The characters in Evil Dead Rise
are only as smart as they need to be, and considering they're in a horror movie, you don't need to be that smart. This is the fifth film outing for the cult franchise, and the second one not to feature its original director, Sam Raimi, or lead star Bruce Campbell, though both are credited as producers here. You might remember there was a film back in 2013 that tried to do the same thing. Like that entry, the filmmakers show a true understanding and love for the earlier films, but don't quite nail the perfect blend of gore and slapstick humor that Raimi perfected over his films.
The film was originally targeted for a streaming release, but after test audiences reacted well, it was bumped up to a large theatrical push. That probably explains the film's low budget and small cast of characters, both of which writer-director Lee Cronin uses to good effect. Besides, when Raimi was in charge of the series, he wasn't exactly working with big Hollywood money, either. Cronin actually fakes out his audience by having the opening scene take place at a familiar cabin by the lake like the first two Evil Dead
films, only to switch the action immediately afterward to a decaying apartment building in Los Angeles. It's here that single mother Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) runs a hectic home with her three kids, including teens Danny (Morgan Davies) and Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and her youngest daughter Kassie (Nell Fisher). Right around the time that Ellie's estranged sister Beth (Lily Sullivan) moves in after being on tour with a rock group, there is a massive earthquake which cracks open the surface of the building's parking garage, revealing a hidden room beneath.
The curious kids unwisely decide to explore the unearthed chamber, with young Danny eventually finding the infamous Necronomicon (aka The Book of the Dead) and some dusty old records. Those who are already familiar with this franchise already know these kids are in trouble, but Danny stupidly opens the cursed book, plays the records, and summons the demon that immediately goes about possessing their mother. With Ellie now officially a "Deadite", it's up to Beth to protect the children. Right when happens, the movie literally drowns itself in blood and over the top gore, with a helping of dark comedy, as is to be expected. Cronin also throws in plenty of series staples, such as giving the hero a shotgun and a chainsaw to battle the increasing hoard of demonic evil, and pretty much having every inch of their body soaked in blood by the end. This, as fans will tell you, is as it should be.
However, like the 2013 Evil Dead
, this movie takes itself a lot more seriously than earlier sequels, and is more in line with Raimi's original. Yes, Rise
is plenty ridiculous, but it mainly seems to be trying to be an all-out horror film. This leads to the biggest issue I had, which is that the film is never once actually scary. It's bloody and over the top, but never generates any suspense or tension. This is certainly a well-made movie. Cronin shows a real directorial flare with the way he moves his camera and stages the action, and the cast is definitely capable, getting some emotional moments in between the scenes where they're getting hacked to pieces and sprayed with bodily fluids. It just never generated any real excitement or scares for me.
By all accounts, Evil Dead Rise
is the movie it should be, I just was wishing for a bit more tension to go with the impressive technical credits and homages to the original. It's actually a much better film than the remake from 2013, but just like that one, the fun that Raimi and Campbell brought is sorely lacking, as is the suspense.
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