‘Tossing Eyeballs into Ladies’ Mouths’: Xena, Warrior Princes, Returns to ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’

What could be more appropriate for Halloween? Our heroes Ruby (Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess) and Ash (Bruce Campbell) return for a triumphantly awful, hilarious slasher/gore/thriller comedy episode in the series Ash vs Evil Dead.

For those unfortunates who have not yet seen it, Ash vs Evil Dead on Starz, it is a wildly funny TV series which, like the X-Files, has been resurrected by its fans and is thriving in its new TV avatar. Ash, aging Lothario turned store clerk and aspiring DJ, hero of the cult flick Army of Darkness, wielding his trademark chainsaw hand, cuts his way through scenes and far too many bodies to win our hearts. He is aided in his search for the Necronomicon, a vile magical book bound in human skin which contains all manner of further horrible enchantment, by two hapless yet camera friendly Millennials. Naturally, trouble ensues.

Great stuff but the writers and fans clearly wanted more. So it was only fitting that another fantasy/sci star of another TV cult favorite Xena: Warrior Princess with her own significant cult fan following, join Ash’s hapless trio of co-conspirators to further ignite the craziness. And, of course, to find The Book.

Lucy Lawless, dubbed “Bigfoot,” by Ash, nearly steals the show. Fighting her way through the bodies which pile up scene after scene, Xena displays her trademark agility in a rumble or a tête-à-tête. Kicking, clawing, biting, sneering, seducing young innocents– she’s got all the moves. And she is Ash’s foil, attempting to win his acolytes from him and to claim the Book for herself.

The viewer is tempted to turn it all into a drinking game. Who was the last slasher? How much gore has she/he generated? How many bodies or body parts are lying about and who cut them off? Will the two kids follow Rudy or Ash and will they finally end up in Ash’s DJ fantasy world in club land Florida?

It is virtually impossible to summarize this screamingly funny gore-fest of a series but Lawless has given it her best shot. In a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Lawless said: “Yeah, it’s horror and it’s comedy…I think that’s very much a Sam (Raimi, director) thing. Also, [Raimi exercises his own] kooky sensibility like [tossing] eyeballs into ladies’ mouths. Even the word ‘ladies’ in that sentence is funny, right? There’s a certain uncanniness to the execution of the shows. The trick is how do you sustain this over 10 episodes? That’s why the half-hour format is really brilliant. It’s how young people watch now. You’ll record it all and then watch it in an orgy of craziness. This is going to play at your house on an endless loop for years, and in frat houses across the country…”

One might ask, how did Xena wind up in Bruce Campbell land? Bigfoot meets the Chainsaw King? Without really attempting to put a feminist spin on this, I’d still have to say that the two, far from representatives of the sexes, do manage to balance each other. Bruce Campbell is as always-deadpan killer funny and central to all the action. But Lawless has wicked chops of her own and she has a driven intensity that survives the yucks even while dealing with raw eyeballs tossed into the mouth.

“My character is obsessive about getting to Ash Williams and putting him down like a dog…she holds him responsible for the death of her father, Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon back in the movies. So she lost her family. She’s looking for payback.”

Payback. Vengeance. Retribution. The core of the Ash vs Evil Dead action. The relentless pace is sustained by these obsessions. It does not matter that Ash is a truly improbable aging, drinking, womanizing hero who lives in a trailer park. Or that Xena is a bit frayed around the edges- having mellowed a bit since her Princess avatar, but still a force to be reckoned with. A powerhouse on the screen. Lawless and Campbell trade scenes, quips, carnage – yes, it must be a feminist tract! When you measure action by buckets of gore and pus.

I urge readers to see this show. It grows on you like a fungus. Download it. Play it again and again. But whatever you do, don’t miss it!