Writer/director Lee Cronin (The Hole in the Ground) picks up the Sam Raimi/Evil Dead mantle and runs with it in Evil Dead Rise, the newest chapter (offshoot?) in the enduring horror franchise that always expertly merges real scares with a certain silliness.
Here, Cronin trades Raimi’s more pastoral cabin-based environs for the stuffy confines of a small Los Angeles apartment on some high-up floor of a former bank building. There, estranged sisters Beth (Australian import Lily Sullivan) and Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland, The Devil Wears Prada) reunite as the former faces a pregnancy scare and the latter prepares her three children for a move following the collapse of her marriage. Nobody feels OK. But then an earthquake reveals an entrance to a bank vault, where Ellie’s kid Danny (Morgan Davies) discovers the freaking Necronomicon (that’s the book that unleashes them demons, n00bs). The Deadites rush in, possessing Ellie and wreaking havoc. The already fractured family finds themselves stuck on their floor as the demon in charge starts picking off other residents and Beth is thrust into a de-facto protector role; gore and frights abound.
Cronin’s film is at its best when paying tribute to Raimi’s shooting style and pacing. In some aspects, the homage feels almost like hero worship, and why shouldn’t it? Even in his later works with blockbuster properties, Raimi always managed to insert his signature beats into things. The man’s a master and a visionary and Cronin knows this well—he also lets the omnipresent oppressive bleakness permeate the air in everything from the reality of being trapped to the horrors of your parent, or something that looks just like them, out to consume your soul.
Evil Dead Rise is Sutherland’s show. As much as Sullivan seems to revel in her character’s rise to agency, and as well as how the kids (Davies, plus Gabrielle Echols and Nell Fisher) handle tears and frights and hard-swallowing lines about, “I don’t think you should open that book,” Sutherland’s committed dive into contortionist mayhem and bad-ass demon lines like, “Mommy’s in hell with the maggots,” steals every scene she’s in. Otherwise, Cronin’s bloody pastiche hits cinematographic highs (like a sequence shot through an apartment door’s fisheye peephole or the absolutely stunning opening credit reveal that flips a mainstay Raimi technique into the most metal thing in the world) and lows (why does that elevator magically work again?) on its quest to gory greatness. Horror fans shouldn’t miss it, but those with weaker stomachs or possession phobias might wanna just move on and forget the whole thing.
+Fun and absurd; dripping with stylized gore
-Nothing surprising; raises questions it doesn’t answer
Evil Dead Rise
Directed by Cronin
With Sullivan, Sutherland, Davies, Echols and Fisher
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 97 min.