The bland Hollywood genre films of today get a jolt of bloody originality and excitement in the form of “Evil Dead Rise”, a wild, raucous, and inventive thrill ride of a horror film.
Writer/director Lee Cronin does something rare and special by using his film to show respect for fans of the Evil Dead films while paying tribute to Sam Raimi’s original creation.
Cronin gives the people what they want, and then he gives them more and more, all the while keeping close to the beating heart of macabre fun that was Raimi’s vision.
“Evil Dead Rise” begins with a clever spin on the “demon cam”, a stylistic staple of the Evil Dead movies. From there we move to a young woman sitting by a lake, whose tranquility is disturbed by her friend’s boyfriend. He is annoyed that the trip is getting ruined by his girlfriend, who is back at their cabin and sick in bed with… something.
What transpires in this marvelously crafted set-up, I shall not reveal. What I will say is how Cronin opens the picture by grabbing his audience by the throat, taking our breath away and never letting go until the final credits roll.
As this film’s main story begins, it becomes immediately clear how the director plans to break new ground and mine some truly creative ideas. While teasing his audience with the opening set in the cabin, Cronin moves on, proving to have more inventive tricks in his hat.
“Evil Dead Rise” is the fifth film in the series and our director assures us he wants this one to be more self-contained and unique. This time, the film takes place entirely in an apartment complex.
Pregnant guitar technician Beth (Lily Sullivan) comes home to Los Angeles to reunite with her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). The two haven’t spoken in months Beth comes home to find her sister is now single, as her husband has moved out.
Ellie has three children, Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols), and young Kassie (Nell Fisher). The family is preparing to move out of their apartment, as the building has been sold.
The reunion between the estranged sisters is forever changed when an earthquake hits, opening a hole in the building’s garage that reveals a vault that holds the Necronomicon, or as fans know it, The Book of the Dead.
Fans of the series know what happens next. The book is opened, the chants are revealed, and the demons of Hell take shape in the bodies of certain cast members.
Beth (this film’s “Ash”) must keep her family safe as she fights through the blood and body parts of one incredibly vicious night.
Fans are here for the gore and Cronin shows a focused commitment to finding imaginative ways to create the grisly carnage. Elevators, scissors, industrial grinders, shotguns (nod to the “boom stick”), and even a cheese grater all become savage instruments that contribute to the extreme brutality.
What made Sam Raimi’s original trilogy so unique was their perfect blend of blood, scares, and almost slapstick humor. While not as broadly comedic as the Raimi films, “Evil Dead Rise” is relentless in making sure viewers are laughing and shrieking in equal measure.
It is no spoiler to reveal that Elle is the first to become a “Deadite”. The palpable fear created by a nurturing mother turning into a violent demon is quite disturbing, as possessed Elle tortures her children with lines like “Mommy sleeps with the maggots now.” Alyssa Sutherland’s performance is the film’s highlight. The actress dives into her role with glee and abandon, becoming a twisted monster out to take the souls of every member of her family. Sutherland’s twisted transformation is bone chilling and gives weight to the terror and panic to come.
While I shall always miss the rawness of Sam Raimi’s first three Evil Dead movies, Cronin’s film excels on technical levels. Dave Garbett’s cinematography (coupled with Nick Bassett’s production design) makes the already dingy apartment complex into a dark-hued hellish nightmare from which there is no escape.
If there are issues to be had, they come in the form of Stephen McKeon’s score (which is passable but tries too hard) and the way modern horror demons always feel the need to crack their necks before an attack, like Arnold Schwarzenegger righting himself during a fight. I’m tired of seeing inhuman creatures “stretching it out” to prepare themselves for battles. That said, those are minor squabbles that do not hurt the excitement that is the film entire.
40 years in, Lee Cronin brings a new gruesome and creative vision to keep the series fresh. This is a film full of wild invention, a constant and unsettling creepiness, gallons upon gallons of blood, and one of the most original title cards in horror film history.
“Evil Dead Rise” is a witty explosion of gross-out thrills and vicious chills. I went in with expectations low and came out ecstatic that I had experienced one of the most intense and crowd-pleasing horror pictures in years.
Evil Dead Rise
Written & Directed by Lee Cronin
Starring Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan, Gabrielle Echols, Richard Crouchley, Nell Fisher
R, 97 Minutes, Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema/Ghost House Pictures