Evil Dead Rise
Despite being disturbing, Irish writer/director Lee Cronin's "Evil Dead" installment is infectiously entertaining.
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I first saw Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic “The Evil Dead” as a seventh-grader after an eighth-grader tipped me off to how badass it was. He was all like, “Dude, a tree rapes a lady!,” and my demented 12 or 13-year-old mind went, “Now that’s something I gotta see!”
My Mom wouldn’t rent this trash for me (as well she shouldn’t have), but I found an unedited airing of it showing on the Sci-Fi Channel in their Saturday late night/Sunday early morning programming block and did what any industrious 12 or 13-year-old boy would do – I broke out a VHS tape and set my VCR to record that mutha!
The flick freaked me the fuck out, but I was hooked. I proceeded to devour any Raimi movie on which I could get my grubby little mitts – “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn,” “Darkman” and “Army of Darkness.” I was hype to see his at-the-time upcoming Sharon Stone Western “The Quick and the Dead.”
I’ve long had an affinity for “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II” was always my sweet spot. It had the grossness of the first one and the humor of the third one. “Evil Dead” (2013) was a little too gnarly for my personal tastes. Perhaps I’d gone soft in my more advanced age?
This brings us to Irish horror writer/director Lee Cronin’s stab at the franchise “Evil Dead Rise” (now in theaters). It hews much closer to more serious installments “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead,” but has enough reverence for its forebears that its enthusiasm becomes contagious.
Beth (Lily Sullivan) is a guitar tech who’s just discovered she’s pregnant and returns home to Los Angeles from tour to realize her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), nieces Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) and nephew Danny (Morgan Davies, looking eerily like the late Jonathan Brandis by way of Machine Gun Kelly) have been abandoned by their husband/father.
Ellie, who’s a tattooist living in a condemned apartment building, sends her progeny off for pizza so she can openly vent to her sister. An earthquake hits while they’re away sending Ellie into a panic and revealing a hidden compartment beneath the apartment garage’s cracked floor. Danny ventures into the chamber to explore and discovers the Necronomicon AKA the Book of the Dead and a trio of records. Danny, an audiophile and budding DJ, fiddles with the book and listens to the recordings upon his return to the apartment. All hell breaks loose from here.
I dig “Evil Dead Rise” for what it is. It has a rad side story that bookends the film. The acting is generally pretty good. I was especially impressed by Sutherland’s unhinged, physical performance and the sympathetic turns of Sullivan and Fisher. The movie is undeniably well-made … Cronin and his crew consisting of composer Stephen McKeon (he scored Cronin’s first film “The Hole in the Ground”), cinematographer Dave Garbett (“Ash vs Evil Dead”), editor Bryan Shaw (“Evil Dead” (2013)), production designer Nick Bassett (“Guns Akimbo”) and an army of effects technicians (1,717 gallons of fake blood were spilt) team to expertly torture the audience.
It could be the old fuddy-duddy in me, but “Evil Dead Rise” shook me. I was kind of taken aback by how wantonly the picture places children in jeopardy and how graphically it shows them being dispatched. Fisher was only 9 years old when they were filming and looked even younger. If I were her parent she wouldn’t have been in the movie. I hope and assume Cronin and crew did things to soften the blows of the material for her otherwise those therapy bills could prove astronomical.
Normies probably needn’t apply here, but “Evil Dead Rise” will undoubtedly please franchise devotees. There’s a boomstick, a chainsaw and the camera swings around wildly thanks to drones as opposed to rope. I just prefer my “Evil Dead” flicks to have more laughs and for its victims to be adults. That said … two severed thumbs up.