When it comes to horror, you generally either go for the creep or you go for the gore. Tonight being Halloween, TV has a bit of each for viewers.
Of course, just because you’re going to get into some serious blood doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of humor. Thus the spectacular splatterfest that is “Ash vs Evil Dead” on Starz. Featuring more beheadings than a season of “Game of Thrones” in its debut episode, this show still manages to wallow in high-end camp and low-end Three Stooges slapstick silliness.
An extension of director Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” film trilogy, the show revisits the hero of those films, Ash (Bruce Campbell), 30 years on. The setting is still in Michigan — Raimi and Campbell were local kids way back when — but Ash needs to strap on a leather girdle when he wants to leave his trailer and go bar-hopping these days. He’s graying at the temples and a bit overweight, but he still has a killer chin and plenty of unwarranted faith in his own charm.
Unfortunately, Ash recently opened up his haunted copy of the Book of the Dead and did some drunken chanting with a lady friend, which has brought back the Deadites, evil spirits that take over human bodies and do nasty things. This means Ash, who lost a hand long ago, will have to leave his job as a clerk at a big box store, strap on his handy artificial limb chainsaw and stop a Michigan apocalypse. Or something like that.
Raimi, who’s probably still best known for the first three Spider-Man movies and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” shows he hasn’t lost his horror chops in directing the first episode, particularly with a spinning flashlight tension-builder. And the bloody roots of “Evil Dead” are fully honored as well; it’s doubtful there has ever been a more red-covered show in TV history. But the overarching goofiness of everything tempers any disgust factor.
Still, the shrill style of “Ash” is likely to repel as many as it attracts. Happily, those looking for more subtle scares can check out the return of “The Returned” on Sundance TV.
A bit of background: “The Returned,” a French horror series, debuted on Sundance TV on Halloween two years ago. It was such a sensation — it won the 2013 International drama Emmy and a Peabody — that an Americanized version of the series was made. This is the second season of the French series and it is just as impressive as the first.
In “The Returned” dead people keep coming back to a remote town in France. They’re not zombies or evil (unless they were evil in the first place) and usually they don’t even know they’re dead. They reconnect with astonished, often traumatized family members and friends; some have been dead decades, others a few years; they are children, wives, lovers.
At the end of the first season the dead all banded together and went … somewhere. Now more and more are arriving, some wandering into town, most being brought to the somewhere. It’s all very complicated, but at the same time easy to follow and terribly mesmerizing and haunting.
Luckily for those who like their horror both ways. “The Returned” comes on following “Ash vs Evil Dead.” And with some of the most popular shows on television — “The Walking Dead,” “American Horror Story” — belonging to the genre, it’s clear many of us like a good scare. No wonder Halloween is so popular.
‘Ash vs Evil Dead’
9 p.m. Saturday
10 p.m. Saturday