by Brendan Graham
Groovy! This review is spoiler-free!
Evil Dead has returned and has crawled its way from the murky cabin in the woods to a rundown highrise in the big city which marks a unique transition in the series' history, sometimes providing a change of scenery in a beloved franchise can be a killer. Luckily, EVIL DEAD RISE remains faithful to its roots with gallons of blood and chunks of flesh and shakes things up as the victims are not old friends like in the previous installment, but a family with children who are not immune to the demonic madness ahead.
In this latest installment of the beloved horror franchise, this time helmed by The Hole in the Ground’s Lee Cronin, we are introduced to newly single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) who is trying her best to raise three kids: Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and the youngest Kassie (Nell Fisher) after her husband left her while also preparing to have to move because the building is being demolished. Touring guitar technician Beth who has become estranged from her sister Ellie returns to LA to check in on her sister as well with uncertainty about some big news in her own life. After an earthquake rattles the building, in the parking garage below, a chamber has opened up revealing the Naturom Demonto or The Book of The Dead to Ellie’s kids returning home from an errand. Curiosity soon gets the best of one of the teens, who plays the records they found and unleashes unspeakable evil into the building, starting with their mother. It’s a fight to stay alive until dawn as Beth has to protect the kids from her sister who has fallen prey to the demonic forces.
EVIL DEAD RISE in a lot of ways is a love letter to the franchise, it pays homage in quite a few ways including nods to the iconic camera shots from the original, playful bits of humor, fantastic uses of household objects as weapons and gallons upon gallons of blood. Practical effect fans rejoice, much like with the 2013 film, a lot of the grisly gore is done on the set with some amazing makeup effects and the Deadites have never looked more terrifying. Gorehounds will also find lots to love in this lean and mean splatterfest, the trailer only hints at the gory goodies to come so be prepared for some sickly fun surprises along the way. That cheese grater is only the tip of the iceberg here. This is definitely the kind of movie you want to see with an audience, the reactions alone are worth the cost of admission. Although I will say, that the violence doesn’t quite top the 2013 film and is not nearly as sadistic.
Lily Sullivan is a fine addition to the Evil Dead Universe as a lovable screw-up who just wants to make things right, like Jane Levy’s Mia before, she fulfills the role of Ash in this one. The kids do fine, but their accents sometimes slip through which can be a bit disruptive during longer bits of dialogue, although Kassie is adorable, which makes all the horrific things she goes through that much more powerful. The real show-stealer here is Alyssa Sutherland, who transitions from a sweet southern mama to one of the most terrifying demons I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. She is the stuff of nightmares, from the way she manipulates the children to the contortions and unpredictable nature of her movements. The scenes outside the apartment door? Some of the best.
However, where the movie lacks some bite is in the pacing of the film. We find the first act dragging a bit introducing the family drama and the stakes that come with it, and at the same time, it doesn’t give us enough time to get attached to all of the characters like the kids. It’s odd because it feels slow at the beginning but before you know it, the book has been found and Ellie is possessed. The second act fixes this by rushing us head-first into the unrelenting chaos where no soul is safe from torment and torture and has some of the most memorable scenes in the franchise thus far. The third act and finale find us stumbling a bit again when some of the fights with the Deadites feel like they are too easily won and the stakes don't feel quite as high anymore.
Pacing aside, EVIL DEAD RISE is an entertaining, blood-soaked thrill ride that should satisfy horror fans of all types. Here’s hoping that this gives the franchise a much-needed boost and we don’t have to wait another 10 years to read from the Book of the Dead again.
EVIL DEAD RISE is now playing in theaters nationwide.