The Evil Dead franchise began over four decades ago with a short film between two friends, Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness). Within the Woods became the proof of concept used to entice investors to finance the feature film, The Evil Dead. Originally a modest hit, the movie has since become a cult classic. Slightly campy and gory, it was followed by two sequels and a television series. Then ten years ago, it got a reboot that moved away from the more comedic aspects and became a serious horror film. This month the latest installment, Evil Dead Rise, continues this new tradition with plenty of blood and scares.
After touring the world as a tech roadie (something her sister likes to call a groupie), Beth (Lily Sullivan; Picnic at Hanging Rock) finds herself pregnant, and with no idea what to do, heads to said sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland; Vikings). When she arrives, Beth finds out Ellie's husband has left her and their three kids. During what is seemingly an earthquake, the middle child and only son, Danny (Morgan Davies; The Hunter) discovers an old vault under the parking garage. In the vault, he finds a grimoire and some recordings from 1923 that he plays and soon learns that the grimoire unleashes an unspeakable evil that infects humans and turns them into creatures capable of horrible acts including murder.
Sullivan and Sutherland are well cast as sisters and Sutherland especially does an amazing job as a horrid monster trying to murder her kids and Beth. Cast as the youngest child, Kassie, Nell Fisher (Northspur) infuses innocence and cuteness in an otherwise dark film. She is not only a stunning little girl but adorable acting. Watching her, you can't help but wonder how both Kassie and Nell won't be scarred for life after this movie. Davies and Gabrielle Echols (Reminiscence) round out this "family" nicely.
Unlike the first three films, Evil Dead Rise was not written or directed by Raimi. The fourth one was written and directed by Fede Álvarez (Don't Breathe) and Rise sees Lee Cronin (Ghost Train) take over the reins. Each one puts his own personal stamp on their version of the Evil Dead films but Cronin's is definitely the darkest of the franchise. Twisting bodies in ungodly ways, ripping out eyeballs, and using a cheese grater in the worst possible way, Cronin makes an indelible mark on the horror genre. The only shot I question is the shaky cam one when Beth runs through the parking garage to save Kassie from the creature. I understand it was an homage to the original film, but it was annoying.
Evil Dead Rise is a terrific example of a true horror movie with gore, blood, and jump scares, not to mention the supernatural aspect. However, it fits into the Evil Dead franchise in name and grimoire only. As previously mentioned, the original premise was much campier and tongue in cheek which eventually led to it gaining a cult following. The 2013 reboot and this latest addition are darker, scarier, and more serious, making them feel far removed from the first three movies and the television series.
As a stand-alone horror movie, Evil Dead Rise is a strong entry into the annals of horror film history but as part of the Ash Williams world, it isn't even the same Universe. I also left the theater slightly annoyed and unsatisfied because I don't understand how almost everyone else gets infected but Beth and Kassie, even after being submerged in blood, don't. Obviously, parts of the movie need to be taken with a grain of salt, but through it into some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the ride.