Stan Against Evil: Comic ‘The Evil Dead’ Wannabe (Review)

Stan Against Evil Season 1
John C. McGinley, Deborah Baker Jr.

Stan Against Evil could have been titled “Sam Against Evil” since it borrows so heavily from Sam Rami’s stock FX and many of his “gags.” Although the vomiting of black goo did not go into the sheriff’s mouth, unlike the stuff that Mrs. Ganush regurgitates into the protagonist’s mouth in Drag Me to Hell.  The pilot of Dana Gould‘s creation feels like a small screen The Evil Dead wannabe with comic aspirations.

While John C. McGinley is a personal favorite from his days on Scrubs as the irascible Dr. Perry Cox, it feels like McGinley is channeling that character into an Raimi verse and it does not fit. 

McGinley is small town Sheriff Stanley Miller who served in the post for 28 years before being let go after an incident at his wife’s funeral.  Stanley attacks an old woman who makes faces at him during the graveside service.

This sounds funnier written down than it does being acted out on the screen. The scene just lacks something. Which is the problem with the pilot full stop. It  lacks any cohesion and McGinley’s Miller, who is, in essence, Dr. Cox with a badge, feels out of place.

Watching the pilot one wonders how Stan managed to keep the job so long.

The “comedy” horror series takes ideas from a couple of sources. The LA Times actually liked the pilot and pointed out, quite rightly, that Stan Against Evil borrows heavily from not only Raimi, specifically The Evil Dead and the brilliant Drag Me to Hell,  but Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse is touched upon very lightly as well.

While the sincerest form of flattery in Hollywood is imitation, it is not surprising that the show has taken the Raimi/Whedon route. Although it should be pointed out that the humor is nowhere near as spot on as the source material borrowed from.

Stan Against Evil Season 1
Stan Against Evil’s Mrs. Ganush…

Herein lies part of the problem. The Evil Dead has already been brought to the small screen. Bruce Campbell has donned the chainsaw arm for Ash vs Evil Dead on Starz. So if fans of that sort of comedy horror fun want a Rami product they need look no further.

Show creator Gould has mapped this new series out like a live action The Simpsons  treehouse episode and it is lacking. Annoyingly, the prosthetics are impressive. They could have come straight off of an Evil Dead assembly line.

But as good as the makeup and special FX are, the show falls very short of any sort of noticeable goal. McGinley seems to be “freewheeling” his lines instead of working from any sort of script.

Janet Varney as the new sheriff in town; Evie Barret, has been woefully miscast or, at the very least, misdirected. She is all wide eyes and over-reactions  and has been given a two demential character with absolutely no depth.

(To be honest, none of the characters have any depth. One feels that that if they stood sideways all the players would disappear except for a thin outline.)

The rest of the cast have their work cut out for them as well. Deborah Baker Jr. and Nate Mooney both have characters so shallow that there can only be an improvement as the show progresses.  Unlike another comedy that was hard to get into, “Crowded” (on NBC) where everyone tried too hard, Stan Against Evil feels like no one is trying at all. 

This new offering on IFC may eventually find its feet. So far the comedy it has on offer feels misplaced. So far this feels like Scrubs meets The Evil Dead and it is missing the comedic mark.

Stan Against Evil premieres tomorrow, 2 November, on IFC.  This was show that we wanted to enjoy, McGinley is a favorite, but based on the pilot, it is a not so clean miss.

We recommend it only to the most resolute John C. McGinley fans.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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