And here it is: The episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead that Ashley Williams’ diehard fanbase has been waiting for. Sure, the series started off with a bang, setting Ash back to work messing up Deadites and protecting all that is good and living from all that is evil and, well, not living. But past “Books from Beyond,” the story has dug its heels down and gone into set-up mode. That’s not a bad thing, mind. Both “Brujo” and “The Host” made for good television, if perhaps a bit slow to get to the point. But hooooly boomstick, “The Killer of Killers” is the real deal, isn’t it? This is what we signed up for. This is why it was worth getting amped up, when Starz picked up Ash vs. Evil Dead and got the band back together.
As a disclosure, it must be said that the bloody delight of “The Killer of Killers” comes only in its final minutes. Up until that point, the episode mostly just moves chess pieces across the board, directing Ash, Pablo, and Kelly to a diner where shit eventually ends up getting real; the big “whoa” moment to start us off comes pre-credits, as Ruby is yanked into Brujo’s funeral pyre by the reanimated flaming skeletal remains of Brujo himself. Farewell, Ruby! We hardly knew ye. (Reminder: This is Evil Dead land, kids. Start placing your bets as to how soon Ruby will be back on her feet.) That’s a nice little bit of unpredictability in a show that, in terms of character deaths, is otherwise fairly predictable.
No sooner does Amanda find a new partner than she’s abruptly on her own again, which naturally just pushes her even harder to take Ash down once and for all. We can see where all of this is headed: Amanda makes for the diner, Ash tries to screw the waitress to avoid paying the check, and Pablo has a heart to heart with Kelly about that whole “possessed seductress” business from “The Host” before warning her about the dangers of seeking vengeance. Blah, blah, blah; we’ve got Deadites to slay. Enough with the chit-chat and the feelings. Look, that unseen evil force has been frolicking around over hill and dale for what feels like the entirety of Ash vs. Evil Dead’s first season. Each time it catches up to the Ghost Beaters, bad stuff goes down, none badder than what transpires once all of the major players are all in one room together at the end of “The Killer of Killers.”
Long story short: Deadites and corpses everywhere. “The Killer of Killers” deserves major kudos for presenting us with not one, but two seriously nasty Deadite kills, plus a handful of the unicorn of horror movies and TV, namely kid kills. Even in horror it’s taboo to off a child. Bet the little guy who tries to make a run for it and winds up diced by a ceiling fan took that old trope too much to heart. The entire sequence of violence is batshit insane, and likely uses more fake blood per second than the rest of the series combined. One person gets an ice skate to the cranium, another takes a piece of debris to the face before falling in the fryolator, and to top it all off, Kelly finally gets to bust out and go toe to toe with a Deadite by herself after Pablo miscalculates how many bullets are in Amanda’s gun. (That “slide across the floor while firing a gun” move is pretty sweet, though. Good for him.) Killing her parents, that’s one thing. Possessing her, though, that just sets her over the edge with over the top results.
“The Killer of Killers” is the kind of adrenalizing fare that you and your buddies won’t be able to shut up about for hours after watching it. You’ll spend your every breath recapping what you just saw in short, broken sentences: “Dude when he chainsawed that Deadite in the gut…” “Dude and then Kelly with the meat slicer…” “DUDE and then Kelly with the tenderizer…” “DUDE.” Most Ash vs. Evil Dead viewing parties will probably end with a round of high fives this week. Saying that “The Killer of Killers” gets its hands dirty is a major understatement. Instead, we’ll just say that it delivers on the show’s gory, spookablast, action-comedy promise. It is, pound for pound, the most gruesome and blackly hilarious installment Ash vs. Evil Dead has unleashed to date. (“I know what I have to do,” Ash says as he shovels pancakes into his mouth. “Chew before you swallow,” Pablo replies sagely.)
Best of all, it doesn’t apply the brakes to developing the narrative in service of splatter. The Ghost Beaters have become a quartet instead of a trio, for one. For another, the mythology is starting to expand in unexpected ways. What’s going on between Pablo’s amulet and the Necronomicon? Is Ruby really toast? What did Brujo mean when he called her a “double-crosser?” (Was that even Brujo? Definitely seems like it.) Make no mistake, you’re along for the ride here because it’s everything that Ash vs. Evil Dead should be, but Raimi and co. aren’t forgetting about their end game, either—whatever it may be.
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.