Let me tell you something… I love audio commentary tracks. During the early days of DVD’s, I was so thrilled anytime we got some sort of behind-the-scenes making-of, a documentary or featurette, or a feature length commentary with some of the key people involved in the creation of the movie I was about to watch. It was the best, and most affordable film school I could ask for!
And along the way, you tend to pick out what your favorite commentaries are. For example, anytime John Carpenter gets together with his old friend Kurt Russell, you know that’s going to be worth a listen. For me, my all time favorite commentary track has to be the one for EVIL DEAD 2 with Bruce Campbell, director Sam Raimi, co-writer Scott Spiegel and KNB’s Greg Nicotero. It’s just so much fun, a candid revealing look at all the spots where the “wires are showing,” both metaphorically and literally. And there’s a sense that you’re in the room with a bunch of old high school buddies, talking about this little movie you all once made. At least, that’s what it feels like for me to listen.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that every episode on the recently released ASH VS EVIL DEAD Season One set features an accompanying commentary track. Since the first episode “El Jefe” is written by both Sam and Ivan Raimi, and Sam directs, both Raimi brothers join producer Rob Tapert and Ash himself Bruce Campbell to peel the curtain back on the return of the EVIL DEAD franchise in this television format!
Tons of tid-bits are revealed, including all of the following, which we’re presenting to you in a series of bullet points for your convenience.
REGARDING EVIL DEAD 4
It seems that after ARMY OF DARKNESS, many incarnations of EVIL DEAD 4 were batted around and discussed between Sam and his brother Ivan. “It took us in a lot of directions,” confessed Ivan on the commentary. “But we ended up not settling on any one, because we had so many different stories that we wanted to tell. Then I think we had the idea from Rob (Tapert) that we could do a lot more with television. But we were thinking about (EVIL DEAD 4). We were haunted by it!”
“We’d get 20 pages into one draft and realize it was not good,” explained Ivan. “(Then) do another 5 pages in a different direction.” Among some of the radical ideas?
“Bruce was a documentary filmmaker in one of them, where he’s capturing his own journey in life,” Ivan reveals. “We started to write one version of EVIL DEAD 4 where Bruce traveled cross country to sell his documentary, and he tried real hard to explain how important it was that his story be told. Nobody thought his story was important. Except him!”
Sam then brings up their most ambitious version which would’ve continued from both endings to ARMY OF DARKNESS. “It had two endings. The original ending that we had designed that ends up in blasted English future, which Dino De Laurentiis released in Japan and some foreign territories. And also, Universal Pictures domestically had us redo a happier ending with Ash back in the S Mart. So we wrote an EVIL DEAD 4 that followed both realities simultaneously. We were going to be following 2 Bruce’s. One in the future, and simultaneously cross cutting to Bruce here in the present. And we had realized that we had really lost our minds and we must stop.”
Another version sounded like a sprawling Sci-Fi epic! As Sam described it in the commentary, “We were working on another version that was very expensive. ASH VS THE MACHINES. We didn’t think there would be enough money for the big production we had planned, and Rob in 2013 said maybe we could do this in television.”
Sam jokes that television was perfect because the audience could only handle Bruce Campbell in small doses anyways. But all kidding aside, he actually admits that because of Campbell’s extensive television experience over the course of the last several years, paired up with his ever-growing popularity on the convention circuit, it seemed like now was the ideal time to combine all of Bruce’s strengths into doing EVIL DEAD as a TV show.
NETFLIX TURNED IT DOWN
Producer Rob Tapert talks a bit about the earliest discussions regarding pitching the show, and you’d be surprised who wasn’t interested in the return of Ash.
“Funnily enough, I thought this would be perfect on Netflix. EVIL DEAD 1 and 2 were very popular Netflix rentals. I thought when it went to the market, that would be the natural home for it. But as it turned out, they weren’t interested. Starz, our home with SPARTACUS, and another network were very interested in it and pursued it very aggressively.”
Sam and Tapert confirm that because of their already pre-established working relationship with Starz and the fact that the network was supportive of giving the team complete creative control, it became a no-brainer where the show belonged.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
There are a lot of familiar names and people involved with ASH VS EVIL DEAD that have a long history with the franchise! For example, the editor behind the first episode “El Jefe” is none other than Academy Award Winner Bob Murawski, who has been working with Raimi since the ARMY OF DARKNESS days.
Composer Joe LoDuca, who provided the score music for EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS is back to do the music for ASH VS EVIL DEAD.
Here’s one that blew my mind! In the pilot episode, there’s a fun sequence in which Ash gets into a fight with “Little Laurie,” the tiny possessed doll! Turns out Little Laurie is voiced by friend Bridgette Hoffman, who was also the model in all of the poster artwork for the original EVIL DEAD. Sam points out, “She’s the EVIL DEAD girl that’s reaching up out of the grave as the monster is pulling her down. What you may not know is its Bruce’s hand pulling her down!”
Slan Davis, who plays sweet little old lady Vivian Johnson from next door, and eventually gets possessed to fight Ash in the finale of the first episode has been in the EVIL DEAD universe before. She appears in the opening sequence of the 2013 EVIL DEAD remake as part of the group in the basement that burns the deadite possessed young girl.
One of my favorite cameos from EVIL DEAD 2 that can never be unseen, once you see it, is that of producer Rob Tapert. In EVIL DEAD 2, when Annie Knowby is getting out of her plane, you can see in the background an airline employee that is completely incapable of opening the second door on the side of the plane. That’s good ol’ Rob Tapert, whom the gang tease in the ED2 commentary track is probably still there trying to open that plane door. (Don’t worry. He married Lucy Lawless, so he’s doing just fine.) He also appears in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo for ASH VS EVIL DEAD’s first episode. When the storm and clouds begin hovering over the Value Stop, you can see Tapert run by while looking up at the sky.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM?
The song “Journey To The Center Of The Mind” by Ted Nugent which plays when Ash first reconnects his chainsaw arm and prepares to battle Vivian was originally intended for the end of ARMY OF DARKNESS, but at the time, they couldn’t afford to license it for use. Sam mentioned there was an attempt to use it yet again in SPIDER-MAN, which also didn’t work out. But finally, it’s used here for the conclusion of the first episode of ASH VS EVIL DEAD and is a theme that Campbell hopes will continue – using old-school Michigan rock as a backdrop.
ASH VS EVIL DEAD Season One is now out on Blu-Ray and DVD. All of the above facts come solely from the commentary track to the first episode, but you’ll find a commentary track for all 10 episodes on the set! And I’m sure there’s plenty of other fun tib-bits to be discovered!