s life have been like if he hadn’t encountered the Necronomicon? He’d probably still be working as a stockboy somewhere, but damn if he wouldn’t be less of an emotional wreck. Fighting evil takes a toll on a man, especially when evil is shredding your mind while you lie prone in a drugged-out stupor.

By the time “Brujo” ends, we’re left in an uncertain place, staring down a big cliffhanger and with very little Deadite mayhem to show for it. In attempting to expand its mythology, the series feels like it’s stalling out, just as Kelly’s development is stuck in a holding pattern. Ash vs. Evil Dead wants its female cast members to get their hands dirty; Jill Marie Jones has one of the better Deadite kills of the season so far to her credit, and Lucy Lawless has established herself as a major badass in just a few minutes of screen time. There’s no reason Dana Delorenzo shouldn’t get the chance to kick a little ass with the rest of the women, too.

Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing online about film since 2009, and has contributed to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant, Movie Mezzanine, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.

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