Everyone's favorite wisecracking, self mutilating, time-traveling, boom-stick wielding, shelf-stacking deadite killer, Ashley J. Williams, returned this weekend with the new Starz series, Ash vs. The Evil Dead. With Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi once again re-united on the small screen, fans were no doubt hoping for a premiere episode chock-filled with references to the original franchise -- and they were not disappointed.
Although it carved its way into a new world and setting, Ash vs. The Evil Dead did not forget its roots and splattered the first episode with many callbacks to its Evil Dead origins. Unfortunately, for fans of Army of Darkness, the third movie does not seem to technically be canon for the TV series (blame Universal), but in any case, the first two movies provided more than enough material to work with. Here are seven references to The Evil Dead you may have missed (and one you almost certainly didn't):
1. The Really Obvious Ones
Ok, so there's no confusion, let's get the really, really obvious references out of the way. Practically, everything which made Ash Williams the deadite stomping hero he is returns in the premiere episode, including his boom-stick, chainsaw, blue button up, homemade holster, Oldsmobile, Necronomicon and "Groovy" one liners. He is also still working in homewares at a discount supermarket, although this time its Value Stop and not S-Mart. Perhaps, that whole 'incident' at S-Mart at the end of Army of Darkness got him fired?
Other obvious references include the frequent use of the 'Evil Dead perspective' - a now trademark camera technique in which the evil races through the woods, or in this case, a parking lot -- and the slap-stick, Three Stooges inspired comedy moments.
2. Hidden Oldsmobile Reference
Although one of the more obvious references, Ash's favored mode of transport, the Oldsmobile, returns in several guises. Firstly, we see him still driving it around town (it seems to run surprisingly well considering the literal battles its been through), but there's also a hidden Easter Egg in an unexpected place. When Ash consults the 'Books From Beyond' business card, we see the address is 1973 Olds Road, Berkley, Michigan. This is clearly a reference to the 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 he drives.
The Oldsmobile actually features in all Sam Raimi's movies -- including Oz: The Great and Powerful -- and the one seen in Ash vs The Evil Dead is the same one from the original movies. It is owned by Sam Raimi and was bought new for him back in the 1980s by this father.
3. The Weapons
The boom-stick and chainsaw might have stolen the show, but many of the other weapons featured in the first episode are also references to the original movies. For example, Ash's colleague Pablo dispatches a possessed Lil Lori doll (possibly a reference to the Walking Dead character of the same name) with a shovel that looks extremely similar to the one Ash used to decapitate his possessed girlfriend in the original Evil Dead.
Furthermore, Ash later uses a fire axe to dismember a deadite, much like he did in Evil Dead 2. Interestingly, the axe also comes with its outline drawn into the wall, like the chainsaw in Evil Dead 2.
4. The Cabin in the Woods
Ash vs. The Evil Dead may have changed up the Evil Dead formula by not setting itself in a creepy cabin in the woods (or monster-plagued Medieval kingdom for that matter), but that doesn't mean the original Evil Dead location isn't referenced.
For example, when new characters Amanda Fisher and John Carson investigate disturbances at a house in the woods, we can see many references to the original cabin. This includes the haunted rocking chair, antlers on the wall (the same as the original cabin) and paintings and pictures which appear to show twisted trees and forests. Furthermore, Carson's yellow shirt is identical to the one worn by Annie in The Evil Dead 2.
The bar at the beginning of the episode, The Woodsman Tavern, also seems to reference the cabin -- especially the tool shed. Their logo is two crossed axes, while there is also a lamp made from a circular disk saw.
5. Michigan State University
In the original Evil Dead, it is revealed Ash and his friends are taking a break from their studies at Michigan State University, although I think we can assume, given what Ash goes through (and his subsequent employment), that he probably didn't graduate. Despite this, he still seems to hold a candle for his old Alma Mater, as a Michigan State University shirt and cap can be seen in Ash's mobile home. Sam Raimi himself actually dropped out of MSU in order to complete the original Evil Dead.
In reality, Ash vs. The Evil Dead was filmed in New Zealand, with Raimi plastering references to Michigan throughout the series. As well as the MSU shirt, we also see references to real restaurants in Michigan such The Fish Market and Blue Lake Diner.
6. The Deadite Bluff
Although Ash might have changed a bit over the years, it seems the deadites are up to their old ways, including the ol' 'pretending not to be possessed' trick. In every single Evil Dead movie we see deadites possess someone only to lure their next victim in by subsequently pretending to be better again. This once again happens in the pilot episode, with the possessed Carson playing mind games with Fisher. You see the tactic in the original Evil Dead below:
7. Book of the Dead Bloodsplatter
Kudos to MovieWeb.com for finding this extremely difficult to spot, blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter Egg. Following the above mentioned bluff, the possessed Carson changed his tune and goes on to attack Fisher -- cue a gunshot and massive amount of blood. However, hidden within that blood is another Evil Dead Easter Egg. It's hard to spot, but if you look carefully you can see the blood actually form the shape of the distorted face on the cover of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis.
8. Evil Dead: Army of Darkness Reference?
As you may have noticed, Ash vs. The Evil Dead seems to have glossed over the whole 'being transported to a Medieval kingdom' thing that occurred in Army of Darkness. The main reason for this, it seems, is that all the various Evil Dead movies are owned by different studios and Universal, who own Army of Darkness, is not involved in the series. This is also probably why Ash no longer works at S-Mart -- since that was introduced in Army of Darkness.
However, there might be a slight reference to the third film in the show's end credits. While the pages of the Necronomicon flip by, we catch the glimpse of a deadite munching down on a figure with a sword and shield, clearly invoking the medieval knights in Army of Darkness.
Unfortunately, Sam Raimi is only attached to direct one episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, meaning we'll have to traverse the rest of the series without him. Although this is slightly disappointing, I'm glad he still got to be the one to reunite us with Ash in all his Evil Dead-referencing glory. Luckily, with the formalities of a reintroduction out of the way, the remainder of the season can work on taking Ash to some new and interesting places.