Starring: Alyssa Sutherland, Lily Sullivan and Morgan Davies
Directed by: Lee Cronin
Running Time: 97 minutes
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what exactly is going on in a horror franchise. The “Halloween” franchise has about five different timelines now, the “Hellraiser” franchise seemingly builds on it’s own mythos while constantly changing it’s own established rules, and the “Friday the 13th” franchise is such a mess, I could probably spend an entire article attempting to piece it together with summer camp craft glue. Meanwhile, the “Evil Dead” franchise always asks, “Will Ash/Bruce Campbell be in it?” For “Evil Dead Rise,” no, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fitting addition to one of the meanest horror franchises known to man.
When I say mean, I generally mean sadistic. In the first and second “Evil Dead” films, Ash has to kill the possessed corpses of his friends, girlfriend, sister and others within one horrible night. Pronunciation is the meanest thing about “Army of Darkness.” In 2013’s “Evil Dead,” which is a remake/sequel, the demonic entities suck on one character’s crippling drug addiction. In “Evil Dead Rise,” the deadites feast on a family. Beth (Lily Sullivan) decides it’s time to visit her older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), mainly because she’s pregnant and struggling at adulthood. Not to be done, Ellie is also struggling at adulthood as she raises three children, including two teenagers, in her dilapidated apartment building that’s going to be shuttered in a month. On top of that, Ellie’s partner, the kid’s father, recently left. However, an earthquake is about to make these problems seem like a quaint afterthought.
The apartment sits on top of an old, sealed bank and the earthquake opens a hole into one part of the old bank. I’m unsure what part of the bank because I’ve never been to a bank where hundreds of crosses hang adorned from the ceiling and menacing voices whisper in the dark. Ellie’s son, Danny (Morgan Davies), finds a few records and a mysterious book with actual razor sharp teeth. Yes, you read that right. Teeth. Fans of “Evil Dead” know what happens next, but newcomers will get to experience a fresh kind of hell that only “Evil Dead” can portray to perfect gory effect.
“Evil Dead Rise” doesn’t skimp on the blood, gore and cruelty. At moments when you think the movie couldn’t possibly go there, it does. The demonic force goes after Ellie and then sets its sights quickly on her kids and Beth. What makes “Evil Dead Rise” unique is that this is the first instance of kids being used as potential deadite fodder. Sure the past movies have been “teens” at a cabin in the woods, but you and I know that everyone involved in those films wasn’t a “teen” or looked remotely close to that age. Just like the previous film, “Rise” tries to replace Bruce Campbell, a mistake that these new “Evil Dead” movies should stop right now. Unless you’re building towards an epic crossover, let the hero character naturally occur instead of forcing them down the same path as Ashley J. Williams. That path is for one, and one only. I digress though because “Rise” does a lot of things right, like bringing the “Evil Dead” into the modern world, taking the horror out of the cabin and injecting it into the city, all the while never relinquishing the brutality Raimi patented in 1981.
“Rise” does justice to a franchise built on carnage as it assaults all the senses at once like a chainsaw with a megaphone. Raimi’s dark comedy, which became a staple of the franchise in “Evil Dead II,” isn’t quite there. Making up for a lack of chuckles is Sutherland who is effectively brilliant, horrifying and admirable as the central deadite of the film. We see her as the loving mother who instantly panics about where her kids are when the earthquake hits at the beginning before evil turns her into a malicious mother that would give Casey Anthony a run for her money. Sutherland is believable when she’s thirsty for her children’s blood, making moments with her character ultimately chilling, moreso when she smiles. Even with an unnecessary bookend and a lack of Bruce (an immediate half-star dedication), “Evil Dead Rise” is a bloody good time, emphasis on bloody.