Saturday afternoon at New York Comic-Con got off to a killer start when filmmaker Kevin Smith came out to introduce the "Ash vs. Evil Dead" panel. Smith gushed his fandom, saying his VHS copy of "Evil Dead" was like "currency" growing up in the pre-streaming days. He'd always imagined watching star Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi work, and got a taste of it back stage as the two prepared their entrance. "It was just like being there for one fucking moment, except nobody swallowed an eyeball." With that, he introduced the king himself -- Campbell.
"You savages have forced our hand on this," Campbell joked. "We didn't want to come back and do this, but you were pissed off at everything else we did except this." He was then interrupted by Raimi, who asked what Campbell had to show the crowd. They booed when Raimi suggested it was just the same clip from San Diego Comic-Con. So instead, he asked if they wanted to see the world premiere of "Ash vs Evil Dead." The crowd exploded, people jumped to their feet, and they were treated to the surprise premiere of the upcoming Starz show ahead of its October 31 airdate.
Based on the response, the pilot is everything fans could want. There's plenty of outrageous gore, offbeat humor, jumpy scares and old-school Raimi camera angles. The scene where Ash meets Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) is a particular highlight full of zinging lines. The graphics are a bit cheesy in spots, but all in all, it's pretty damn groovy.
After the screening, Smith welcomed back Campbell and Raimi alongside DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless (Ruby), Jill Marie Jones (Amanda), Ray Santiago (Pablo) and showrunner Craig DiGregorio.
Raimi said he and his brother Ivan had intended to make a fourth film, but realized no one would ever give them the budget necessary. "And then [executive producer] Rob [Tapert] said, 'Ya know, I've been doing a lot of work in TV. Their standards have lowered quite a bit.' So maybe it's time for an 'Evil Dead' TV show."
"This would not have worked anywhere else other than Starz," Campbell chimed in. "The idea is, you gotta subscribe to get this show. You'd pay for it in a movie theater anyway, and if you got in for free with your basic cable package, it would suck ass 'cause it would not be this."
Smith asked if they would return to the cabin from "Evil Dead." "I don't believe we're allowed to answer that question," said Campbell. "That's good enough!" called Smith. "That's an answer right there!"
Lawless was thrilled to join the 'Evil Dead' world. "I was about to sign on another gig, and a chance to play Ruby Knowby came up and I was like, 'See ya later guys!'"
Showrunner DiGregorio said he clicked with the team right away. "You walk into such a long time friendship, and at first you figure they're not going to accept anything I say, bt they're just the best collaborators." He also got to join in on torturing Campbell, which was fun.
"The audience loves it when Bruce suffers," Raimi joked.
After Smith complimented the longevity of Campbell's career, the actor said, "I'm very nervous about this show, because every time I star in a show it lasts one season. And every time I'm the second fiddle, it's on for a fucking decade." Still, he expressed desire to stick around this time. "We are committed to as many years as you demand that we give you. And if it's three, four, five, you got it." The crowd indicated they want as many as possible.
Raimi said the tone of the series mostly fits between "Evil Dead 2" and "Army of Darkness," but also the horror of the original. "We're trying to make the horror intense, the demons real." Smith remarked that the premiere certainly didn't skimp on the blood.
Santiago, who plays Ash's "sidekick" Pablo, was excited not only to be on the show, but back in his hometown of NYC. "I made a promise to Sam. I said, 'I'll do whatever you want. Cover me in as much blood as possible, I'll run through the wilderness naked running from Deadites! Whatever you want!"
After forgetting DeLorenzo in the intros, Smith said he'd never forget her now because she plays one of his favorite things -- a clerk. She praised the collaborative experience on the show, and her own character. "I love Kelly because she's a badass in the making," said DeLorenzo. "Her and Ash get off to a little bit of a rocky start, but then when she sees him in all of his chainsaw glory, and she can't help but be in awe."
Before taking audience questions, DeGregorio teased that the Deadites would be going all-out on the show. "I think my favorite part of the whole season involves a deli slicer. There's a really good deli slicer scene."
Campbell proved to be one of the most dangerous -- and hilarious -- people to ever propose a panel question to; he ripped into the first guy who asked about the show's "Three Stooges" humor for not knowing enough about the "Three Stooges," and then turned the next guy's question about dating advice into a platform to show him off to the crowd. "Ladies, just know he's not a random guy. He's been vetted by me. Your chances of being killed by this man are probably as good as anybody else, but whatever, take a chance."
In seriousness, DeGregorio answered a question about time travel by saying, "Don't rule it out. I can't give away too much. Maybe not right away, but definitely don't rule it out." However, a later question asked why there weren't many "Army of Darkness" references in the premiere, and Raimi revealed: "We don't technically have the right to pull from newly introduced ideas from 'Army of Darkness.' We only have the right to base this on the first two 'Evil Deads.'" The crowd awed in disappointment.
A female fan asked if any ladies would be taking up the chainsaw, and that sparked Raimi's interest. "That's kind of a good idea," he said to DeGregorio. "We should probably do that." He turned to Jill Marie Jones and said, "Look, we already had that idea okay. We will now." The audience certainly liked the idea.
Asked if it was more fun to watch Campbell "do his thing" or get in on the action themselves, DeLorenzo said she enjoyed watching the king work. "No one can deliver a one-liner like Bruce Campbell. And let me tell you, totally sincerely, to any of you looking for some new Ash Williams classic one-liners, they are coming!"
Santiago also said he watched Campbell, but to learn. "Ray, I've never won any acting awards ever," said Campbell. "So maybe you shouldn't watch me as close as you think you should."
But Santiago objected, saying, "It's not about acting awards. It's about going to work every day, and I learned how to work hard every day by watching you." It was a truly touching moment in which the two hugged while the crowd applauded.
Santiago said his character would grow into more than just the sidekick, while Lawless said her character was "the toughest character I've ever played... She's gunning for Ash. Her father was Professor Knowby, holder of the Necronomicon. And if you remember her family was wiped out by this putz and his Deadite friends, and now he's released the plague again. And she's going to put him in the grounds for keeps."
Raimi said the show's throwback feel was about keeping it in line with the past entries in the series. "And a lot of the dressing reflects the fact that Ash really hasn't grown as a human being or a character in the last 35 years. And ya know they say art imitates life," he jabbed at Campbell.
Campbell latter segued into talking about Raimi's iconic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, which is in all his films. He said he's been in the car since the pair were teenagers. "How many decades do I need to be subjected to that car before I kill it with my bare hands?"
"I have to keep the car hidden from Bruce," Raimi said. "Because often times Bruce is in the car when he gets hurt by me for the benefit of the audience. I hit him with a stick, splash him with water, poke him with something, and he's in that car. So he started to realize, 'Oh, I'll just take it out on Sam's car. Break a little piece off here, a little piece off there."
Campbell said, "If you can't kill Spider-Man, you kill Spider-Man's loved ones. I learned that from you, Sammy!"
Smith ended the panel by taking the very public opportunity to ask Campbell a question. "I'm going to make a movie in January called 'Mallrats 2'. Bruce, will you be in it?" With the crowd cheering him on, Campbell replied, "Hell yeah, I'll be in that movie!"