Channeling My Inner Ash in “Evil Dead: The Game”

It has been a long time since I reviewed video game, but is has been an even longer time since I’ve been this excited about getting my hands on a new one: Evil Dead: The Game.

You’re not getting a full review here, either. There are already some excellent breakdowns out there of the good, the bad and the glitchy. Instead, I want to talk about what this game and my rediscovery of the Evil Dead world has done for me.

The game alone has reignited my desire to sit down and immerse myself in a different world. I want to play with folks who share my passion for the sheer love of a good story that was the essence of early Sam Raimi.

As a busy mom, I pulled myself out of gaming for some time. I still played a little with my husband in first person shooters like Call of Duty, but I always felt guilty sitting down a picking up a controller knowing I have stories to write, and family to raise. The last game I fully sat down and played (and soundly beat) a game was the first American McGee’s Alice. Yes, I’m that old.

Most of the time, I’ve resolved myself into being a “back seat gamer”. When my husband or gamergirl daughter plays, I sit in on the ride, navigate the maps and help them remember what they need to do. Oh, and I trash talk, which if very important. I still appreciate the medium of the video game art form, especially the fantastic worldbuilding surrounding games like Red Dead Redemption or Borderlands.

On another level, I admire the spirit the indie filmmaker. I love evolution of the Evil Dead franchise, and how it all began from an idea concocted by a very young dreamer of dreams and his buds who said I’ll do this myself. And Raimi did, with love, spit, and the most glorious, goriest and grooviest uses of self-funded DIY filmmaking you could stuff in a grindhouse. Skip ahead more than 40 years, to two sequels and an incredibly well-made television series that amassed a cult following of millions. This is what happens when you have a penchant for telling a tale, an eye for the artistic, and gorgeous and charasmatic actor friend like Bruce Campbell who isn’t above doing the dirty work. I would rather see a low-budget film where the director completely holds the reigns than a mainstream star-studded release where a director’s style is buried in what 30 big studio producers tell him or her what they have to include, or omit.

I wasn’t until the Ash vs Evil Dead series I really returned to that party. Soon after finishing the series, the first announcements for Evil Dead: The Game started flying around social media. I was going to incorporate all three original movies and the series into one epic multi-player love and slaughterfest.

The more I saw of it the more itchy I was getting to own this thing. Then the character profiles, still shots, official art stills and trailers begin pouring in, and I only had one thing on my mind: Ash Williams, my spirit animal (I know, I know I’ll get back to that).

It’s game time, afterall.

Getting Back in the Game

The game itself was released on May 13, available on different PlayStation, Xbox and PC for now. I watched the comments and criticisms, tips and hot takes for the game, thinking I would have to play vicariously through others…and then last week a gift from my amazing husband arrived in the mail: the PS4 version of Evil Dead: The Game.

It was all that and a keg of Shemp’s.

Evil Dead The Game is insanely, wickedly, gruesomely and hilariously fun, and is one of the best games based on a film franchise I have ever experienced. The environment and soundtrack are beautifully frightening, the character mannerisms are brilliant and spot-on, and the verbal soundbites are just perfect. Even option of getting play as a Deadite like a Necromancer is a power trip, and lets you see just what you are up against. I unabashedly recommend it.

Now, this game is primarily a multi-player, but before I can drop into a game, I don’t want to show up like the gawky kid trying to get into the basketball game.

Like, hey guys, I got a chainsaw, too. You think I can toss a Deadite head around with you…huh..maybe.

Ergo, I’m starting at the solo missions, and realizing, I am horribly, terribly and embarrassingly rusty in first person game play.  So far I’ve learned I am really good at shooting and chainsaw melee, but terrible about dodging and reserving my ammo. My big criticisms are you can’t hold more Shemp’s Colas to recharge my health, and there are no save spots in the solo missions. I played Mission One so many times, I can do it in my sleep. I freakin’ hate Henrietta, and part of me was ready to just fling Linda’s yappy head into a creek. Yes, I talk a big game for someone who thought she had almost beat an elite more than once while she let her fear levels rise to unhealthy levels and then…BOOM, I’m dead.

In the past few days, my family has walked in on me getting way to emotionally invested in this game, and having full conversations with the screen like

Ash, honey, what have done here. We know better than that…Aww, no you didn’t. That bitch is TOAST!

All of a sudden I’m remembering what is was like to be a twentysomething gamer  ho couldn’t wait to get home to “beat that next level” or be constantly thinking of  figuring out a new route or move that would get me and my boy Ash over a hump.

Hey, you gotta start somewhere. Might as well have something epic to look at.

Channelling My Inner Ash

Speaking of Ash…it is time to (no politics intended here) “circle back” to why I have openly declared on several occasions Ash Williams is my Spirit Animal.

I am not a twentysomething gamer. I am a 53-year-old mother of one girl who just turned 20 and another hitting her teen years this summer. The wonderful world of lockdowns destroyed my long-time editing job, and made the death of my dad to cancer about a million times worse than it was. I am bringing myself back into the world, with my freelancing and other work, but I’ve been feeling a little, well, past my expiration date, as it were.

I wasn’t much to look at in my younger years, and although I’ve done some stage acting, DJ work, public relations stints with a ton of public speaking, and even co-hosted local cable television arts shows, I came to the conclusion my writing is where I shine. I have a face for radio and voice for print, I often say.

Now, I look in the mirror sometimes and see someone whose best days are way, waaay behind her. I’m not getting any prettier and I’m not exactly “living the dream”. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not unhappy, really. I love my husband and my kids. We’re not rich, but we’re not starving. I know there are so many who are much worse off than me, but human nature often tends to drag us to the darkest and worst of ourselves.

I wish, just once, I could be confident, even a little cocky, and finally show people who underestimated they were oh, so very wrong.

Enter Ashley J. Williams. More specifically, the Ash vs Evil Dead version. He has lived through some unthinkable battles, and his body is breaking down and aging. He’s residing in an airstream, working at a department store, and having bathroom hookups in dive bars. His big dream is to get to Jacksonville, Florida. (Disclaimer: I have nothing against Jacksonville, as I have never been there and can’t judge.) Even his iconic metal hand has been replaced with a useless, wooden prosthetic.

You’re wondering now how in the hell this version is my go to. I mean, you would think the younger Ash was the tree you’d think everyone wants to climb. Hey, I’m just calling it as I see it. Bruce Campbell in his 20s was a full on hottie. See, here’s the deal; Ash may be far from perfect, and living in a far-from-perfect situation, but he doesn’t seem to see it that way. 

He still has his swagger. Ash still has his confidence and his simple dreams and pleasures. Despite being shot down and brushed off, particularly by the younger generations, he is still a legend in his own mind. Yes, he is arrogant, but he’s seen some shit. Yes, he’s refreshingly un-PC, but he loves his friends. He doesn’t discriminate against whom he deems worthy as a friend, ally, or potential love interest. Again and again, evil forces and the “real world” mess with his dignity and his sanity, but he still overcomes. He’s a clunky hot mess hiding the soul of a hero. By the end of the series, we get to see just a small glimpse of that hero brought to life.

I get it. Even when it seems you are too old and used-up to be of any value, there is still a purpose for you…and it just may be saving the world once again. That eternal jewel of self-worth is something I could use.

When I picked up the controller on Evil Dead: The Game, it brought me back to the days when I had a little self-confidence in my future and abilities. By running around the rain-soaked deadite-infested Michigan campground, hoisting a star-spangled chainsaw and firing off shots and one-liners, I’m funneling a little of the spirit animal back into myself.

It is even leaking into my real word. I’m finishing up some long-neglected writing projects and trying to work my physical appearance a little more.

Did a video game do all that? Of course, not. Ash Williams, and by extension Mr. Campbell, did that. I know I’ll never get a chance to tell him as much, but that doesn’t matter. Evil Dead: The Game, has been extremely rad conduit.

Hey life! I’ve got a killer spirit animal backing me up. Come get some!

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