Overall, the Evil Dead franchise is in a pretty good place. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell may not be as actively involved, but their beloved deadites have (so far) been placed in capable hands. I would even argue that Fede Alvarez’ 2013 remake surpasses the original in many ways.
Though stylish and atmospheric, Evil Dead Rise isn’t quite as ambitious, if only because writer-director Lee Cronin is content to tell the same story in a different setting. Other than taking place in a crumbling urban apartment building, it’s business as usual...which ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Sudden change isn’t always welcome in horror, especially regarding a franchise with such an awesome simple concept to begin with: Book gets found, book gets read, people get possessed.
This time the book is hidden in the vault of an apartment that was once a bank, which is found by a teenager along with a couple of dusty old vinyl records. Both were stashed there in 1923 by a priest who was dumb enough to record himself reading aloud from the book. Naturally, the kid plays the record. Of course, you know the rest…
|Ellie defends her choice of wallpaper.|
Still, longtime fans will certainly appreciate the numerous references and Easter Eggs which pay homage to Raimi’s films - some obvious, others subtle - including the classic eyeball gag from Evil Dead II. Speaking of which, one aspect where Evil Dead Rise definitely equals its predecessor is the abundance of gruesome, gonzo violence, which is impressive and accomplished with good ol’ fashioned practical effects.
Elsewhere, the characters are mostly perfunctory, but the overall performances are pretty good, particularly Alyssa Sutherland as bedeviled mother Ellie. Though the familiar story precludes any real surprises, Evil Dead Rise is a nasty good time, with plenty of unnerving scenes, a few effective jump scares and enough blood to fill a swimming pool.